Father Arnold Weber: spirit of acceptance lives on after loss

Katie Sisk, News Editor

Communities often must face the loss of beloved members, but rarely does a single person have as lasting and widespread an impact on so many communities as Father Arnold Weber. After guiding Benilde-St. Margaret’s as Religion Department head then Co-President for three years, inspiring the Holy Name of Jesus Parish with his homilies for 23 years, and retiring at St. John’s Abbey, Father Arnold passed away on Feb. 9, 2012.

The Benilde-St. Margaret’s community owes much of its development to Father Arnold.

“He and the other Benedictines that were here at that time period continued to help shape and form what we are as a community,” said Campus Minister Mr. Mike Jeremiah, or Mr. J.

Those who knew Father Arnold learned the importance of working hard through his high expectations of others. “He could inspire people to do things he didn’t know they could do, and he was more than willing to give other people credit for what they did…nobody worked harder than he did, but he expected everybody that worked with him to work very, very hard,” said Mr. Joel Loecken, religion teacher.

Father Arnold was known for his ability to challenge his congregation with demanding homilies that inspired real change. “It was fascinating because they liked him so much. He’d say the craziest stuff and people really respected him so they listened,” said Mr. Loecken.

Much of his influence stemmed from his spirit of acceptance, which helped build a hospitable community. “He told me once, ‘Accept them as they are and invite them along,’ and that’s what I have always tried to as campus minister,” said Mr. J.

His effect on the BSM community can still be seen through the character of its members. “I still see parts of him at BSM––the hospitality that we strive for is a result of his sense of hospitality. I sense the work ethic is partly something he brought to the school,” said Mr. Loecken.

His personality traits, along with his ability to connect with anyone who came in contact with him, made his personality and spirit especially strong and memorable. “I think the thing that struck me most about him was his very easy a very easy going style in the sense of speaking to people he was extremely gifted in meeting people where they are and speaking their language,” said Br. Paul-Vincent Niebauer, a member of the St. John’s Abbey community where Father Arnold spent the final years of his life in retirement.

Even in his final years, Father Arnold worked to instill his positive beliefs in his community. “Even within the retirement center [he was] helping to create harmony, and a good sense of humor, and love and respect for everyone. But when you’ve got someone that strong and behaving in that way it tends to act as a leavening,” said Br. Niebauer.

The impact on the numerous communities he belonged to shows itself in the number of people mourning his passing. “A lot of people there brought their kids and their grandkids [to the funeral] because they wanted them to see what he was like. There were over a thousand people at his funeral,” said Mr. Loecken.

Father Arnold’s influence continues through many others who knew him. “If you think of it like ripples in a pond like when you throw in a pebble and the ripples all go out, that was his life. All the people whose lives he touched still feel his influence…Countless lives are touched by those whose lives he had an impact on,” said Mr. J.

In order for his message and spirit to continue, members of the BSM community along with the others he belonged to must remember what he stood for. “We need to be as hospitable and welcoming in a sense of within ourselves with each other as well as those people the outside,” said Br. Niebauer.