Trappist monk and baker, Brother Boniface Schnitzbauer, dies at 96

MONCKS CORNER — Brother Boniface Schnitzbauer died Jan. 7 at his home, the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Mepkin. He was 96.

He was born William Schnitzbauer on Jan. 3, 1908,  the son of the late Anna Herrmann and Xaver Schnitzbauer in Würzburg, Germany. He was one of nine children. He immigrated to the United States in 1929. In New York City he found employment as a barber in Manhattan.

After becoming a naturalized citizen in 1940, Schnitzbauer joined the U.S. Army. He served as a medic with the 306th Infantry Division and saw action in the Pacific.

Upon completion of military service, he went into partnership with his brother-in-law and opened a confectionary shop in Ozone Park, N.Y., called Henry and Bill’s.

Brother Schnitzbauer was a monk of Mepkin Abbey for 51 years. He entered the monastery Dec. 2, 1952, taking the religious name of Boniface after the apostle of Germany.

For more than 40 years, Brother Schnitzbauer worked daily in the abbey kitchen preparing meals and baking  breads and cakes for the monks and visitors.

His straightforward and uncomplicated approach to cooking and baking provided a delightful venture into the culinary traditions of the monastery where breads are an essential part of the mostly vegetarian diet.

In 1997, Brother Schnitzbauer published the cookbook “Baking with Brother Boniface,” which includes recipes from Mepkin’s kitchen.

Brother Schnitzbauer continued to work as an assistant in the kitchen, where he was once the “boss,” until a few weeks before his death.

His monastic devotion increased over the years with his unfailing fidelity to the monastic practices. He was never without a word of advice to those who asked him.

His impish smile and dry humor endeared him to his monastic community and to retreatants and visitors to the monastery.

His wisdom, professionalism, and deep religious faith will long remain as a model for the monks of Mepkin Abbey.

Brother Schnitzbauer is survived by his sister, Margie Nolte of Village, Fla.

The funeral Mass will be Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. at Mepkin Abbey Church.