Fr. Beerntsen’s first appointment was in his hometown as an assistant at St. Joseph Parish. He also worked in the office of the Associated Diocesan Societies (Holy Name Retreat House). His first 10 years as a priest included appointments as an assistant at St. John, Menasha; Holy Trinity, Jericho; and Holy Cross, Kaukauna. He became pastor of St. Josaphat Parish, Oshkosh, in 1971 and served the parish for 11 years. While at St. Josaphat, he rediscovered his passion for making candy.
“He used candy as a way of communicating with people,” said Fr. Richard Allen, pastor at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish, Neenah. “He enjoyed making candy and giving it to people as a way to energize them and lift their spirits.”
Fr. Allen recalls his ordination classmate distributing candy to the priests at the annual diocesan clergy congress. He always had a little box for Bishop Robert Banks as well.
Even though they were ordained the same day, Fr. Allen said that his friendship with Fr. Beerntsen developed 25 years ago. The two often gathered with Msgr. Robert Gulig, an ordination classmate who died in 2005. Fr. Allen, who delivered the homily at Fr. Beerntsen’s funeral Mass, said he will remember him as someone who was very approachable.
“There were people who would come up to him and mention that he had baptized them or was present at a special moment in their life,” said Fr. Allen. “He had good relationships with the people.”
Fr. Beerntsen also served as pastor at St. Philip the Apostle, Green Bay; St. Mary, Peshtigo; and Holy Cross, Lena/Spruce. He had a basement candy kitchen at St. Philip, shared the parish kitchen in Peshtigo and used the rectory kitchen in Lena. His specialties were seafoam, English toffee, turtles and chocolate covered cherries.
Nature was another passion, said Fr. Allen. Following his retirement to senior priest status in 1999, Fr. Beerntsen moved into his cottage on Rost Lake near Coleman.
“He had a beautiful home,” said Fr. Allen. “He liked living on the water, to be able to look out at the lake through his window.”
In his retirement, Fr. Beerntsen served as minister of the sacraments at St. Anthony, Oconto Falls; St. Patrick, Stiles; and Holy Trinity, Oconto.
Fr. Beerntsen is survived by three sisters, Dorothy, Gloria and Nancy; and one brother, Robert. The funeral Mass was celebrated on Jan. 31 at St. Patrick Church, Green Bay, Fr. Beerntsen’s home parish. Bishop David Ricken presided. Burial followed at Allouez Catholic Cemetery.