Father Francis G. Ehnat, O.S.B., a monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, died on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. He was born December 10, 1948 in Bay Shohnat, who died in 1952, and the late Marianne Fink Ehnat Dean. His stepfather was James H. Dean.
He attended Eisenhower Elementary School, Kansas, and is a 1967 graduate of Camden High School, South Carolina. He earned a bachelor of science degree in zoology in 1972 from Clemson University. He also attended Armstrong State College in Savannah and Saint Vincent College. He began studies for the priesthood at Saint Vincent Seminary in 2007, and received his master of divinity degree in 2012.
He made simple profession of monastic vows on July 10, 1985 and solemn profession of vows on July 11, 1988. He was ordained a deacon on July 23, 2011, by The Most Rev. Lawrence E. Brandt, Bishop of Greensburg. He served his deacon internship at Saint Benedict Parish, Carrolltown, Pennsylvania. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 19, 2012 by The Most Rev. Donald W. Trautman, Bishop of Erie, at the Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.
Prior to his entrance into the Benedictine community at Saint Vincent Archabbey, Father Francis was employed as a lab technician at Hunt-Wesson Foods, Inc., in Savannah. He was also active as a volunteer with the Social Apostolate of Savannah and homeless shelter on an ongoing basis. He also assisted for four years with the Project DAWN (Donors and Workers Now) Health Center in Guyana, South America under the auspices of the late Sister Carmen Gannon, R.S.M., M.D., who spent five years at Mahaica Hospital as assistant administrator and director of nursing services.
He returned to the Benedictine Priory Savannah in 1988, where he served for 19 years as a member of the administration of the Benedictine Military School. He was the director of facilities management and archivist for the priory and school.
Father Francis’ involvement in volunteer service continued during his years in Savannah with the Habitat for Humanity program. He made a number of trips to Tomatoya, Nicaragua, to help build houses for needy families as part of the Global Village Program. He and the other volunteers lived with the people, shared their food, worked with them and participated in their religious life in order to build trust by breaking down social and cultural barriers. A few years later he returned to work with Rev. Douglas Araica, pastor of Saint Ann Parish in Jinotega, where he assisted Father Araica in caring for 28 parishes. They traveled by bicycle, car, jeep and even donkey to serve those needs.
In 2007, Father Francis returned to Saint Vincent to complete studies for priestly ministry. During this period he also served as miller and consultant to the Saint Vincent Gristmill (2007-2013). Other service included working as assistant sacristan at the Archabbey Basilica (1985-1988), associate director of Archabbey guests and guest facilities (2007-2013). He was an active member of the Audubon Society in Savannah and Pennsylvania.
The body of Father Francis will be received at 3 p.m. Saturday, January 11 in the Elizabeth Roderick Center of Saint Vincent Seminary. Viewing will follow from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m., and will continue from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. A vigil service will be held at 7:15 p.m. Sunday in the Archabbey Basilica. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., at 2:30 p.m. Monday, January 13 in the Archabbey Basilica. Interment will follow in the Saint Vincent Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Benedictine Health and Welfare Fund, Saint Vincent Archabbey, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650.