Fr. Heinrich Walter. Fr. Jonathan Niehaus (51), from Ivanhoe, MN, USA, has been called home by God the merciful Father, after his battle with lung cancer. He consciously lived and offered the last phase of his life.
His requiem mass will be celebrated on Monday, 23rd January – 2pm, in the Adoration Church on Mount Schoenstatt. His burial will follow immediately on Mount Sion.
Schoenstatt-TV will transmit the Requiem Mass. Fr. Andrew Pastore will offer a live comment in English.
Fr. Jonathan Niehaus (1960-2012)
“To the Queen of Minnesota”, was the dedication that the student Jonathan Niehaus gave his first book, “The history of Schoenstatt in the United States”, in 1983. Now, having offered his life after an intense battle with lung cancer we can say that he dedicated it “To the Queen of Mount Sion”. He was aware from the beginning of his illness, that his suffering were to be offered for a smooth transition of the Original Shrine to the Schoenstatt Family.
Jonathan James Niehaus was born in Madison, Minnesota on June 5, 1960, the oldest of Veronica and Melvin Niehaus’ six children. After his family moved to Ivanhoe in 1966 they came into contact with the Schoenstatt Sisters who ran a small hospital in that town. He made his Covenant of Love with the MTA on April 7, 1974, the same day his family’s home shrine was dedicated. During his youth years he participated in numerous activities with the boys and the Minnesota Schoenstatt family, including the search for land and the building of the shrine in Sleepy Eye, MN. He graduated from Ivanhoe High School in 1978 and from Southwest State University in 1982. Then he joined the Schoenstatt Fathers. His sister Sr. Deanne had joined the Schoenstatt Sisters community and later his brother Mark would join our community. His godson and brother Thomas was ordained a Diocesan priest in 2008.
After spending a year in Milwaukee, Jonathan moved to Germany to prepare for his novitiate that started in 1984. In the context of the 1985 Centennial of Fr. Kentenich’s birth, his course found their ideal—Pater renatus exoriens (the Father reborn dawning for all peoples)—making their course consecration on April 12, 1985. After years of study in Muenster, he performed his internship working with the Schoenstatt Youth in the USA in 1987-88.
Fr. Jonathan was a person with many special gifts, a great memory, a keen sense of history, and musically gifted. During his studies he excelled in many areas and was an intense builder of community at the Joseph Kentenich College, in Muenster, Germany. During those years he battled many struggles that helped him to grow in community life and in his covenant life.
After finishing his studies in Muenster in 1993 and serving a year as a deacon at St. Mary’s parish in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, Bishop Raymond Lucker ordained Fr. Jonathan on June 4, 1994 in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. He worked at St. James and St. Cecilia’s parish in Mequon until in 1996 he took over Fr. Gerold’s work with the Schoenstatt boys and young men. His accent in the youth work recruited dads to help run the groups and camps. Secondly, he wrote a whole new program for group material and outlines centered on the “tilma” that the boys earn, creating a simple form of a room shrine for themselves, modeled on the Schoenstatt heroes.
During these years of living at the Fathers’ Waukesha filiation, Fr. Jonathan unfolded his ability to help build community in our house on Cherry Lane. Willing to assist wherever needed, he could be counted on for such things as: celebrating the Sister’s mass, giving talks at our leaders’ weekends, explaining the history of the exile years to visitors, putting together a songbook for the community, being part of the Central Committee. Moreover he was exemplary in keeping his room in order, his early rising, helping to shovel the snow in the driveway, answering the phone. In a word, he was always willing to help.
And practically “on the side” he followed an inner inspiration and goal to publishing one or two books a year. He realized how few books had been published of our Schoenstatt spirituality in English, inspiring him to put much energy into creating new material. He did much precious research into the history of Schoenstatt, particularly the Exile time. At Fr. Dieter’s promptings he translated Heavenwards into English; wrote the history and mission of the home shrine; put together texts of Fr. Kentenich on the major aspects of our Schoenstatt spirituality. His book on May 31st has already been translated into various other languages as well as some of his other publications. An immeasurable gift to all of us; we owe him so much for making our spirituality and our Founder accessible in the English language. And with this he became one of the outstanding experts of the Kentenich studies.
Then in 2005, Fr. Jonathan volunteered to move to Austin, Texas, as part of our new team in Texas. For four years he commuted between Austin and San Marcus where he served as University chaplain for the students at Texas State. It did not take him long to gain the trust of the students, faculty members and staff. Such a good relationship unfolded between them making it hard for him to leave again in 2009.
While in Austin, Fr. Jonathan had already been drawn into the formation process of our seminarians in India. Now, in 2009 the community asked him to move to Mount Sion in Schoenstatt to become part of the educators’ team for our seminarians in their Father studies in Germany, India, Africa, and South America. For over a year he traveled to our formation sites giving study seminars on Father Kentenich. Like in Waukesha, Fr. Jonathan became a vital part of the House community in the Father House on Mt. Sion.
With the transfer of Fr. Jonathan to Schoenstatt another dream of our community could take shape, the beginning of our Sion Institute. In cooperation with the other members he conducted two fruitful seminars with our doctorial candidates on Mt. Sion, the last one centering in on the theme of the Covenant Culture.
While in Burundi for a four week course with our students in July, he noticed pain in his back and that his voice was getting weaker. By the end of September, he was taken to the tropical decease hospital in Wuerzburg where metastasized lung cancer was found. From then until now he has spent going from hospitals in Montabaur, Dernbach, Koblenz and Neuwied. His mother and Fr. Mark were able to accompany him in October, his sister Sr. Deanne visited with him throughout the Christmas Holidays and finally his sister Becky, his brother Fr. Tom and his course brother Fr. Zé Fernando accompanied him in his last moment. May he rest in peace.
January 19, 2012 – the Schoenstatt-Fathers of the USA-Delegation (“Sion of Joseph”)