Biographies

Father Arthur Merfeld, MM

Born: May 13, 1905
Ordained: July 10, 1932
Died: July 13, 1986

Father Arthur Merfeld died suddenly on Sunday, July 13, 1986, at St. Teresa’s Residence. He was 81 years old.

Father Arthur was born in Dougherty, Iowa on May 13, 1905, the fifth child in a family of eleven. He studied at Columbia College, Dubuque, for four years and St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, for three years, after which he applied to Maryknoll. He was accepted and entered on September 3, 1931. He was ordained on July 10, 1932. His missionary desire came in his early years in the seminary when he read about the lack of priests around the world. One of his instructors happened to remark in class that over one half of the children born into the world died without the benefits of Baptism. This thought came home very forcibly to Art and he proposed the question to himself: “Why not go to the foreign missions?” From that time forward there seemed to be no alternative; nevertheless he prayed continually to the Blessed Mother and the Little Flower and finally summoned up the courage to make the decision. He wrote to Rev. Raymond Lane seeking admission: “Trusting, then, even though I am totally unworthy of such a high calling, that I may be admitted to your society, and that I may be of small service to the missions, I am respectfully yours, Rev. Mr. A. J. Merfeld.”

Father Merfeld served the Society in his first years at Maryknoll Seminary as Assistant Procurator and then as a faculty member at the Venard and in Cincinnati. In June, 1938 he was assigned to Kyoto, Japan. He was interned by the Japanese early in 1942 and returned on the Gripsholm in August of the same year.

Father Art developed health concerns that kept him from returning overseas to mission work. In spite of this, he accepted various other States-side assignments over many years. He worked in the Vocation House in New Orleans, then to Bedford, Massachusetts where he served as Econome and then Assistant Novice Master. In 1954 he was assigned to study at New York University in preparation to be Speech Professor later at Glen Ellyn, Illinois. He served also as Director of the Brothers at Glen Ellyn. In 1971 he was appointed to run the New York City house and in 1974 to Denver, Colorado.

As a member of the Special Society Unit, he continued the work and dedication, as was expressed in a letter from the superior of the Denver Development House in 1979 : “At this time, I would ask you to convey to Father General my request that Father Merfeld be permitted to maintain his residence here in Denver. He is of great service not only to this house but also to the Archdiocese of Denver. His willingness to cover even the most remote parishes is well known in the Chancery Office. I have never been with the Archbishop that he hasn’t thanked me for the contribution Fr. Merfeld is making.”

Father Merfeld spent his later years at St. Teresa’s Residence where the Lord called him to his eternal reward. May he rest in peace.

The Vigil Service was held on July 15 at Maryknoll, New York with Fr. William Knipe reading the Biography. Funeral Mass was concelebrated on July 16, with the nephew Fr. O’Connor as Principal Celebrant. Burial followed in the Maryknoll Cemetery.