In 1955, Father Adrian W. Harmening accepted a one-year assignment to what’s now Benedictine College Preparatory. He never left, until God called him home on Monday at age 92. Described as “the Rock of Benedictine,” the Rev. Harmening served as principal for 25 years and was a continuous presence at the school for nearly 65 years.
The Rev. Harmening left an indelible mark on Richmond’s Catholic community. As Benedictine Headmaster Jesse Grapes told the RTD, the Rev. Harmening’s dual career as an educator and administrator at the school and a priest at St. Benedict Catholic Church enabled him to touch lives over decades “on a scale that is maybe unmatched in this city.”
He simply was the face of Benedictine. The iconic figure inspired generations of cadets, emphasizing service to God and others before self. He taught chemistry, Latin and religion. The school experienced remarkable growth during his tenure. Additionally, he founded and served as first pastor of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church.
“By his actions and his faith, the Rev. Harmening has brought many into the Catholic fold and many straying sheep home. His deep love of God and of the liturgy are obvious,” Robin Beres, the RTD’s deputy opinions editor, noted in a 2008 column. “He has married legions of cadets and baptized battalions of babies. Under his tutelage, Benedictine has graduated future congressmen, surgeons, military officers — successful men in just about every walk of life. The success of the school itself is, in part, a product of the love and energy the Rev. Harmening has devoted to it.”
Growing up in a family of devout Catholics, the Rev. Harmening said he felt called as a child to Holy Orders. Besides the church, he also served his country: At age 17, he enlisted in the Navy during World War II, spending more than a year on Okinawa, Japan, serving with the military police. He also was active in the community, serving as Catholic chaplain for the Boy Scouts in Virginia, chaplain for two Knights of Columbus councils and chaplain for the Richmond Council Navy League.
The Rev. Harmening leaves a legacy of humility, virtue and service. Go with God, Father.
— Pamela Stallsmith