Father Stangl remembered for caring presence, hospital ministry

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Carol Jessen-Klixbull
The Visitor

“When I think of Pope Francis’ strong emphasis on shepherds getting out to meet the folks where they are at — in their situations of need — I believe Father Al was already out there,” said Father Bill Vos, a close friend of Father Alfred Stangl, 77, who died Aug. 24 at his apartment in St. Cloud.

“The most significant feature about Al’s life as a priest was his compassion,” Father Vos said. “His ministry through all his years as a chaplain, both at the St. Cloud Hospital and the VA, is legendary. The very mention of ‘Father Stangl’ anywhere in our area would consistently bring a very knowing response from the many thousands who received or witnessed his care.

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Father Al Stangl

“As a testimony to how deeply he felt for others,” Father Vos added, “he continued his caring presence, particularly for the bereaved, up until his death.”

Father Alfred Herman Stangl was born Aug. 29, 1937, in Pierz, the son of Frank and Frances (Kauschek) Stangl. He attended St. Joseph Grade School in Pierz, Little Falls Public High School in Little Falls and Pierz Memorial High School in Pierz.

He received his college and seminary training at St. John’s Seminary in Collegeville and was ordained June 1, 1963, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud by Bishop Peter Bartholome. He celebrated his first Mass June 2, 1963, at St. Joseph Church in Pierz.

Father Stangl served in the following parish assignments: associate pastor, St. Mary Parish, Melrose; St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud; St. Paul Parish, St. Cloud; and pastor, St. Gall Parish, Tintah, and St. Joseph Parish, Foxhome.

In addition to his parish assignments, he was the assistant chaplain at St. Cloud Hospital from 1968 to 1981 and was a chaplain there from 1983 to 1995 and at the Veterans’ Medical Center in St. Cloud from 1995 to 2007, when he retired from full-time ministry. Father Stangl continued working part-time in the spiritual care department of the hospital in his retirement.

“He had great pastoral presence,” said Benedictine Father Roger Botz, who has worked as a chaplain at St. Cloud Hospital since 1985. “Al was nonjudgmental — everyone was important to him. No one was unimportant. He responded to the will of God. He loved Pope Francis a lot. The pope resonated very well with him. He was a personal hands-on guy.”

‘Shepherd to the masses’

Father Stangl was well loved by those who work in the CentraCare-St. Cloud Hospital as well as the people it serves.

“Father Al was a ‘shepherd to the masses,’ Bret Reuter, director of mission and spiritual care at St. Cloud Hospital and St. Benedict’s Senior Community, recalled. “So many people considered him a friend. One of the things that stands out about him is his approachability. He was one of those people you felt naturally comfortable with. He was Christ-present in the world — people felt genuine love, care and acceptance from him.”

Friends of Father Stangl recall that he was a passionate fan of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins. He enjoyed working out and running; in 1979, he ran the Boston Marathon.

Father Stangl served on the Presbyteral Council for the Diocese of St. Cloud and served as a spiritual director for Central Minnesota Beginning Experience, a program that helps adults and children suffering a loss through death, separation or divorce. He helped found the St. Therese Center for Special Ministry, a grief center in St. Cloud, in 1985 and served there for six years.

Visitation will be from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 31 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, with a vigil service at 7 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated there Sept. 1 at 11 a.m. with Bishop Donald Kettler presiding. Burial will be at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Pierz.

Three siblings — Herman of Pierz, Clarence of Maple Plain and Marie Pohlkamp of Pierz — survive Father Stangl. He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings, Margaret Athman, Elaine Kummet, Evelyn Dehler, Richard and his twin brother, Alvin.