Monsignor Albert I. Koenigsknecht, MM

Born: May 30, 1917
Ordained: June 10, 1945
Died: February 9, 1986

Msgr. Al Koenigsknecht, died on February 9, 1986, in Puno. He was 68 years old.

Msgr. Al was the prelate of Juli, Peru, having been appointed by the Holy Father on Feb. 11, 1974. He lived a rich and fulfilling life as a missioner. He was a dedicated and faithful member of the Church and of Maryknoll, a friend of the poor and the unwanted.

He was born in Fowler, Michigan on May 30, 1917. He finished Philosophy courses at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and then went to Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Norwood, Ohio, studying for the Lansing Diocese for two years. On August 1, 1942, he was accepted into Maryknoll and was ordained June 10, 1945. While a student of Theology his anxiety for mission led him to apply for Maryknoll. In a letter to Father General he wrote: “I have been sold on the foreign missions for some time. Family conditions are such that I am no longer needed at home. I have begun to study the mission problem, for no matter where I’ll be I can never afford to put the missions in the background. I have also concluded that prayer and the advice of my spiritual directors would be the only effective means to help me come to a definite decision. For the past year I have resorted to both of these and I am fully convinced that I belong in the foreign missions. Our retreat master advised me to present the matter to Bishop Albers, my Ordinary, and I can’t take any steps without his permission. Now, whether it’s Lansing or Hong Kong, I am willing to abide by his decision, although I am willing to go a long way to get into the foreign missions. You can feel assured of one thing, regardless of where I go, you have acquired one more supporter of the missions for good.” Father General received a letter from Bishop Albers: “Mr. Koenigsknecht is a very good and capable young man and for that reason I am very reluctant to grant him permission to leave the Diocese. However, he has been thinking of this for 5 years and feels that now he should endeavor to follow what he thinks is a call to missionary life. Consequently, I will not put an obstacle in his way and hereby grant him the permission.”

A very happy young man came to share his life in Maryknoll. From the very early days Al was known as K-13 since even he admitted that his last name was difficult to spell and pronounce.

His first mission assignment was to Tepic, Mexico, in 1945. This mission was closed in 1948 and he then went to Peru where he spent all his mission life carrying out many tasks.

He spent many years as a Local Superior as well as serving on the Regional Council for four terms. He was a teacher, Prefect of Discipline, and Assistant Procurator at the Colegio San Ambrosio in the Altiplano of Puno. In 1951 he was the Director of that school and then assigned to take over a new parish in Arequipa. Even while on furlough he was asked at times to give retreats at the Novitiate. After his work in Arequipa he went back to the Altiplano, to the Juli Prelature, where he conducted cursillos adapted to the reality there. No matter where he was or what he was doing, Al will be remembered for his gentle smile, hearty laugh and warm hospitality.

After his first visit to Rome as the Prelate of Juli, he wrote the following thoughts to the Superior General: “I had a private audience with the Holy Father. He was kind and pastoral. I did bring up the problem of the shortage of priests and asked about married priests as a possible solution. I also informed him of our lay catechists, our need to defend the voiceless and finally about the poverty and marginalization of the Aymara people.”

Al was a man of courage. He was not afraid to take pastoral and missionary actions which he knew could bring about serious consequences. On one occasion, when there was a break-in during the night at the chancery which served as his home, Al went to confront the attackers. They fired at him. Reporting the incident to Maryknoll, he wrote: “As far as the shooting incident goes, I got a good scare but they missed again. So I still have work to do.”

Burial was on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 12, in the Juli Cathedral alongside his friend and fellow Maryknoller, Msgr. Edward Fedders. Father Rafael Davila represented the General Council. The Mass at the Center was celebrated on the 11th with Fr. William Boteler as Principal Concelebrant, Fr. Peter Byrne as Homilist, and Fr. Jerry McCrane reading the biography. Many other former Peruvian Maryknollers were present at the Mass of the Resurrection.

When he was being recommended for the seminary, his elderly pastor wrote: “I have known him well for the past 19 years. He comes of a good religious family and has imbibed well the lessons his family taught him, and has made good use of those lessons. I am very happy to recommend him to you.” Al’s outstanding participation in mission since then now recommends him for the Eternal Kingdom.