Wimmer, Boniface

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Archabbot, founder of the first U.S. Benedictine community; b. Thalmassing, Bavaria, Jan. 14, 1809; d. st. vincent archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Dec. 8, 1887. Baptized Sebastian, Wimmer was the son of Peter and Elizabeth (Lang) Wimmer. After making his classical and theological studies in Munich and Regensburg, Germany, he was ordained on July 31, 1831, for the Diocese of Regensburg. He served as curate at Altötting, a popular Marian shrine, and then entered the recently restored Benedictine Abbey of Metten, where he was professed on Dec. 27, 1833. During the next decade he held various posts in Bavaria. While stationed as prefect in a Munich boarding school, he became interested in the missions, particularly among German immigrants in the U.S.

With a group of candidates for the Benedictine priesthood and brotherhood he arrived in New York on Sept. 16, 1846. In October the community moved to the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Wimmer received some farm land in St. Vincent de Paul parish near Latrobe from Bp. Michael O'Connor. Despite difficulties in adjusting an autonomous monastic institution to the ecclesiastical regimen then prevailing in the U.S. (see benedictines), this first Benedictine foundation gradually evolved into St. Vincent Archabbey, College, and Seminary. Wimmer established parishes and new Benedictine foundations in several states, receiving support for them from Ludwig I of Bavaria, the Ludwig Missionsverein, and confreres and friends in Bavaria. At the time of his death, five of his foundations had become independent abbeys. He attended the Provincial and Plenary Councils of Baltimore and Vatican Council I, and was influential in carrying out the wish of Leo XIII to unite all the Benedictine houses into a single international confederation.

Bibliography: c. j. barry, Worship and Work: St. John's Abbey, and University, 18561956 (Collegeville, Minn. 1956). f.j. fellner, "Archabbot Boniface Wimmer as an Educator," National Benedictine Educational Association Bulletin 25 (1942) 85114.

[o. l. kapsner]