Rev. Henry V. Spielmann, O.S.A. (1912 - 2009)
Rev. Henry V. Spielmann, O.S.A. entered eternal life on November 2, 2009. At age 97, he was the oldest member of the Augustinian Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel at the time.
Henry Valentine Spielmann was born in Bronx, New York in 1912 to Valentine J. and Theresa Spielmann. He was baptized on February 4, 1912 at St. Jerome Catholic Church, New York, New York. He received the Sacrament of Confirmation on June 2, 1921 at Holy Spirit, New York.
For his elementary education, Henry attended three schools in New York: Our Savior, Holy Spirit, and St. Nicholas of Tolentine, the third of which he graduated from in 1927. He attended St. Nicholas of Tolentine High School, then transferred to Regis High School, which awarded him a diploma in 1931.
On September 12, 1931, Henry was received into the Augustinian Novitiate. He professed simple (temporary) vows in the Order of St. Augustine on September 13, 1932 and solemn (permanent) vows on September 13, 1935. At Villanova College (now University), Villanova, Pennsylvania, he earned a B.A. in Philosophy in 1936. He then pursued the course of theological studies at Augustinian College, Washington, D.C., until 1940. He was ordained a priest on May 30, 1939.
Father Spielmann later earned an M.S. in Library Science from Villanova in 1958. He also did additional studies in 1990 at Tulsa Junior College, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Father Spielmann was assigned in 1940 to teach biology, theology and mathematics at Cascia Hall Preparatory School, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He remained at Cascia Hall for the rest of his life. Among his students were Robert J. LaFortune, former Mayor of Tulsa; Frank Keating, former Governor of Oklahoma; and two Augustinian friars dear to the people of the Cascia Hall community, Rev. Theodore E. Tack, O.S.A. and Rev. William Perez, O.S.A.
An avid supporter of athletic programs at Cascia Hall, Father Spielmann was instrumental in developing Cascia Hall’s early basketball and baseball teams. He served as the school’s first baseball coach. During the season, one would often see him working on the grounds and landscaping at Cascia.
After 42 years of teaching, Father Spielmann retired from the classroom and worked to organize Cascia’s alumni. He was a walking encyclopedia of Cascia alumni from his era. Because of his phenomenal memory, he could tell people whom a particular alumnus had married, where he was living, how many children he had, and what their names were.
Besides his work in the school, Father Spielmann also fulfilled roles of service to his brothers in Augustine. He was Prior (local superior) of the Augustinian community at Cascia from 1967 to 1975, and served as Business Manager from 1975 to 1981.
In 1986, Father Spielmann wrote in Towers, the school yearbook, about his early days at Cascia: “These were happy days for me because, while the times were hard and money scarce, we had a tremendous amount of fraternal togetherness. The friendships formed among religious and laity at this time prevail today.” He was a joyful person to be around and remained a good friend of many in the Tulsa area.
Because of declining physical abilities, Father Spielmann moved to The Villa at Montereau in 2007, an assisted living facility in Tulsa. He remained at Montereau until the time of his death.
Father Spielmann is buried in the Augustinian plot at Calvary Cemetery, Tulsa.
Reverend Henry Valentine Spielmann, O.S.A.
January 26, 1912 - November 2, 2009
Funeral Homily - November 6, 2009
St. Rita Chapel - Cascia Hall, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Given by: Rev. Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A., Headmaster
First Reading: Isaiah 25: 6-10
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18
Gospel: John 6:51-58
I am honored and humbled to give the homily at the funeral of Fr. Henry Valentine Spielmann—a friend, a mentor, an example of faithfulness as an Augustinian and Priest.
