BY TONI CASHNELLI
PHOTOS BY HENRY BECK, OFMYesterday afternoon, snow started piling up at the retreat house.
Everyone in its path was affected, including a number of friars who, like the rest of us, would like to wave a magic wand and make this wintry weather disappear. We checked to see how they were faring.
St. Francis Retreat House was a winter wonderland after more than a foot of snow blanketed Easton, Pa. Schools and businesses were closed and roads were impassable, “but so far the power’s on, and we’re very grateful,” Henry Beck said last night. “Thanks be to God and to St. Joseph, to whom we have been praying.”
Students from LaSalle made the most of things; their van was stranded in the snow.
“If power goes out, we don’t have a backup generator; it’s not working. We can get water. But the basics like flushing a toilet, we couldn’t do that. And the food would be served cold.” The snow came down so quickly, plowing wasn’t possible.
Some of the staff didn’t get to work, but a cook stayed overnight. “The students and their faculty members have been great through all of this,” Henry said. “People are taking it in stride. They’re just used to it. Br. Ed Skutka is down in the dish room working and every so often he tells the students a favorite joke. Mark [Ligett] has been in and out of the office and the retreat house checking on things.”
The fourth nor’easter was more than enough for Henry, a Midwest transplant who’s still adjusting to the area’s capricious winters. “The grounds are beautiful, just lovely,” he says. “But I’m really ready for Spring.”
The nor’easter put an early end to a four-night mission Greg Friedman was leading at St. Agnes Parish in West Chester, Pa. The predicted foot of snow PHOTO BY GREG FRIEDMAN, OFMThe snowy view from St. Agnes in West Chesterforced the cancellation of Tuesday’s final presentation.
As part of “A Lenten Retreat” structured around pilgrimage, “I was going to cover St. John’s Passion Narrative, via the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” he said last night. Greg led a similar program last week at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Dayton, Ohio. “I was recommended here by Henry Beck. St. Agnes is in the Philadelphia Diocese,” driving distance from home, the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C.
Like everything around it, the parish school, offices and outreach services of St. Agnes were all closed yesterday. “It’s too dangerous to go back to D.C. by car today,” Greg said. “I’m hoping the weather will be better tomorrow.” In the meantime, he posted photos of the lovely snowy landscape on his Facebook page.
When he eventually gets home, “I have to prepare for my last ‘Lenten Gig,’ a half-day retreat on Holy Week and the Triduum on Saturday at the Monastery.”
Meanwhile, at the Monastery in Washington, Guardian and Commissary Larry Dunham was dealing with delays of his own.
“I have been preparing to leave for Cincinnati for Audit Committee meetings,” he wrote last night. “But weather has canceled my flight and I will leave instead Thursday.”
Normal life ground to a halt yesterday when 5 inches of snow fell – more than the capital could handle. “It’s a big deal for D.C.,” according to Larry. “Everything closed down: all federal government, all D.C. government, all schools, most businesses. We were all asked to stay off roads unless it was for emergencies.”
This year, it seems that “Winter will just not let go. And this for the first day of Spring!”
We feel your pain, Larry.
BY TONI CASHNELLI
FILE PHOTOConrad at Roger Bacon in 1998Colleagues held Conrad Rebmann in high regard.
“Thank you for being my teacher, my inspiration, my friend,” one of them wrote when Connie was honored by Roger Bacon High School for his work with community service.
“You are a fine role model and a fine man,” wrote another.
And perhaps most touching: “You are the closest embodiment of St. Francis that I have ever met.”
Their notes were displayed at Conrad’s funeral, March 15 at St. Clement Church. But despite the affirmation, “He was never fully convinced of his amazing goodness and giftedness,” said homilist Fred Link.
For years Conrad, who didn’t drive, traveled by bus; above, at Roger Bacon with Chris CahillPat McCloskey
Conrad’s impact was quietly profound. “He was the first friar I ever met,” said Scott Obrecht, introduced to Connie at the Michigan State Fair in 1964. “He was very instrumental in my life as a friar,” visiting the Obrechts at home and accepting a never-to-be forgotten ride on young Scott’s motorcycle.
“Conrad recruited me through the Vocation Office,” said Jerry Beetz, “and walked with me through lots of different times. He was always someone I could go to, a very supportive friar.”
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIConnie at St. Margaret Hall with a few of his books on Francis; above, Gene Mayer with Bacon grad Jimmy Katsaounis.Bill Farris
Some friars never knew “how great he was as a tailor,” said Norbert Bertram, who vividly remembers the “beautiful, beautiful gold vestments” Conrad created.
Although he was “vastly talented,” Fred said, “He didn’t know how to spell. When he was in the Vocation Office he showed me some letters he was sending out. Obviously, people looked beyond his spelling and saw his heart and joined the friars anyway.”
The funeral capped a week of sorrow for Philadelphian Jimmy Katsaounis, a 1993 Bacon graduate who knew Conrad through the school’s outreach team. In town for his mom’s funeral on March 10, Jimmy learned of the passing of his friend and mentor. “When I think of Franciscans, I think of Brother Conrad,” he said through tears.
Celebrant Bill welcomed friars, friends and Conrad’s former colleagues from Roger Bacon.
“Thank you for coming out on this beautiful evening to lay to rest the body of a beautiful man who gave so much throughout his life.”
FILE PHOTOPHOTO BY TONI CASHNELLIThe day Conrad died, friend Pat Ballard received a St. Patrick’s Day card he had mailed to her; above, A caricature brightened his room at St. Margaret Hall.Bacon President Tom BurkeValentine Young
In his homily, Fred described Conrad’s “legendary” work with Roger Bacon’s outreach program. “I sure as heck hope that Conrad has been listening to all that has been said about him by those who knew him,” he said, including dozens of glowing comments from those who read his obituary on Facebook.
“Dominic Lococo said he and another friar saw Conrad this past Sunday in the dining room at St. Margaret Hall,” where he lived in retirement. “Conrad was quiet but did say he wanted to come to St. Clement, but ‘they don’t want me.’….Well, less than 24 hours later someone much greater than Dominic visited Conrad and invited him to a far more awesome home than St. Clement, saying he really wanted Connie to go home to heaven, to that place where he’ll never doubt himself again.”
Conrad was “a wonderfully talented man,” Fred said. “Consider the ministries he embraced in his 70 years of professed Franciscan life” and his roles in leadership as Regional Vocation Director (at the age of 24), Brothers’ Vocation Director, Provincial Coordinator of Brothers, and Director of Brothers’ Formation.
“Of course we know his huge talent that manifested itself in his 10 years of amazing commitment to the Roger Bacon community and far beyond while serving as Community Services Coordinator there,” when Fred served as chaplain. “Conrad created a new group at Bacon called ‘Bacon Buddies’ to which many Spartans proudly belonged. As many as 60 to 70 Spartans would pair up with inner-city kids on a monthly basis to provide those children with opportunities not otherwise available to them.” President George H.W. Bush named it one of his “Points of Light” in his nationwide effort to promote volunteerism.
At Bacon, “I recall the many times he [Conrad] would pop into my office and express anxiety,” Fred said. “Like many of us, Conrad could easily be down on himself – failing to see his great goodness: ‘I don’t think they want me.’ But, you know what? While such self-doubt can often drive one to do good to prove himself to himself or others, I believe with all my heart that Conrad did good because he knew others needed him to do good, or rather because others were suffering.”
PHOTO BY TONI CASHNELLIPart of the Roger Bacon contingent at Conrad’s funeral
After his thank-yous in closing remarks, Bill looked around the church. “I was amazed at the number of Roger Bacon faculty who came tonight,” he said. “Can you please stand?”
More than 15 people rose to their feet. And after Mass, many current and former colleagues of Conrad stayed to have their photo taken as a group. If that humble friar ever doubted he was valued, this assembly of admirers proved otherwise.
March 22, 2018
Blockbuster and Kodak film seem doomed.I have been doing Visitations now for most of the past year and I’m coming to some realizations. First, we are aging. There is a resistance to this awareness in me. Some part of me wants to think that our projects will continue as is for many more years. The recent deaths of Don Miller and Conrad Rebmann help me to know that my own life is limited, as well as the life of the projects. Where is Kodak film now? How about Blockbuster video? Even CDs seem doomed!
But I am also amazed at the creative resiliency that exists in our friars and in our dedication to the Franciscan ideals that first attracted us to this way of life. There are creative approaches to allowing the Gospel of Jesus to be proclaimed and a life in community that is very attractive. Each friary has a different way of expressing it, but values of the primacy of prayer, the wordless witness of our brotherhood, the care of creation, the immeasurable value of the human person from conception to natural death continue to be expressed and to inspire.
Our only question is how to do this now? What is God inspiring in us to allow others to share the joy of the Good News we’ve experienced? How can we be joyful missionaries of the news: You are loved by God. You can experience God’s mercy and live a life of joy. You can know a freedom that few will ever find. How do we express this today?
– Mark Soehner, OFM
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PHOTOS BY HENRY BECK, OFMYesterday afternoon, snow started piling up at the retreat house.Wednesday looked nothing like the second day of Spring as the fourth nor’easter in three weeks dumped heavy snow across a region that had barely recovered from the last one.
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIConnie at St. Margaret Hall with a few of his books on Francis; above, Gene Mayer with Bacon grad Jimmy Katsaounis.In service to Roger Bacon and in vocations, “He took great joy in connecting young people with the Franciscan spirit,” said Bill Farris, the school’s former President. “I always delighted in how instrumental he was in helping young people appreciate and begin to love Francis.”
For years Conrad, who didn’t drive, traveled by bus; above, at Roger Bacon with Chris CahillAdmired for his ability and humility, Conrad was a friar’s friar, as gifted a Vocation Director as he was a tailor of vestments. A voracious reader at age 93, he still gave talks about St. Francis to fellow residents at his nursing home. The day before he died, “I took him some books he requested,” said Pat McCloskey.