Benedictine monk and educator Father Nicholas Rausch dies

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Lacey, Wash. - Father Nicholas Rausch, Order of Saint Benedict, for many years an educator at Saint Martin’s High School and College, died Aug. 5, 2003, of a heart attack. He was 74.

Father NicholasA vigil service will be at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, at Saint Martin’s Abbey Church, 5300 Pacific Ave., Lacey. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for him at 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 11, also at the church. Burial will follow at Saint Martin’s Abbey Cemetery.

Members of the Saint Martin’s College community join Saint Martin’s Abbey, where Father Nicholas was subprior, in honoring his life and many accomplishments.

“One of his favorite writers, the Blessed Columba Marmion, said ‘I became a monk because God had revealed to me the beauty and greatness of obedience’,” noted Abbot Neal Roth, O.S.B. “Father Nicholas was a faithful, obedient monk and I will miss him.”

Father Nicholas was born Bernard Rausch on Nov. 29, 1928, on a farm near Rupert, Idaho. He was the oldest of six children and the only son of Marie Theresa Henscheid and Charles Simon Rausch. A strong family tradition of service to the Catholic Church led Father Nicholas toward a desire early in life to become a priest. Three of his sisters joined the Benedictine convent at Oregon’s Mount Angel, and several cousins joined religious orders. After earning his diploma from Rupert High School in 1947, he was convinced to attend Saint Martin’s College by his cousin, now-retired Abbot Conrad Rausch, O.S.B. After two years of college, he was invested as a novice monk on July 11, 1949 and professed his first vows as a Benedictine monk on July 11, 1950. He made his lifetime solemn vows at Saint Martin’s Abbey on July 11, 1953.

Father Nicholas finished his degree in philosophy with minors in English and Latin in 1952. He often joked they were the only subjects he never taught at the high school. Following four years of theological study at Oregon’s Mount Angel Seminary, he was ordained to the priesthood on May 19, 1956, at St. James Cathedral, Seattle. In 1957, he earned a bachelor of education degree from Seattle University.

Determined to be a good teacher and to teach whatever was needed, he began teaching at Saint Martin’s High School in 1957. His broad talents and willingness led to a diverse career as an educator. He taught agriculture, beginning and advanced algebra, geometry, religion, typing, general science, mechanical drawing, calligraphy and driver’s education. He excelled as a debate teacher, a talent he attributed to his initial inexperience with the subject. He set up a mentoring system in which a seasoned group of state-ranked debate students helped their inexperienced peers learn forensics skills. In 18 years of teaching, his teams went to state all but one year. He considered debate his favorite subject, and often judged debate meets in the state.

At night, he served as a dormitory prefect at the high school, and at times, as a counselor. He also drove a school bus, taking students to area athletic competitions.

In 1974, the same year the high school was closed, he suffered a heart attack. When he recovered, he taught briefly at the College, and later served as a student loan officer, assistant in the bursar’s office and as college treasurer. His pastoral duties included serving at several churches in Western Washington on weekends and holy days and as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Parish. From 1975 to 1984, he also was chaplain of the Washington State Corrections Center in Shelton.

Besides serving as subprior, his monastic duties have included service as director of brothers and Socius of novices.
He was a talented calligrapher, often creating memorable Christmas cards for family and friends. He also enjoyed watercolor painting, golf, crossword puzzles and music. Although he considered himself an amateur, his musical talents spanned from the harmonicas and steel guitars he’d learned to play as a boy to ukulele, mandolin, bloc flute and cello. For many years, he was a member of the Knights of Columbus and served as chaplain to the organization’s Lacey council.

In 1993, he was honored by students and alumni of Saint Martin’s College and High School at Homecoming.

He once said the one accomplishment that had brought him greatest fulfillment was becoming a Benedictine monk and priest.

“I would never change it,” he said. “It’s been busy - it’s not the kind of life to make big headlines, and what I do are not big jobs - but somebody has to do them.”

Father Nicholas is survived by his sisters Mrs. Gertrude Stuart and her husband Ernest, of Rupert, Idaho; Dorothy, Christine and Regina Rausch, all members of the Benedictine Order; his cousin and fellow monk, Abbot Conrad Rausch, O.S.B., Saint Martin’s Abbey; and numerous nieces and nephews and cousins.

Memorial gifts can be sent to Saint Martin’s Father Nicholas Rausch Scholarship Fund or to Saint Martin’s Abbey, 5300 Pacific Ave. S.E., Lacey, Wash.

The Abbey asks members of the American Cassinese Congregation of monks to join them in offering the appointed suffrages and requests the prayers of others for Father Nicholas’ eternal joy.

For more information:
Deanna Partlow
Senior editor; media relations coordinator
360-438-4541 or

Holly Harmon
Director of communication
360-438-4332 or