The following article by Fr. John Rausch is a tribute to our fellow Glenmarian, Br. Bernie Stern, who passed away last month.
Bro. Bernie Stern (1937-2014) taught me how to dice an onion and make a roux, two of the most essential and frequent chores of cooking. As a novice in 1965, I took my assignment of kitchen duty seriously under the tutelage of “Bro. B,” who served people by serving meals.
The Glenmary Novitiate in 1965-66 was located on a farm, 200 feet above the Ohio River in Aurora, Indiana, where for a year and a day we novices lived apart from the world. We had classes in the morning and work assignments in the afternoons with an hour for recreation and plenty of time for prayer and study.
Brother Bernie had just taken his final oath when he found himself overseeing the kitchen at the novitiate. His father was a prestigious chef in Covington, Kentucky, who taught Brother Bernie his basic skills. His cookbook that the family published posthumously bulged with German and American recipes that I loved as I grew up in Philadelphia.
At the novitiate Bro. B patiently showed us the art of making soups and sauces, preparing vegetables and braising meats. Although his assignment read “Chef at the Novitiate,” in reality Bro. B’s job focused more on making palatable our culinary mistakes.
In the novitiate kitchen Bro. B saved the stale Danish he got from the local bakery during the week for Sundays--delicious pastries, but a few days old. He would sprinkle them with water, shove them into a 325 degree oven for 7 minutes, and voila, near-fresh luscious pastries we called “Parousia Buns,” based on the Greek word, parousia, which meant “arrival” and theologians used for the Christ’s Second Coming, a time of abundance and joy.
As a farm, the novitiate raised cattle, so Sunday dinners frequently featured steak from our own herd. In keeping with the abundance of the parousia, it seemed like we 20-something novices ate a half cow each!
About monthly Bro. B made his legendary pizza. I still have the recipe for his pizza sauce that makes enough for 8 large pizzas that invariably we 20 novices gobbled up with nary a slice remaining.
Hospitality became a trademark of Bro. Bernie’s ministry. After the novitiate he cooked at Glenmary headquarters, then in various missions like West Union, Ohio, and Lebanon, Virginia. Add to his culinary skills his gift of music when he played for liturgies with his accordion, or led sing-a-longs at retirement homes or gatherings. Toward the end of his life when he became incapacitated from illness, his ministry turned to contemplation and prayer. He told folks he would pray for them, and they could depend on him.
Bro. Bernie was a gentle man, a holy man, simple and true. When I preach about Martha and Mary, the usual interpretation treats Martha as the doer and Mary as the contemplative. But, hospitality and prayer can never be split, and that’s how Bro. Bernie’s ministry combined his dedication to God with his cooking for others.