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Father Thell served his career as teacher at Mount Michael School

Benedictine Father Richard Thell, an Omaha native and longtime teacher at Mount Michael Benedictine School near Elkhorn, died Nov. 10. He was 72.

A funeral Mass was held in the school’s Archbishop Bergan Gymnasium Nov. 14, with interment in the Mount Michael Abbey cemetery. 

Father Richard attended the former Holy Ghost School and the former Archbishop Ryan High School, both in Omaha. He began priestly studies at the former St. John Vianney Seminary, now Mount Michael, and continued at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo. 

Father Richard made his monastic profession in 1969. He attended theology studies at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and was ordained in Omaha in 1974.

His service at Mount Michael School included teaching speech, theology and English. He also was residential dean for students boarding there.

“He was always kind, gentle and unassuming,” said Father Michael Liebl, abbot. “But he had amazing control in the classroom. All it took was a stare and pause for silence to put anyone in their place.

“Students were also in awe of his range of knowledge,” Father Michael said. “He taught literature for many years, and introduced many of our students to the best literature the world had to offer.” 

Father Richard also was a confidant to struggling students who were not the most popular, most athletic or most recognized, Father Michael said. “They identified with him because of his own physical limitations and because of his kind ear.” 

At the abbey, Father Richard was director of junior monks and abbey guest master. He recently completed a 10-year stint as prior of the Benedictine community there. 

He also filled in for Masses at parishes in Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa. 

Father Richard was preceded in death by parents, William and Eva Thell, and sister, Sheila Thell. He is survived by sister and husband, Pamela and Ernest Jackson, two nephews, a great-niece and the Mount Michael community.

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