College Organizations


This sketch would be incomplete without some mention of the various organizations which, if not part of the educational curriculum, have in no small measure contributed to elevate the student body by cherishing the love of religion, by extending the knowledge obtained in the classroom, by physical exercises calculated to preserve that vigor of body which is so important during the years of study. Many a student fondly remembers the hours devoted to this kind of work and will no doubt be proud to learn that most of the organizations have continued to live and flourish down to the present hour.  Many an organization sprouted up and lived for a short spell, it filled the need of the hour and, passed away when its task was done or taken over by a kindred society. Membership on these organizations has always been voluntary; at the head of each is a chief officer appointed by the President of the institution, and each is governed by a code of laws formed by the organizations themselves.


1. The Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the oldest organization of a religious character in the college, was organized on the feast of St. Aloysius, June 21, 1870. “For  some time past,” writes a correspondent of Der Wanderer of that month “a number of students have been in the habit of meeting in the chapel during recreation time to recite the rosary. Finally, they took steps to found a society: Father Alexius Edelbrock was elected director and Father Simplicius Wimmer prefect. It was resolved to petition for aggregation to the principal Sodality which has its seat in Rome, where it was organized in 1563. The General of the Society of Jesus is empowered to aggregate other societies. Father Alexius sent a petition to Rev. P. Tschieder, S. J., of St. Louis, Missouri, through whose kind offices the necessary papers were secured from Rome. On the foundation day all the members (at present 23) received the Sacraments, and during Mass which was said for them by the Rev. Director of the Sodality, they pronounced the formula of consecration by which they devoted themselves in a special manner to the service of Our Lady.”

The following were the original officers: Director, Father Alexius Edelbrock; prefect, Joseph Leuthard; secretary, Nicholas Steil; censors, John Schulte and J. Eha.  Father Alexius filled the office of director till 1877; his successors were Father Mershman, 1877-83; Father Alfred Mayer, 1883-1887; Father Alexius Hoffmann, 1887-1890; Father Francis Mershman, 1890-1895; Father Michael Ott, 1895-1901. The present director is Father Bernard Kevenhoerster, since 1901.

Every day the members perform some devotional service in common. Originally it was customary to recite the Rosary publicly on Sundays: later the recitation of the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception on Saturdays was introduced, and this practice continues to the present time. The six Aloysian Sundays are observed by the majority of the members every year. Both the living and the dead share in the spiritual benefits of the Sodality. Every day prayers are said for them in the college chapel and, in case the Director is informed of the death of a member, a Requiem is sung for the repose of his soul.

As a successful means of fostering piety and of preserving young students from the pernicious influence of bad literature the Sodality organized a circulating library of several hundred volumes, books by reliable Catholic authors. In consideration of a moderate annual fee to cover necessary expenses and add to the stock of books on hand, members were permitted to use the library. Subsequently it was merged with the libraries of the two literary society (St. Boniface and St. Thomas) to form what is now the Students’ Library. At present it contains about 2700 volumes which are accessible in the students reading room.

A handsomely engraved certificate, issued on the day of admission to the Sodality, reminds the members of the devout promise they made at college. Each member also receives a blue silk badge which is worn at all public functions of the Sodality.

2. Second in order of time is the St. Benedict's Altar Boys Association, which, as its name indicates, has for its worthy object the efficient training of boys to serve with propriety in the sanctuary. In the small chapel which was frequented by the students before 1882 there was no room for magnificent ritual. In 1882, Frater Chrysostom Schreiner, then official master of ceremonies of the abbey, organized the above named association with a membership of 24; the first student officials being Joseph Wolf, assistant and Fred.  W. Faber, secretary. Fr. Chrysostom’s successor in office were Fraters Meinrad Rettenmaier, Gerard Spielman, Corbinian Hermanutz, Demetrius Juenemann, Anselm Bartholmy, Gabriel Roerig, Fidelis Lucking and Matthew Britt. The latter, who presided from 1896-1900, had the society duly affiliated to the St. John Berchmans Sanctuary Society in January 1897, and the local organization exists by that name to this day. Frater Matthew also wrote, for the benefit of the boys in his charge, “A Ceremonial for Altar Boys” printed by The Record in 1899, which has since gained popularity and has appeared in a second edition. His successors in office were Frater Magnus Hermanutz, Father Alcuin Deutsch, Father Paul Neussendorfer. The present director is Frater Hildebrand Eickhoff. The society has a small library of works referring to liturgical matters.

