NameAlbert Augustine Wirtner / Rev. Modestus, O.S.B.
BirthMar 20, 1861, Carrolltown, Pa.
DeathAug 29, 1948, Latrobe, Pa.
BurialSt. Vincent Cemetery, Latrobe, Pa.
FatherJohn Baptist Wirtner (1837-1931)
MotherCatherine Farabaugh (1842-1928)
Notes for Albert Augustine Wirtner / Rev. Modestus, O.S.B.
Fr. Modestus was an accomplished man of God, history, and science. He was born and raised in Carrolltown, Pa., where he attended parochial school. In September of 1874, he enrolled at St. Vincent's College in Latrobe and went on to study theology at St. Vincent's Seminary in Beatty, Pa. According to the 1880 Census, he was one of three servants for the priests of Carrolltown.

Pastoral Ministry

Fr. Modestus Wirtner was ordained on July 8, 1886, at the St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pa., by the Rt. Rev. Richard Phelan, D. D., Bishop of Pittsburgh. He celebrated his first Mass at St. Benedict's Church in Carrolltown on July 11, the Feast of St. Benedict.

He was appointed assistant at St. Mary's Church in St. Marys, Pa. He then served in Colorado. He was a pastor in Louisville, Colo., from December 15, 1887 to December 15, 1888; took charge in Summit County; and built a small church in Kokomo in 1889. In that year he returned to Pennsylvania and on September 15, began his brief service as an assistant at St. Boniface Church in Pittsburgh. He returned to Colo. to assume charge of Park County in 1890, and again, Summit County in 1891. He assisted at St. Mary's Church in Pueblo, Colo. from June to November of 1892, and then returned to Louisville where he enlarged the church. He was appointed pastor at Boulder, Colo., in 1895.

In 1899, Fr. Modestus returned East to St. Boniface Church, Pittsburgh, and then served in Lenox, Pa. By May of 1900, he became an assistant in Greensburg. In December of 1901 he was appointed pastor at St. Boniface Church in Penn, Pa., where he erected a new church in 1907. In November of 1909, he took charge of St. George's Church in Patton, and also the church in St. Lawrence, Pa. He was then appointed assistant at St. Benedict's in Carrolltown in 1910, where he administered baptisms from January 2nd to August 21, 1910. In August of 1910, he was appointed pastor at St. Nicholas Church in Nicktown, where he erected a new church. On October 1, 1916, he took charge of Monte Cassino in Covington, Ky. In November of 1919 he became chaplain to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Pittsburgh, Pa., and was then appointed pastor at St. Boniface Church in St. Boniface, Pa., on February 28, 1920. In 1930 he became pastor of St. Benedict's Church in Geistown, Pa. In 1936, he celebrated his Golden Jubilee at St. Joseph Church in Johnstown. His last assignment apparently was at St. Gregory's Church in the Daisytown area of Johnstown, Pa., from 1930 to 1942. He retired to the St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe.

Contributions To the History of Cambria County, Pa.

Aside from his impressive pastoral legacy, Fr. Modestus did extensive research on the history of the Carrolltown area and the Benedictine Order that culminated in his publication of The Benedictine Fathers in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, published in June of 1926, and supplemented in 1930. Much of the history of the Carrolltown area, and indeed Cambria County, would have been lost forever if not for these works. He also published some local histories, notably "Indians of Cambria County," which sought to verify Indian settlements along the Kittanning Trail. Fr. Modestus was also a significant contributor to the Cambria County Historical Society, having located and provided native petraglyphs marking tribes that were located in the county. In addition, his personal records of the Farabaugh family are in the possession of this writer, and has provided valuable source material for this study.


Fr. Modestus became interested in entomology during his seminary days at St. Vincent’s Archabbey. He later pursued his interest, primarily in hemiptera, during his pastorate in Colorado. In 1903, his records were destroyed by a flood at Penns Station, near Jeannette, Pa. But his collection on the second story of his residence survived. He published a checklist of Western Pennsylvania hemiptera in 1904, which remains as the only useful account for the region. He listed 74 species that were mostly Miridae (plant bugs). Fr. Modestus corresponded with the leading entomologists of his time, including several detailed exchanges with the renowned hemipterist E. P. Van Duzee. Among his work in the field was the identification of a new mirid genus, known today as B. modestus. Much of his collection is located at St. Vincent’s Archabbey. Fr. Modestus was a charter member of the Entomological Society of North America in 1906, and became a life member in 1907. He also became a member of the American Association of Advanced Science in 1907, and a life member in 1908.
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