Father Bernard Sander, OSB
Fr. Bernard Sander, OSB (89) of Mount Angel Abbey passed away peacefully on Tuesday,
June 3. Vigils for the Dead was held on
Monday, June 9 at 7:30 PM and the Mass of Christian Burial celebrated on Tuesday,
June 10 at 10:00 AM, both in the Abbey Church.
Fr. Bernard Sander was a spiritual guide to many people. As a Catholic visionary he benefited
many more people.
Fr. Bernard, baptized as “George,” was proud of his German and Swiss heritage and of his hometown, Tillamook, Oregon. His parents, Leo Bernard Sander and Theresa Durrer Sander, ran a dairy with the help of their 11 children. Among their children 4 became Benedictines in Mt. Angel: Fr. Timothy (92) is the senior monk, by profession, of Mount Angel Abbey. Fr. Placidus (81) made profession at Mount Angel Abbey, then moved to Mount Angel’s first daughter house, Westminster Abbey, near Vancouver, BC, Canada. Their sister Gertrude († 2006) was at Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel for many years. Sander Family gatherings in recent decades have been legendary. Several times over 400 family members attended, from the U.S. and Europe.
After education and early upbringing in Tillamook one of his brothers [Alfred “Al”] took his place in the family dairy so that young George could enter Mount Angel Seminary, in 1935. After significant struggle, he decided to become a priest monk, instead of becoming a diocesan priest, like his uncle, Fr. Louis Sander, of the Archdiocese of Portland. George therefore entered the Abbey and went through the usual steps of formation to become a monk. He was professed on September 8, 1939, when he received the name “Bernard.” Then he completed his studies and was ordained a priest on May 19, 1944. After ordination he was assigned to a variety of leadership posts in the Seminary. He served as a Seminary rector from 1952-1970, when he was appointed Abbey Guest Master, a post which he held until 1993. During his time he oversaw the completion of the Mount Angel Abbey Retreat House conference rooms, where over 1000 people per year now attend organized retreats. When Abbot Bonaventure appointed him as Director of the Abbey Oblate Program (1981-1993) Fr. Bernard developed it from about 50 to well over 500 members. He was very popular among Catholic laity. For example, when he was Oblate Director he used to send over 900 Christmas cards each year - many people responded.
Fr. Bernard’s accomplishments were formally celebrated at the Abbey. In 1988 he received the first “Lumen Gentium” Award [“Light of the Nations”] the highest honor bestowed by Mount Angel Seminary. At his golden jubilee of ordination as a priest, in 1994, some 700 people attended.
Fr. Bernard Sander was a popular spiritual guide. As long as his health permitted, he heard thousands of confessions and gave spiritual direction to hundreds of people each year.
As a Catholic visionary he benefited many people. Among his many accomplishments the following stand out:
A guiding influence of Fr. Bernard’s life was promoting the vocation of lay people. This was an interest which he developed while studying at the University of Notre Dame in the summers of 1948 and 1949 under Father Louis Putz, CSC, another larger-than-life figure. Those studies energized the rest of Fr. Bernard’s life. In the 1950s he worked with the Christian Family Movement, Young Catholic Students, and the Young Christian Workers. Through Fr. Bernard’s help, these programs at Mount Angel developed into the Summer Conference, which was held at the Abbey, from 1983-2006. It has welcomed religious, clergy, and lay people of all ages to experience their faith through study, prayer and play. Each year, a Summer Conference theme explores the challenges of living faith and finding holiness in everyday lives. The Summer Conference was a great love of Fr. Bernard’s life. Beginning in July, 2008 The Summer Conference will be held at the University of Portland [http://www.sentinel.org/node/8977].
Fr. Bernard also helped to form, at the Abbey, the Christian in the World program, through which a variety of Catholic speakers give workshops on how to live one’s Christian life in the world.
Fr. Bernard encouraged Leonardo DeFilippis to move from acting in Shakespeare festivals to doing full-time work in Catholic drama. Since 1980 Leonardo’s company, St. Luke Productions [http://www.stlukeproductions.com ] has presented 1-person plays about saints across the United States, and Canada, as well as in Europe, to over 1,000,000 people.
Fr. Bernard encouraged David Richen, of Portland, to move from secular to sacred architecture. David has become a premier architect of churches in the Pacific Northwest, having worked with over 100 congregations across the country on church remodeling projects or on new churches.
A great source of pride in his life was another retreat house, one which was named for him in 2006, the Father Bernard Youth Center in the City of Mt. Angel. The first Director, Tony Morris, and Fr. Bernard recognized a need for a regional retreat house for youth, ages 14 to 38. They envisioned a place which “would contain all of the main elements of Catholic practice, including a chapel for Mass and Eucharistic adoration”]. In 2007 more than 1,500 youths and young adults visited the center on retreat and at various events [http://www.sentinel.org/node/9102]. The Father Bernard Youth Center is a lasting legacy, a tribute to a life lived in service of and with the laity in the church.