3. A local center of the League of the Sacred Heart, Apostleship of Prayer, was organized in October 1896, and duly affiliated. It began with a very encouraging membership and has always been generously patronized. The direction is retained by the Rt. Rev. President; the secretaries in immediate charge of the work of the League since its inception having been Father Alexius Hoffmann; Father Bruno Doerfler and, since 1902, Father Bernard Kevenhoerster.


1. The Grace Literary Association was organized in the year 1869 by the senior students for the purpose of acquiring mastery of the English language, especially in oratory and debate. It took its name in honor of the late Bishop Thomas L. Grace of St. Paul, one of the patrons of the institution. Among its charter members and chief promoters were Messieurs Joseph  B. Cotter and J. McGlone.

In 1875 the name was changed for that of the St. Thomas Literary Association; under this name it continued to exist till 1883, then slumbered for two years, was revived in 1885 and quietly passed out of existence in 1887, leaving the field to the Alexian Literary Association (see below). Its presidents from the beginning were J. B. Cotter, M. T. Ryan, J. W. Nealis, Father Francis Mershman, 1871-78, Father Edward Ginther, Father Alfred Mayer and Father Chrysostom Schreiner. The members supported a library which was merged with that of the Sodality in 1883.

2. The St. Boniface Literary Association was organized January 13, 1870 by the German students for the cultivation of the German, language and literature. Its motto, Virtuti et Musis, was adopted upon the motion of Frater Bernard Locnikar, one of the first and most active members. The first officers were: president, Frater Boniface Moll; vice president, Frater Simplicius Wimmer; secretary, Bernard Buenkers; censors (critics), Frater Bernard Locnikar and Joseph Leuthard. The original membership was 21. At the time of its organization the society adopted a constitution which was changed in 1892. In March 1870 a library of choice German books was opened, and continued to be operated by the society until 1883 when it was united with the Sodality library. From 1870-1878 the members issued a manuscript monthly which bore the title of “Monatsschrift des St. Bonifacius Literar Vereins.” The publication appeared every month during the scholastic year and always contained excellent articles. As only one copy was issued and passed from hand to band, it suffered slightly. The file is carefully preserved in the abbey library as one the monuments of earnest endeavor in the first quarter of the history of the institution. On March 7, 1895 the society celebrated the silver jubilee of its foundation. It has had the following presidents: Frater Boniface Moll, Father Bernard Locnikar, Father Augustine Brockmeier, Father Simplicius Wimmer, Father Ludger Ehrens, Father Chrysostom Schreiner, Father Stephen Koefler, Father Gerard Spielmann, Father Placidus Wingerter, Father Anselm Ortmann, Father Athanasius Meyer, and Father Alcuin Deutsch.

3. The St. Aloysius Literary Society (I was one of the charter members of the Society, of which Father Edward Ginther was moderator. We also published a few monthly periodicals. They are all lost.) was organized in 1877 by the students of the junior hall for practice in declamation and debate. Like many other youthful beings it wilted and died after one brief year of life.

4. The Alexian Association named in honor of the Rt. Rev. President of the institution, was organized by the professor of rhetoric, Father Xavier White in 1879, for the special benefit of the students attending the advance English classes. Apart from several minor differences, this society covered the same ground as the St. Thomas Literary Association and the membership of both societies was practically the same. It flourished to the end of 1885 with its Rev. founder, Father Xavier, as its president.  After two years of inactivity it was resuscitated as the Alexian Literary Association, and to its mast was pinned the venerable motto of the defunct St. Thomas Literary Association “Nunquam retrorsum.,”  Father Chrysostom Schreiner was its president till 1891, his successors were Father Alexius Hoffmann, Father Charles Cannon, Father Michael Ott, and Father Bernard Kevenhoerster.

In 1888 the publication of the St. John's University Record was begun under the auspices of its members. The association also had a dramatic section since 1886.

