Rev. Adrian W. Harmening, O.S.B., a monk of Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond and former Principal of Benedictine College Preparatory passed peacefully to God during the morning of May 18, at the age of 92. Father Adrian is beloved by generations of Benedictine Cadets for whom he served as mentor and as a role model of the virtuous life offered in service to God and one’s fellow man. While his passion was the education and moral development of boys through Catholic education and the Boy Scouts, he also founded and served as first pastor of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church.
Christened William Terrence Harmening, he was born to Fred and Fidelis Harmening, née Donnelly, in Defiance, Ohio on May 24, 1927, and was raised in Connellsville, Pa. He was predeceased by his parents, as well as his sister, Betty, and brothers Frederick H. and Carl T. Harmening. He had seven nephews and two nieces. He was educated by the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh and influenced by the Benedictine Monks of St. Vincent’s Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa., who occasionally celebrated Mass at his parish.
Following graduation from Pittsburgh’s Immaculate Conception School, which he attended for both grammar and high school, he enlisted in the armed services, needing his mother’s permission, as he was only 17 years of age. Assigned to the U.S. Navy Armed Guard’s Pacific Theatre of Operations, Father Adrian spent part of his World War II days ferreting out Japanese snipers from caves and other hiding places. He steadfastly denied rumors that he was boxing champion of the Pacific Fleet, but his Cadets believed it anyway.
He returned home after spending 13 months on Okinawa. Utilizing the GI Bill, he entered St. Vincent College (Latrobe, Pa.), graduating with a bachelor’s degree before completing his seminary studies at Belmont Abbey (Belmont, N.C.), from which he received an honorary doctorate in 2001. Father Adrian also earned a masters degree, in education, from the University of Virginia in 1963.
He made his profession as a Benedictine monk at Belmont Abbey on July 11, 1949. Father Adrian was ordained a priest on June 17, 1955, by Bishop John Joyce Russell of Charleston, later Bishop of Richmond. He returned home, to Connellsville, where he celebrated his first solemn Mass on June 26.
In July 1955, Father Adrian received a one-year assignment to St. Benedict’s Priory and to the faculty of Benedictine High School in Richmond. He never left. Father Adrian embraced the school and its students with great enthusiasm, teaching chemistry, Latin and theology, and serving initially as disciplinarian, and then as principal for a total of 25 years. Under Father Adrian’s leadership, the school experienced growth in the student body, the introduction of programs in the arts, continued excellence in athletics and, above all, an emphasis on discipline and the Catholic faith. He had the ability, up until his last day, to recall the names and class year of every student who attended Benedictine. Most importantly, he served as the model of a holy priest, humble monk and virtuous man.
In the monastery, Father Adrian served his brother monks in various capacities including his appointments as Novice Master, Prior and Canonical Administrator. He was faithful to his monastic vocation for over seventy-one years. Fr. Adrian’s gentle character and love for the liturgy exemplified the Benedictine values of prayer, humility, community and hospitality.
In addition to his service at Benedictine, Father Adrian served for twenty years as Pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richmond, for twenty-eight years as Catholic Chaplain for the Boy Scouts in Virginia, and as Chaplain for Knights of Columbus Councils 12525 and 395, and the Navy League Richmond Council.
Father Adrian desired, above all, to serve God: “All I ever wanted from the time I could walk was to be a priest.” He was a kind man who dedicated his life to service. He will be greatly missed by his confreres, family, friends and former students.
The funeral and burial of Father Adrian’s remains will be private, and restricted to his fellow monks and blood relatives. A public memorial service for him will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the New Monastery Fund for Mary Mother of the Church Abbey at 12829 River Road, Richmond, VA 23238.