MUENSTER, Sask. — For more than three decades, the monks and guests at St. Peter’s Abbey looked forward to savouring the greenhouse tomatoes grown by Br. Wolfgang Thiem each spring. He planted them early in his monastic room and then transferred them to the greenhouse he had built. It is a tradition that will be sorely missed.
Thiem was born on April 28, 1924, in Schwab Gmund, southcentral Germany. The Second World War was devastating Europe when he graduated from high school.
At the age of 18 he was drafted into the air force and then transferred to an antiaircraft unit in Germany. He attended a driving school, learning the mechanics and function of motorcycles, cars, trucks and tractors. Thiem was taken prisoner by the Americans on Christmas Eve, 1945. He had served two-and-a-half years in the military and was to spend another three-and-a-half years as a Prisoner of War on a farm in France.
Thiem came to Canada in 1953 and joined Voluntas Dei, a secular institute founded by an Oblate priest in Trois Rivières, Que. He worked as a brick-layer in the summer, and in the winter he did carpentry work.
In 1971, Thiem spent a few months at the Trappist monastery in Manitoba. That summer he decided to visit St. Peter’s Abbey, which he had read about in the Prairie Messenger. He had helped the Trappists with haying and found himself doing the same work at the abbey. He soon entered the novitiate, making his profession of vows on March 21, 1973.
Thiem served many roles at the abbey. His talents kept him busy in carpentry, masonry, gardening, and as a cantor at Divine Office. During his final years, he grew sunflowers and harvested the seeds to feed the chickadees in the winter. He enjoyed listening to international news and reading about news events on his computer. His favourite winter recreation was cross-country skiing.
On Oct. 9 he fell outside his room and broke his right femur. He was taken to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon for an operation and died a week later from complications due to failure of his heart, lungs and kidneys.
At 93, he was the oldest monk at St. Peter’s Abbey.