5.  The Conference of St. Francis was organized in 1879 among the seminarians; its members assembled weekly to discuss subjects pertaining to philosophy, ecclesiastical history, dogmatic and moral theology, and liturgy. Its president was the professor of theology, Father Francis Mershman. No mention is made of the Conference in catalogues after 1879.

6.  Another literary society, that styled itself the Philopolemic, was organized in the seminary in 1888, but did not succeed in striking roots deep enough to secure permanence. In 1894 the Concordia association came into existence in the seminary, its general features being the same as those of the earlier organization.  The, members published a monthly which was multiplied by hectograph process. No mention is made of the Concordia in the catalogue of 1897 nor thereafter.

7. The Thespian Club was organized November 1891 and lived about five years. It was replaced in 1901 by St. John’s University Dramatic Association.

8. Two reading circles (the St. Charles, probably named for Father Charles Cannon, and the Irving) flourished for some, time during the final years of last century.

9. The newest arrival in the literary field is the St. Thomas Aquinas Literary Association organized in the Seminary in 1904 by Father Bernard Kevenhoerster, who has been its president since that time. In the same year the St Johns Seminary Reading Circle was formed.

10. In fall 1906 the Commercial Reading Club was organized; it supports a reading room with about 40 papers and magazines and meets regularly for debates.  Its moderator is Father Kilian Heid. 


To what extent music was taught at old St. John’s is rather difficult to determine at present: at all events a piano was purchased in 1862 and Father Wolfgang Northman, a skilful musician, gave music lessons. The only musical organization which can be traced down to 1868 is the brass band, or more properly the German Silver Band, as the instruments were made of that metal. Under the direction of Father Wolfgang Northman the band, small as it was, enjoyed much popularity. He was succeeded by his brother, the late Father Ulric Northman, who was also an accomplished musician and directed the band until 1888, when Father John Katzner became leader. In 1877 its membership was 14. In 1882 a complete set of new brass instruments was purchased, gradually reed instruments were introduced. The largest membership late in the last century was 28. With the growth of the orchestra, the band by degrees was moved to second place and since 1900 has ceased to exist as a permanent organization.

The forerunners of the Orchestra were the Haydn String Quartet in 1877 and a quintet in 1885. Under the leadership of the late Father Norbert Hofbauer an orchestra of twelve pieces was organized for the alumni reunion held in June 1886 and this organization survives to the present day, with a slight interruption in 1894. When Father Edmund Basel succeeded Father Norbert as director in 1900, the membership was 20, a number which it still maintains. It has a fairly large repertory, as it is called upon to assist at almost all public entertainments throughout the scholastic year.

From time to time other small instrumental organizations were formed which, however, lived too short a time to merit a detailed account.

No mention of singing societies is made in the catalogues before 1892, when a Liederkranz existed.  Previous to that no fixed organization existed for secular music.  Glee clubs and quartets were repeatedly formed, but none lived very long. Whenever songs were required for public occasions, the church choirs took the matter in hand.  Since 1900 there have been several successful quartets both in the collegiate and seminary departments under direction of Father Louis Traufler and Richard Simmer.

In the early days church music was much of the same character as was found in the churches of the country and the compositions of Lambilotte, Schmidt and Werner were in much demand. When the Cecilian reform reached the West in the early 1870’s it secured some patrons at St. John’s. The choir composed of clerics and seminarians sang Cecilian music exclusively. Still the student choir adhered to the old school and it was only in the 1890s that both Cecilian music and Gregorian chant were adopted as the correct forms of ecclesiastical chant, chiefly through the efforts of Father Stanislaus Preiser and the late Father Norbert Hofbaner. Since 1890 the students’ choir has been directed successively by Father Stanislaus, Father Edmund Basel, Father Louis Traufler and Father Richard Simmer. The members are instructed in modern and choral notation and have, besides, two rehearsals every week. The organists are Father Innocent Gertken and Frater Norbert Gertken.


