MORRISTOWN, N.J.—Benedictine Father Karl J. Roesch, who served as administrator of St. Mary the Virgin Mother Church in Hartsville, S.C., died on March 7. He was 82.
A wake will be held on March 12 from 4-7 p.m. at St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, N.J. The Mass of Christian Burial will be on March 13 at 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s Abbey.
St. Mary the Virgin Mother Church will hold a memorial Mass for the beloved priest on March 25 at 10 a.m.
Father Karl was born May 27, 1934, to John and Mary Roesch in Newark, N.J. He graduated from St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in 1951. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Vincent College in 1956 and a master’s in mathematics at Catholic University in 1968.
During those years, he spent a year of novitiate as a Benedictine monk at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kansas, where he pronounced monastic vows in 1954 as Frater Karl. After graduating from St. Vincent College, Father Karl studied theology at St. Mary’s Abbey School of Theology at Delbarton and was ordained to the priesthood in 1960 as a member of the Order of St. Benedict.
After his ordination, he served at Delbarton School — which was built by the Benedictines in the 1930s — for almost 30 years. While at the prep school, Father Karl held a multitude of roles, including math teacher and football and baseball coach for 13 years.
In 1987, he accepted the call as pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Linden, N.J. He also served as procurator (CFO) of St. Mary’s Abbey from 1991-92.
In 2000, he took a sabbatical and entered an immersion program in Spanish language and culture. In August of that year, he agreed to minister in the mission area of the South for several months and was assigned parochial administrator of St. Mary, the Virgin Mother Church in Hartsville. Several months turned into 16 years.
In interviews with The Miscellany, Father Karl described the parish as having a great deal of camaraderie, and said “God has brought me to a good community.”
The Benedictine was well-loved in the parish, where he taught people that the love of God can be experienced in many different ways in their lives. Father Karl left St. Mary in February 2016, when illness forced his retirement and return home.
Outside of his ministry, Father Karl said he loved traveling because it brought to life the attitudes of people and cultures. He toured Hong Kong, Morroco and China, and made pilgrimages to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to the Holy Land.
During his time in the Diocese of Charleston, he served on the Curia, as a dean of the Pee Dee Deanery, and on the College of Consultors and Presbyteral Council.
Father Karl is survived by his nieces and nephews and his monastic community.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Mary’s Abbey Infirmary Fund at St. Mary’s Abbey, Attn: Prior, 230 Mendham Road, Morristown NJ 07960. Condolences may be sent to the Abbey as well.