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In Memoriam ~ Fr. Bernadine Ness, OSB ’56

Father Bernadine Ness, OSB ’56  

Father Bernardine Ness OSB, 84, died on August 26, 2022 Alvin John Ness was the older of two children born to Alvin and Marian (Diegel) Ness in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 16, 1938. He attended Groveland Elementary School and then enrolled in Saint John’s Preparatory School in 1952, graduating in 1956.  

In the summer of 1957 he visited a mission at Fort Totten Indian Reservation and Blue Cloud Abbey in 1958. Alvin entered the novitiate at the abbey, taking the name Bernardine, and professed vows as a monk on August 15, 1959. Continuing his priesthood studies at Blue Cloud Abbey, Bernardine was ordained on May 24, 1964. In 1967, Father Bernardine began working at the Indian Mission in Belcourt and Michael, North Dakota. During this time he learned how to construct a TV translator and had a three-hundred foot tower built so that people on the reservation could have television. In 1971, he was assigned to the Blue Cloud Abbey priory in Guatemala (Resurrection Priory in Cobán, Alta Verapaz). With his ham radio background, he built a shortwave radio station that broadcast news and music and prayer in the native language.  

After twenty years in Guatemala, Father Bernardine returned to South Dakota in 1991 and worked for two years in the American Indian Culture Research Center at Blue Cloud Abbey. However, he soon returned to Guatemala where he spent another twenty years. On May 29, 2012, the monks of Blue Cloud Abbey voted to close their monastery. Father Bernardine transferred to Saint John’s Abbey arriving in Collegeville on February 18, 2013 where he served the Latino congregations locally and in Minneapolis. He also worked with the Messenger Program based in Saint Cloud to send medical assistance and other humanitarian aid to the missions in Guatemala.  

Father Bernardine had a generous spirit and welcoming heart, always eager to be helpful with a friendly smile and skillful hands. His ingrained sense of service was rooted in his curiosity and intuitive talent, thoughtful wisdom, good humor, and a lifetime of care for others. Father Bernadine was also a recipient of the Lumen Gentium Award.  

Father Bernardine died on Friday, August 26, in the retirement center at Saint John’s Abbey. He is survived by his brother, Joseph (Sue), Brandenton, Florida, and the community at Saint John’s Abbey. The monks, family, and friends will receive the body on Wednesday, August 31 at 7:00 pm and celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Bernardine at 3:30 pm on Thursday, September 1, in the Saint John’s Abbey and University Church, with interment in the Abbey Cemetery. The service will be live-streamed at