Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Benedictine with Franciscan Roots


Each year the universal church sets aside a day to celebrate Consecrated Life. Usually, it is in February, near the Feast of the Presentation – February 2nd. This year in the Omaha Archdiocese, this special day was observed on Saturday, February 7th at St. John Vianney Parish in Omaha.

Bishop William Dendinger from the Grand Island Diocese in Nebraska was the keynote speaker. In his presentation on Consecrated Life, he articulated his own personal vocational story. Indeed, he has a very interesting story. Some day I hope that he too puts his story in writing so that others can benefit from his journey in following the vocational call.

While listening to Bishop Dendinger, I noticed something that I think is common for many individuals who decide to become a member of a community and join the consecrated life or become a priest. This common thread is the presence of religious people in the life of one who is considering the life for him/herself. Bishop Dendinger mentioned numerous priests who made home visits and were present in his life before he became a priest, especially when he was a young boy and those who sustained him on the way and still do.
I would like to begin to mention a few people who played that role in my life and who were definitely very influential in planting seeds deep within and did much to help me make the choice to become a monk.

One of the first persons, who was already in consecrated life and who made a deep impression upon me would be my great uncle, Br. Adrian Borer, a Franciscan Friar. I mentioned him in the article entitled Promised at Birth.

Br. Adrian was near the end of a long line of children in his family – a family of 15. Already, one of his sisters was a Franciscan nun as well. Br. Adrian was born in Franciscan country in Nebraska—Platte County, in the St. Bernard area – near Humphrey, Nebraska.

He left home at an early age and received his education and formation at Quincy, Illionis. I, myself, dreamt about going to that same institution and beginning my life as a religious as well. But Br. Adrian spent most of his years in San Antonio, Texas. He loved the mission there and spent most of his life preparing food for his confreres and helping poor people. He became very famous for his baking, especially his bread.

Although I don’t remember every summer when he came back to Nebraska, oftentimes he would come to visit his many nieces and nephews. My mother was one of his nieces. We have a funny photo of my mom in Br. Adrian’s habit. Br. Adrian would relax a bit among family members and take off his habit and usually placed it on the bed in the main bedroom. His nieces and nephews would jump at the chance and don his habit.

When Br. Adrian came to visit my family, he would give me special attention, more than he gave my bothers and sisters. I have a distinct memory of going on long walks with him. Never was he pushy with me about joining the Franciscans, but I must admit that I was enamored by the order and specifically by him. I, too, liked to cook and bake and so we had something in common. Not so long ago, I read the letter the superior of the St. Louis Province of the Franciscans wrote to all the confreres when Br. Adrian died. Indeed, it was a moving letter and a great tribute to a simple and humble man.
In the last few years, I have realized how much this man meant to me and how in a very quiet way, he had been a tremendous force in my life. I was particularly able to articulate this fact after hearing Bishop Dendinger’s presentation on Consecrated Life Day in Omaha.
And in finding a way to articulate this fact, I think it is important that we who are in consecrated life, realize that we can be the same for others who meet us, especially young people. Yes, we are all very busy people these days with fewer members in our communities. But we still have the capability of having an influence on others. And it also struck me that perhaps the internet is way for this to happen these days.

Indeed, Br. Adrian was a wonderful person in lots of ways. I only wish that I could have been closer to him in my younger days of formation in religious life. In the last few years, I have read a lot of Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who is a leading spiritual writer of present times. I can’t help but think of my great uncle, Br. Adrian, and admit the pleasant feeling I get when I am in touch with my Franciscan roots. Perhaps that is one explanation of my love for gardening besides my rural upbringing and background.

Hopefully, we in religious life can return the graces to others which we received from great mentors like, Br. Adrian Borer.

The other people in religious life who had a great impact on me would be the Benedictine Sisters of Scared Heart Monastery in Yankton, SD. But that is another story and article.

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