Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Rest in Peace Bishop Albert Ottenweller of Steubenville: Thank You for Your Friendship, Fidelity and Living Faith

By Deacon Keith Fournier
September 27th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As my life has progressed, I have learned that people of living faith die the way they lived. That is why I know that Bishop Ottenweller died with a smile on his face and the joy of the Lord in his heart. He genuinely loved the Lord and the Holy Catholic Church which he served so wel

STEUBENVILLE, OH (Catholic Online) - I recently learned of the passing to the Lord of Bishop Albert Ottenweller, the former Bishop of Steubenville, Ohio. He was 96 years old. He was also a wonderful, holy, pastoral and joyful Bishop whose influence on my life during very important and formative years will always be deeply appreciated. I received a belated E mail to offer a comment to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. However, I missed the deadline due to a circuitous forwarding of the correspondence from California.  So, I decided to use Catholic Online to pay tribute to this good Bishop.

As my life has progressed, I have learned that people of living faith die the way they lived. That is why I know that Bishop Ottenweller died with a smile on his face and the joy of the Lord in his heart. He genuinely loved the Lord and the Holy Catholic Church which he served so well. He always had a kind word, a smile, a handshake with that huge right hand - or a hug - for everyone he cared about. He also had time for anyone who sought his pastoral counsel and assistance. No-one was turned away, including a much younger me.

I am a revert to the Catholic Church, having returned to the Catholic faith after my wandering teenage years spent searching for truth. My time in that wonderful City of Steubenville came after I followed another good and holy man, Fr Michael Scanlan, to the then College of Steubenville. I did so to complete my undergraduate degree and become a part of the Steubenville Miracle now known as the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Those were amazing years; filled with miracles, mistakes and so much learning. Through it all, Bishop Ottenweller was there to help, to heal and to guide me, at such very important times.

During those years I married my dear wife of now 36 years, Laurine, and we began to receive and raise the children the Lord gave us as gifts in that great City which became our home as a family. In fact, it still calls us some times - and we wonder if we might ever return. I completed my undergraduate work at the then College of Steubenville, in Philosophy and Theology.  During that time I helped in the amazing transformation the Lord brought to that campus under the leadership of Fr. Michael. I stayed there and completed Law School at the nearby University of Pittsburgh, commuting through Weirton, West Virginia and along Route 22 into Oakland everyday.

All the while, Laurine and I stayed in Steubenville to raise our children because it had become our home - and because we wanted to continue to be a part of the work of the Lord unfolding on that campus. We also loved the City and the good "salt of the earth" people who live there.  We knew the Lord was doing something wonderful there as well as at the College. My early Law Practice began in Steubenville and will I always treasure the memories.

I rolled in and out of several positions at what was by then the "University of Steubenville" and soon "Franciscan University of Steubenville" as a Dean and administrator. I continued to practice law and eventually began the legal work which would lead me to the next chapter of my career and away from the Ohio Valley. I began focusing on Pro-Life constitutional law defending the unborn, standing up for religious freedom, and defending marriage and the family and society founded upon it.  It's quite a story and just maybe, before I join my friend the Bishop, I should write it all down to encourage others that Jesus Christ really is alive and He guides all who trust in Him and walk by faith. 

During those years I spent in Steubenville Bishop Ottenweller became a friend, a mentor and an inspiration. I will always be grateful. He planted the seed of my own later life vocation as a Deacon in my heart by boldly asking me on several occasions if I had ever considered the call. Years later, after I moved to Virginia, I would respond to that call. It would be another Bishop who would impose his hands upon me at my ordination - but I believe that Bishop Ottenweller was deeply involved. 

I am grateful to him for having both the discernment and the courage to ask me to consider the call to Holy Orders. I have served as a Deacon of the Church which he and I both love for sixteen years now. I vividly remember thinking of him on my day of ordination as I received the Book of the Gospels and heard those words, "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach." Like every Bishop, Bishop Ottenweller had the fullness of Holy Orders. He was a Bishop, a priest - and, yes, he was still a deacon.

With Bishop Albert Ottenweller, that charism of imitating Christ the Servant was still so evident in his example. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, Bishops would still wear the Dalmatic, the vestment of the Deacon, underneath their priestly chasuble, as they prepared to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That was meant  to symbolize both the special relationship they have with their deacons and their own call to be configured to Christ the Servant. Some Bishops still do, like Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington,DC. Whether Bishop Ottenweller actually did wear the dalmatic when he celebrated Holy Mass I do not know, but I do know that he wore it in his heart.

I am 57 years old now. My wife Laurine and I have raised five children and have six grandchildren. I have had the great joy of knowing and serving with many priests and deacons. I have also had the privilege of meeting and assisting several Bishops. However, few Bishops have extended to me the kind of warmth and friendship that Bishop Albert Ottenweller did. It came at such a critical time in my life's journey as a husband, young father and young man, seeking to follow the Lord and to deal with some extremely important lessons I needed to learn. He was there for me.

All these years later, after theological degrees at the graduate level and while still trying to complete a PhD dissertation in Moral Theology for the Catholic University of America - I often think of Bishop Albert Ottenweller. He was living theology, the kind you need to see before you can understand why the books and the classes are so important. I have placed a "You Tube Video" with this story. That young man is certainly not this writer, I am pushing 60 now! I do not even know him. However, it brings such joy to my heart to know that the story is repeating itself and both the Church and the world into which she is being sent is the beneficiary. Bishop Albert Ottenweller was an unsung hero in that story. 

Jesus told the disciples they were no longer servants but "friends" (John 15:15). Wow!  Friends with God. What a wonderful gift! Holy Bishops embody that gift in their carriage and their ministry of pastoral care, in imitation of Jesus the good Shepherd. Bishop Albert Ottenweller was one of them. He lived as a friend of Jesus and helped me to understand that I was a friend of Jesus too. May you rest in peace dear friend of the Lord, and my friend- I look forward to our eternal reunion in the joy of heaven where your smile will shine in the radiance of unending joy.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)