One of the earliest forms of sport indulged in here was boating and fishing. Very naturally, for the country round was covered with forests or stumps and in default, of a campus the lake was resorted to. It would be a mistake to suppose that the alumni of that day yearned for anything more; national games were scarcely known. Boat clubs were formed by the students; they purchased a serviceable rowboat and kept it in repair from year to year until it fell to pieces. In the catalogues may be found the names of many of the old boats, the Germania, Little Fraud, Gem, Argo, Hiawatha, etc. In 1886 the institution began to build the boats and nominal clubs were formed. After 1895 the clubs, too, disappeared and to this day no organization exists, a trifling fee being required of students who wish to use the boats on recreation days.

There is evidence that baseball was played as early as 1868. Mention of a ball team is made for the first time in the catalogue of 1874; Father Leo Winter was its president.

These clubs were reorganized every year and generally took a new name such as Invincibles, Athletics, Crusaders, Manhattans. Later on the inappropriateness of many of these names apparently struck the teams and they contented themselves with the technical designation of “nines.”

Football was played after a free-for-all fashion, and generally on the ice, since the early 1870’s, and only since the beginning of the present century have the approved forms been cultivated by the Athletic Association. Lawn tennis and handball also have been in vogue since 1890. Bowling, too, has been a favorite sport. At present there is a double alley in the basement of the gymnasium, and a handball alley and tennis court near the campus.

Sports for the last seven years have been carried on under the auspices of the Athletic Association, which was founded 1900. 


When the silver jubilee of the establishment of St. John’s was celebrated in connection with the consecration the new church on October 24, 1882, the alumni present met on the day following the solemnities to organize an association for the perpetuation “of the bond of friendship formed in college days, to advance the welfare, spiritual and temporal, of its members and to further the interests of Alma Mater.”

At the organizing meeting, the late Father Xavier White in the chair, the following officers were elected:

Honorary President: Rt. Rev. Alexius Edelbrock, O.S.B.

President: Rev. Joseph B. Cotter

Spiritual Director: Rev. Xavier White, O.S.B.

Recording Secretary: Joseph M. Langan

Corresponding Secretary: Rev. E.J. Lawler

Treasurer: Alphonse DeMeules 

A committee was appointed to frame a constitution and by-laws, with instructions to report at the first regular meeting, June 26. 1883. The constitution and by-laws were adopted and ordered printed.

The second regular meeting was held June 22, 1886 in the present assembly hall, then still unfinished. The most delightful features of the gathering were the banquet and speeches.

The third meeting was held August 28, 1890 on the day following the installation of the late Abbot Bernard Locnikar. On this occasion Mr. M. Nugent, 1881, was elected President.

Close upon the heels of this meeting followed the fourth, on July 21 and 22, 1891.   To ensure a better attendance, local branches of the association had been organized during spring at St. Cloud, St. Paul and Minneapolis. Each branch sent a strong delegation. At the meeting Mr. L.J. Demeules, 1870, was elected President, and Rev. A. Christie, Spiritual Director. Scarcely less enthusiastic was the gathering held July 12 and 13, 1892, at which also a new local branch, that of Duluth-West Superior was represented.  Mr. L.J. DeMeules was re-elected President of the Association.

On July 10, 1895, the day previous to the installation of Abbot Peter Engel, the sixth reunion was held, at, which Mr. G. Mitsch, Jr. of St. Paul was chosen President.

Five years elapsed before another meeting was held. The seventh reunion took place July 18 and 19, 1900, and in numbers outstripped any of the previous gatherings.

The eighth reunion took place on June 29, 1904; it coincided with the silver jubilee of Rt. Rev. Abbot Peter Engel’s ordination. Again a new branch, that of Western Stearns County, was represented for the first time. On this occasion most of the exercises were conducted in the new gymnasium and the alumni had an opportunity to mark the progress of the institution since the primitive days and conditions of 1867. The officers elected in 1904 and holding office at the present time are:

President: Charles F. Ladner, St. Cloud

Vice Presidents (and Presidents of the respective local branches): William Hoy, Minneapolis; John Heider, Duluth; Rev. Leo Winter, Western Steams County; John Venne, St. Paul; John A. Ahmann, St. Cloud

Recording Secretary: F.A. Gross, Minneapolis

Treasurer: William Bohmer, Melrose

Spiritual Director: Rev. George Arctander

It is expected that a large number of alumni will participate in the jubilee exercises toward the end of June of the present year, 1907, to mark the passing of the fiftieth milestone.