(Fr. Ted Tack, who was one of Fr. Spielmann's first students here in 1940 was supposed to give this homily, but he had to keep a commitment to give talks on St. Augustine at Villanova University---he asked that he be remembered to those here today). (It is also most appropriate that Fr. Bill Perez be one of the main concelebrants of this funeral liturgy today and will do the prayers at the cemetery—they enjoyed a great relationship since 1948 when Fr. Perez came to Cascia as an 8th grader and the first class he went into was Fr. Spielmann's class---the young Bill Perez could hardly understand English and was finding it difficult to find his way to class---and therefore was late. Fr. Spielmann gave him an ipso facto and Perez wasd told to kneel out..and their legendary relationship of love, respect and good humor took off from that moment). Billy says that some of the names that students and alums have affectionately called Fr. Spielmann over the years were HV, Hank, Speilly, Spiel-hombre, Spielburg, the priest with the birds, the bulldogs, the snow cones and the ceramics---what a talented man! Other Augustinians who have been with him at Cascia Hall for many years and are here with us today as main concelebrants, especially his good friend Fr. John Gaffney and Fr. Bill Hamill. We are also pleased that Fr. John Sotak, former Prior of the Cascia Hall Monastery was able to come down from Chicago and to serve as our Master of Ceremonies. Henry loved and served the Augustinian Order for 75 years and as the oldest member of the Chicago Province called himself The Patriarch! The Augustinian Affiliates, Members of our Order, are also here in a place of prominence today as are Members of the St. Rita Guild.
We are honored that Bishop Slattery is here with us today who will do the final commendation and all the diocesan priests here too to concelebrate this liturgy and to celebrate Fr. Spielmann's priestly ministry over the many decades to the Diocese of Tulsa. Also welcome to CH Alumni, CH faculty, staff, and friends and in a special way, the Kelly Family, the Massad Family and Mike Keismore and Bill Warren who took care of Fr. Spielmann in a very special way especially in his last years.
Fr. Henry Spielmann is, quite frankly, a legend at Cascia Hall which opened in 1926 and he arrived on the scene in 1940. There is a video that was produced in 2001 by then Cascia Student, Jodain Massad, entitled "Our Beloved Legend" which will be showing in several places at the reception in the School Dining Hall after we return from Calvary Cemetery. I certainly hope you will join us---Fr. Spielmann would have wanted you to lift a glass of cheer in his honor and the food is being catered by Rick Kamp - Fr. Spielmann always enjoyed going to Rick's for dinner. And after that this evening there will be a home football game and the Commandos will have a decal with the initials HVS on their helmets as a tribute to Fr. Spielmann. He loved all of this activity around the campus and his association with youth over the years is what kept him young in spirit all these years. He also always liked the fact that his middle name was Valentine which was his father's name! I think this made him feel like he was called to be a great person of love - love of God and his fellow men and women! As a good Augustinian, he certainly had his heart at the center of his life! Yes, Henry loved life! He loved a good meal, he loved his red wine, he loved people coming together to have a good time! He loved the Order and He loved his Priesthood!
The image of the "eternal feast" or "festa sensa fine" today in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah is certainly most appropriate not only for a funeral liturgy but for the life of Fr. Spielmann. God has prepared a feast for us, for Fr. Spielmann, of rich juicy food and pure choice wine! Anyone who ever shared a meal with Fr. Spielmann whether it was around the monastery table, your family home or out to a restaurant knows how much he liked these moments of table fellowship. Crab legs, beef tenderloin, biscotti, Brandy Alexanders, and of course, red wine would have him ready to enjoy a good time. While he enjoyed this food and drink, it was not that alone that made him happy; it was the fellowship with family and friends that made all the difference to him! Time to share great stories of old times, the years when he was back in the Bronx and skipped school to go to the first World Series in the then new Yankee Stadium in 1923 (I'm sure he had the best skybox seats next to legendary Yankees in heaven as he watched them from his eternal home win their first World Series in the now new Yankee Stadium)! Times to share about when he was the Prior of the Monastery, which Hank always called the "golden years" when he oversaw the building of what is now known as the Spielmann Gymnasium and the Cascia Hall Dining Hall---where we will continue to tell stories about him later this afternoon. Times about starting the CAP Club to promote participation and support for Cascia Hall Athletics; Times to share about experiences with various families that he had not only taught, but did their weddings, baptisms, and funerals over the years. It was the "times" that he enjoyed with people along with the food and drink that went along with these experiences that meant so much to him and to those who shared these relationships with him! It is these relationships that do not die! They live in our hearts forever! He is now an intercessor for us with the Lord! The image of the eternal banquet from Isaiah reminds us that we will someday join Fr. Spielmann at this heavenly table where we will become part of the great communion of saints.
