For those of you who aren’t members of my parish, please bear with me as I offer my gratitude to a dear friend who has served of well for the past sixteen years…
The Chicago Cubs’ recent World Series run certainly made sports history. Though the last few innings of Game 7 elicited heart palpitations, I endured through that third out at the bottom of the tenth. I cheered and wept and clapped and wept again after that tag at first base. As those lovable Northsiders jumped and hugged and waved, tears of joy streamed down my cheeks for the team, the fans, the city, baseball -for everything! Funny, while the Cubs were bathing in champagne, I bathed in the blessing of community. In spite of frightening foibles throughout those ten innings (and the preceding games!), I was united with every single person affiliated with the Cubs. Yes, I was a part of the Cubs Family and I enjoyed every minute of it. As I wiped away my tears, I thanked God for this taste of heaven. It gave me just what I needed to get back to life-as-usual with a bounce in my step.
Though he hasn’t done this with the Cubs’ flourish and fanfare, Father Bernie has often done the same for me and for our parish family for the past sixteen years. He frequently touched on something in his homilies which gave us reason to persist with a spirit of joy rather than drudgery. For some of us, these bits of wisdom have also come in conversations before and after Mass. In all cases, Father Bernie’s words have become more passionate over the years. Like the Cubs, he seems to appreciate the value of every opportunity to make his point. Perhaps this is the reason he has been so generous in making himself available to us whenever he’s here. This weekend, as we thank Father Bernie for the time we’ve spent together, let’s revisit the journey which led him to us…
Father Bernie was born “Hans Bauerly” in Germany eight decades ago. Life proved difficult for him and his family who were driven from their home by French authorities during the war. While he completed elementary school, Hans’ family discussed sending a grandchild to the United States where his grandmother and an aunt and uncle lived. While his father’s whereabouts in the war were unknown, Hans was selected for this journey. His aunt and uncle had no children and Hans would be a great help to them in their bakery. Obviously, his amazing work ethic was apparent even back then! When his father surprised the family with his return from the war, Hans had already left. Hans spoke only German when he arrived in the United States. When local authorities insisted that he attend school, he returned to eighth grade to begin his immersion into English. The following year, Hans enrolled at Joliet Catholic High School. He must have acquired English-speaking skills quickly because he graduated three years later. All the while, Hans worked in his aunt’s and uncle’s bakery. While the family expected him to continue full-time as a baker after high school, the Carmelites saw something special in this student. They encouraged Hans to explore the possibilities. Persistent soul that he is, Hans worked in the bakery for a full year after graduation to express his appreciation for his family’s support. He also took the Carmelites’ urging to heart. Afterward, he joined a group of his high school classmates in entering Mount Carmel, the Carmelite college in Niagara Falls. This began his official affiliation with the Carmelites. As Father Bernie says, the rest is history!
Father Bernie’s involvement at our parish began just after we moved from the Woodland School gym to our new church. At the time, he served on the faculty at Carmel High School and as a Provincial Administrator. Father Farrell and Father Bernie had been classmates in the seminary and Father Farrell felt his friend would bring something special to our parish family. Father Bernie accepted this invitation to assist with weekend Masses. The following year, when Father Bernie became Commissary Provincial for the Carmelites, his office was moved to Darien. In spite of the lengthy commute, Father Bernie has kept his promise to help all this time. It seems that Father Bernie has come to love our parish as we’ve come to love him –another blessing of community!
In my case, Father Bernie has been here when I’ve I cheered and wept and clapped and wept again, much as I did during the Cubs’ historic run. In every instance, Father Bernie has encouraged and inspired me to get back to life-as-usual with a bounce in my step. If the numerous people who wait after Mass to greet Father Bernie and who make his the longest line at our Penance Services are any indication, I know I’m not alone in this assessment. So it is that I write for our entire parish family when I express deep gratitude to you, Father Bernie, for sixteen wonderful years among us. Though we may have erred, missed a base and overthrown like a Cub or two, we’ve also become a family just like Cub Fandom. Life-as-usual will be different, but we will continue to persist with a bounce in our steps because of the time we’ve shared with you. We love you, Father Bernie! Thank you!!!
©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved