Father Charles L. Froehle, a parish priest and for 25 years a professor, dean and rector at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas, was with family and friends when he died at age 77 on Tuesday, Jan. 6, at Our Lady of Peace Home in St. Paul.
The son of Leo and Catherine Froehle, he was born April 20, 1937, in St. Cloud and grew up in St. Paul. He completed studies at Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary in 1957 and graduated from the St. Paul Seminary in 1963. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Feb. 2, 1963. After serving two years at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis he began studies in Rome. He received a Licentiate and Doctorate in Theology from the Angelicum, the University of St. Thomas in Rome, in 1968.
He returned to the St. Paul Seminary where he served as professor of sacramental theology, dean of studies and vice rector. In 1980 he was appointed rector and was one of the major architects — along with Monsignor Terrence Murphy and Dr. Charles Keffer from St. Thomas and Archbishop John Roach from the archdiocese — of the 1987 affiliation of the seminary with the then College of St. Thomas. That year he became the vice president of St. Thomas for the School of Divinity. He also oversaw the design and construction of the seminary’s new administration center and residence hall as well as the renovation of St. Mary’s Chapel.
After retiring as rector of the seminary, he served as pastor of the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Buffalo from 1994 to 2001 and of Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis from 2001 until 2012.
When he left the seminary in 1993, St. Thomas awarded him an honorary doctorate. A citation that accompanied the degree described Froehle’s “remarkable expertise, sensitivity and patience in dialogue with all those who had stake in this new School of Divinity” and noted that “Hundreds of priests and lay ministers who today proclaim the good news are indebted to you as their role model and guide. … You also have engendered a sense of trust in faculty, staff and students. As one graduate said: ‘We were always impressed with your grace and dignity, the respect you earned from the students, your insights when preaching, and your gentleness and pastoral skills.’”
Froehle was included in a volume about the “interesting and influential people in the history of St. Thomas” that was published for the university’s quasquicentennial in 2010. It noted that as a supporter of ecumenical cooperation, Froehle headed the Minnesota Consortium of Theological Schools and welcomed into the School of Divinity the St. Thomas Center for Jewish-Christian Learning (now Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning) and its interfaith programming.
Froehle loved to spend time at his cabin in Wisconsin. His love of woodworking is seen there in the remodeling of the interior and the addition of a screen porch. He was a man who loved nature in all its forms. He enjoyed taking a cruise around the lake, listening for the loons and pointing out where the eagles nested. He particularly loved birds and watched as they flocked to the many feeders on the property. He was a humble man who loved the priesthood and touched the lives of countless parishioners as well as the many priests he mentored as seminarians, lay students preparing for pastoral ministry, and his faculty and staff colleagues from his years at the seminary.
He is survived by his brother John of Colorado Springs, and his sisters Margaret McCarty Cournoyer, and Jean, both of St. Paul, along with many nieces and nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, great grandnieces and great grandnephews. In addition, he is survived by his friend John Kinney, bishop emeritus of St. Cloud.
Visitation was held from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12, at O’Halloran Murphy Funeral Home, 575 S. Snelling Ave. The Mass of Christian Burial was held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, at St. Mary’s Chapel at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, 2260 Summit Ave. Visitation also was held at St. Mary’s Chapel an hour and a half prior to the Mass. Burial was at Resurrection Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, contributions are suggested to the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity or Our Lady of Peace Home.