Father Meinrad Lawson, O.S.B., 83, a monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, died Sunday, July 16, 2023 at UPMC Mercy. Father Meinrad was born in Erie and came to Saint Vincent as a college student. He served in many areas, but more recently at Saint Marys Parish in St. Marys, Saint Vincent Basilica Parish in Latrobe, and Benedictine Military School in Savannah.
He was a son of the late John and Eleanor (Rinderle) Lawson. He was born on March 17, 1940, on the same day as his father’s birthday, Saint Patrick’s Day.
Surviving is one brother Thomas (Patricia) Lawson of Erie.
Father Meinrad attended Saint Mary Parochial School in Erie, and was a 1958 graduate of Erie Technical High School. He attended Saint Vincent College and Saint Vincent Seminary, completing his seminary studies in 1967. He earned a master of arts degree in religious education in 1983 from Providence College in Rhode Island, and a master of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 1992. He also undertook graduate studies at Notre Dame University. He received the Doctor of Humane letters, honoris causa, from Belmont Abbey College in 1993.
He entered the Benedictine monastic community of Saint Vincent Archabbey as a novice in 1960. He made profession of simple vows on July 2, 1961, and profession of solemn vows on July 11, 1964. He was ordained a deacon in May of 1966, and a priest on May 20, 1967, by the Most Rev. William G. Connare, Bishop of Greensburg at Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.
His pastoral experience began as associate pastor at Queen of the World Church in St. Marys, Pennsylvania (1967–78). He was then assigned to Benedictine Priory and Benedictine Military School in Savannah, where he served from 1978 to 2001, when he returned to Saint Vincent. In 2004 he was named administrator and then pastor of Saint Vincent Basilica Parish, serving in Latrobe until 2007, when he was sent to serve as pastor of St. Mary Parish, St. Marys. He returned to Saint Vincent in 2013.
For various times between 1967 and 1978, when he served in Erie, Father Meinrad was a religion teacher (1967–77) and department chair (1970–72) at Elk County Catholic High School, confessor to the Sisters of Saint Joseph (1967-1978), and chaplain to the Knights of Columbus in St. Marys (1968-1978), the Bucktail Council of the Boy Scouts of America (1973-1978), Queen of the World CFM (1967-1978) and the Boy Scout Group at Queen of the World Parish (1968-1978). He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Northern Tier Community Action Group (1971-1975), Elk County Child Welfare (1970-1974), the Elk County Community Action Board (1970-1975), the St. Marys Child Day Care Center (1971-1975), St. Marys Senior Center (1973-1975) and the Council for Human Dignity (1974-1978) in the Diocese of Erie. He was a junior senator on the Erie Diocesan Priest Council (1972-1974), and was on the diocese’s Steering Committee for the Council on Aging (1974-1978) and the Committee on Charismatic Renewal (1974-1978). After he returned to Erie in 2007, he was appointed to the Presbyteral Council for the Diocese of Erie, serving from 2009 to 2013.
When he served in Savannah, Father Meinrad was procurator (1983-1987), subprior (1986-1987), then prior (1987-1999) of Benedictine Priory; business manager (1987-1994), assistant headmaster (1992-1994), headmaster (1994-1996) and first president (1996-1999) of Benedictine Military School. He served in other roles as well, including chair of the religious studies department (1979-1992) and campus ministry (1985-1990), vocation director, class advisor for the junior (1979-1980) and senior (1980-1984) classes. He was confessor to the Sisters of Saint Francis (1980-1986), director of retreats at Saint Vincent Academy (1980-1986), spiritual director for SEARCH in the Savannah Deanery (1980-1984) and member of the Presbyteral Council for the Diocese of Savannah (1984-1987).
At Saint Vincent Archabbey, Father Meinrad was assistant master of ceremonies (1961–67), assistant (1963-1965) and then director of Saint Vincent Cemetery Office (1965–66), and he was assigned to the engineering office (1964–66). Other assignments included assistant to the Archabbot (2001-2004, 2013-2017); master of ceremonies (2001-2007); director for alumni affairs of Saint Vincent Seminary (2013-2016); associate master of ceremonies (2013-2016) and calendarius (2017-present).
Father Meinrad’s memberships included a number of associations: Boy Scouts of America Troop 8, Erie, life rank; the National Honor Society; National Catholic Cemetery Association; American Cemetery Association; Pennsylvania Cemetery Association; Knights of Columbus in St. Marys, third and then fourth degree knight; St. Marys Area Jaycees; Charismatic Community of Abundant Life in St. Marys; and Crystal Volunteer Fire Department, St. Marys, chaplain.
The reception of the body will take place at 3 p.m. Tuesday, July 18, in the Roderick Hall Parlor at Saint Vincent Seminary, with viewing until 5 p.m., followed by vespers. A wake service will begin at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday in the Archabbey Basilica, with Archabbot Martin de Porres Bartel, O.S.B., serving as celebrant and homilist. A concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial will begin at in the Basilica at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, with Archabbot Martin serving as principal celebrant and Father David Griffin, O.S.B., as homilist. The Rite of Committal will follow in the Mary Mother of Mercy Mausoleum Chapel at Saint Vincent Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Benedictine Health and Welfare Fund at Saint Vincent Archabbey, 300 Fraser Purchase Rd., Latrobe, PA 15650.