Father John W. Beckfelt, at the age of 87 and a priest for 45 years, died Sunday, May 17, 2020, at Benedictine Health Center in Duluth, Minnesota.
John William Beckfelt was born July 19, 1932 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the son of Raymond and Eleanor (Hoolihan) Beckfelt. He attended Grand Rapids Central Elementary School and Grand Rapids Senior High School and graduated in 1951. He became a member of the diocesan Brothers of St. Pius X from 1956 to 1968 and received a B.A. from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa in 1964. As a religious brother, he taught at Saint Luke School in St. Lucas, Iowa, St. James School in La Crosse, and Sacred Heart School in Marshfield. He discerned that he was being called to the priesthood and studied at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri and Saint Paul Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse on June 8, 1974 at Our Lady of Peace Church in Marshfield, Wisconsin.
Father Beckfelt’s first priestly assignment was as an Assistant at Blessed Sacrament Parish in La Crosse where he was commended for his ministry to the elderly, the confined, the infirm, and the dying. He also became a Chaplain of the Serra Club in La Crosse and Chaplain to the Knights of Columbus, remaining active with the Knights with every assignment. In June 1977, Father Beckfelt was transferred to St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wisconsin Rapids where he continued to serve the elderly and was a Chaplain for the Catholic Daughters and the Serra Club in Wisconsin Rapids. In July 1982, Father Beckfelt was Temporary Administrator at St. John Parish in Whitehall and St. Ansgar Parish in Blair. The next month, he was assigned the Pastor of Most Sacred Heart Parish in Pine Creek. He taught one day a week at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and St. Stanislaus School in Arcadia. He continued to show interest in assisting the elderly and hospitalized and became the Chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital and Nursing Home in Arcadia. During this time, he completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Luther Hospital in Eau Claire and then another unit of CPE at St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse. In April 1988, he became the Pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Waumandee and in September 1992, he was also appointed the Pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Alma while continuing as the Chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital and Nursing Home in Arcadia. In July 1995, he was assigned the Pastor of St. Mary (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) Parish in Big River. In 2003, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease with Lewy body dementia and other disorders, so his sister, Sister Eleanor Ann O.S.B., a nurse, cared for her brother until he was granted senior priest status on June 1, 2005.
As a senior priest, he resided at Benedictine Health Center in Duluth, Minnesota. He wasn’t able to drive since 2003, but didn’t let that stop him from traveling all over- even to Europe, regularly offering Masses, hearing Confessions, and doing many things others thought impossible. This was due largely to those who were willing to accompany him and provide excellent care.
Father John Beckfelt was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Jerome Beckfelt, his sisters Mary (Jerry) Pommerville, and Sister Eleanor Ann Beckfelt, O.S.B.
A private Mass of Christian Burial, in accord with Coronavirus Health Directives, will be celebrated at Dougherty Funeral Home in Duluth, Minnesota at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 21. Father Beckfelt’s cousin, Father William Fider, will be the celebrant. Burial will follow at about 2:30 p.m. at the Itasca Calvary Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.