In the reading from St. Paul to the Thessalonians, and Saint Augustine himself echoes these sentiments, when they encouraged us to grieve but not like those who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus himself died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Jesus himself assured us that he would prepare a place for all who believe in Him, and that He was the living bread that came down from heaven as we heard in the Gospel today. That his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink, and that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood will have eternal life. This is the sure and certain hope that we celebrate today, not only for Fr. Spielmann but for ourselves! Fr. Spielmann not only lived this faith and hope, but also shared this faith and hope! As a priest he took the privilege of saying the mass and confecting the Eucharist as a very serious charge. He believed the words of Saint Augustine that the in the Incarnation, the divine became human so that we as humans might become more divine, and that in the Eucharist, we receive this divine life so as to become the Body of Christ to those around us! He always wanted to give his blessing to those who visited him and did it even to his last days. I was present in his room at Montereau when he came to consciousness for a brief time when Sr. Mary was visiting him. Fr. Spielmann recognized Sr. Mary, thanked her for the great work she does with our students then raised his hands and said, "May the blessing of Almighty God descend upon you and remain with you forever, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen." This was clear as a bell and then he slipped out of consciousness again. His priestly ministry and bringing Christ to others was just so much a part of who he was and will continue to be for us! One of the ways that he kept his focus on this ministry of bringing Christ to others was his continual reflection on The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis who showed us a simple way of following Christ, being Christ to others and therefore bringing others to Christ. Here are some of his famous quotes, "Without the Way, there is no going; without the Truth, there is no knowing, without the Life, there is no living."
"If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity and faith and seek not at any time the fame of being learned." "At the Day of Judgment we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done." And "if, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him!" (Henry believed these ways and tried to follow them in his dealings with others. He didn't only read spiritual books though; he was also known to enjoy the Western fiction or Frontier Stories of Louis L'Amour who once said, "Luck had nothing to do with my success, nor have I had any connections or breaks that I did not create for myself." At his death in 1988 it was written of him, "He showed people what a good story can do, whether it was an escape from the everyday life or just a bedside companion. His stories painted a picture in your mind that pleased anyone 8-80 years old, male or female. His writings could teach life lessons or bring people closer together. His work can take you on an adventure unlike others the average person is subject to. In a world so high-tech it is a great feeling when you pick up a L'Amour book and are taken on an adventure filled ride." No wonder Henry enjoyed his works!
It's no surprise that Fr. Spielmann died on November 2nd, the Feast of All Souls, when the universal Church prays for our beloved dead and that he is being buried on November 6th when the Augustinians around the world have the Commemoration of the Deceased Members of the Order. Also, today is the very day that there is a ticker-tape parade down Henry's hometown streets of New York in honor of his beloved Yankees and their 27th World Series! He always had all his bases covered and said, "If you can't go first class, don't go!" Henry, we hope you are enjoying your first class send off; you have now reached home plate and you have the prayers of the Church, the Order, and all those here present and all those whose hearts you have touched over the years! We all love you and cherish the memories that you have left us with! Your wit, your charm, your wink of the eye, you smile, your sense of humor will be part of us as we carry on the great work that you were part of at Cascia Hall. Every time we enter the Spielmann Conference Center, the Spielmann Gymnasium, the Spielmann Tower (The symbol of tower and its great presence and sign of strength and stability is synonymous with Cascia Hall just as I believe the name Spielmann and Cascia are synonymous) we will think of you with great fondness and every time a new student receives a scholarship from the Spielmann Fund, we will have the opportunity to tell the next generations about this beloved legend, Fr. Henry Valentine Spielmann. Well done my friend, well done good and faithful servant. Now inherit the place in the kingdom that has been prepared for you and remember us and smile down upon us! Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace! Amen!