March 29, 2018
Remembering Always

BOB PIERCY, CHRISTIANNE BRUSSELMANS, & BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE

Bob Piercy
1958 – 2011

It is difficult to describe Bob Piercy and his impact and personality to anyone who never knew him.  For those who did know him – they would all understand my struggle in finding adequate adjectives and descriptors to remember this amazing part of God’s creation in the world.

A musician, liturgist, author, catechist, and clinician, Bob was known to many as being deeply involved in Catholic publishing.  He worked as an editor and consultant for Liturgy Training Publications; GIA Publications; the American Bible Society; Living the Good News; Brown-ROA, and RCL.   In additions Bob always kept busy in pastoral work serving the church as director of music at St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park, Illinois, and as director of music at Holy Family Parish in Shorewood, Illinois. During his tenure with GIA, he created and collaborated on such works as Journey of the Sacred (with Rosemary Bleuher, Denise La Giglia, and Dennis Paul); When Children Gather: 20 Eucharistic Services and 20 Prayer Services (with Vivian Williams); Walking by Faith (with David Haas); Celebrating Our Faith; Give Your Gifts I (with Linda Baltikas); Give Your Gifts II (with Michael Schabert); Table Prayer (with Beth Thompson); and as an editor of GIA’s children’s hymnal, Singing Our Faith. He was a well-known author and guest speaker at conventions, conferences and numerous diocesan and parish events – far too many to mention – to adults and young children, and a much sought-after speaker on rites and rituals of the Catholic church.

     Bob also had a very long association with theatre, and musical theatre in particular, as a director, actor, dancer, choreographer and consultant for productions not only in the Chicago area, but in New York and beyond. He was always an amazing story-teller, and could bring people to tears in laughter.  He loved people, adored children, and was passionate in every single thing he was involved with.  Such passion is rare in ministry – and we miss his presence so much.  We give thanks to God for how Bob blessed us all.   My goodness – what a joyful gift we received by how he lived his life! (DH: 3.29.18)

Videos featuring Bob Piercy:

Bob P.

Bob Piercy Memorial

Christiane Brusselmans
1930 – 1991

 Christiane Brusselmans was a Catholic religious educator, catechetical advocate for children and a pioneer in the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation in the United States. She authored several innovative Roman Catholic religious education programs for children and their families; most notably We Celebrate the Eucharist; We Celebrate Reconciliation; and SUNDAY: Celebration of the Word. Born in Belgium, her influence in the field of religious education extended to many continents over a period of three decades. In Europe, she taught courses at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium and in the United States at Fordham University, Union Theological Seminary, Boston College and Harvard Divinity School as well as a number of other academic institutions. Her vision, determination, and belief in the vocation of the laity and the importance of the family in the mission of the church still resound today.

Christiane was born in 1930 in Louvain, Belgium.  During her years of studies, she took full advantage of extracurricular opportunities. She witnessed the developments of movements such as the Young Christian Workers with their watchwords of engagement, incarnation and presence in the world. She was introduced to liberation theology, and while studying later in Paris, Christiane experienced the theological foment of movements such as la nouvelle théologie that in reaction to Scholasticism called for a return to the sources of Scripture and the writings of the Fathers of the Church in order to give direction to the current questions facing the church in the world. She became friends with the missionary orders of the White Fathers and the Holy Ghost Fathers who told her about the formation process offered to those asking to become Christians in the African and Asian countries in which these missionaries ministered. She came to realize that the process of conversion was not simply a personal journey but needed to take place within the family and the whole community of believers.  Again, in Paris, Christiane worked within an innovative catechumenal process at the parish of Saint Sulpice (Parker, 1992, 19) that recognized the liturgical rites as a means of catechesis together with the catechetical instruction that involved the parents, godparents and local parish of the individual being initiated into the Church. From this formative experience, the desire to restore the catechumenate was to become one of her life works and her sacramental programs for children were based on a catechumenal model

In 1962, Christiane had hoped to return to Louvain to begin doctoral studies but at that time, like other theological schools, the Louvain Faculty of Theology did not admit lay men, women or religious sisters. Only priests and seminarians were accepted for advanced theological degrees. She then applied to the department of religion and religious education at The Catholic University of America. One of the aims of the department was to enable laity to obtain theological degrees. Father Gerard Sloyan, chair of the department of Religion and Religious Education not only accepted her for doctoral studies but invited her to offer a MA level seminar on the catechumenate in order to bring many of the insights of the European liturgical and catechetical movements to the university community.

     For Christiane, music and song were important in her catechesis and prayer. It was she who introduced the music of Father Lucien Deiss to the English speaking world. The English edition of Deiss’ Biblical Hymns and Psalms (1965), acknowledges that the “the present work is the result of the enthusiasm of Miss Christiane Brusselmans who organized the committee and who wrote a number of the catecheses.” (Deiss, 1965, 4).

The North American implementation of the RCIA simply would not have occurred with the same passion and vision if not for Christiane.  Children’s catechesis and sacramental preparation would not have been seen and experienced as a journey for the entire family if not for Christiane.  Our now common practice of celebrating the Liturgy of the Children – may have never been realized if not for Christiane.  And so many of us who were to commit our lives to catechetical and catechumenal ministry may never have considered it – if not for Christiane.  We miss her.  We need more like her.  (DH: 3.29.18)

Brother Roger Schutz of Taize’
1915 – 2005

Brother Roger Schutz was a dreamer, and he dreamed of ecumenism and peace. Born in Switzerland in 1915, he followed his father into ordained ministry in the Swiss Reformed Church. In 1940, he left Switzerland to live in France, his mother’s country, where he hoped to begin a community in which reconciliation among Christians would be the model for daily life—a community, he wrote, where “kindness of heart would be a matter of practical experience and where love would be at the heart of all things.” He bought a house in the small village of Taizé, near Cluny, just a few miles from the demarcation line that divided France during World War II. There, with three friends and fellow theologians who took private vows, he worked to care for and hide refugees—especially Jews—from Nazi persecution. They asked the local Catholic bishop for permission to use the abandoned village church. The bishop forwarded the question to the papal nuncio in Paris—Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII), who gave permission.

Denounced to the Vichy government, the group fled to Geneva for two years, but they returned to Taizé after the war. Brother Roger chose Easter Day 1949 as the date on which the little community made a public dedication to a life of celibacy, community of possessions, and simplicity of life. Almost immediately the community began to attract pilgrims to their chapel, which they later replaced with a much larger building—the Church of the Reconciliation, built by young volunteers—because the number of young people visiting Taizé had increased notably at the end of the 1950s.

In addition to attracting young people (as many as 5,000 from seventy-five countries during some weeks in summer), the community of Taizé has drawn church leaders: Pope John Paul II, three archbishops of Canterbury, Orthodox metropolitans, the secretary general of the World Council of Churches, and the fourteen Lutheran bishops of Sweden among them.  Part of Brother Roger’s appeal to young pilgrims was his embrace of an approach to faith that was built on questioning and searching. He once wrote of the young people and other pilgrims to Taizé: “Most of them come with one of the same question: ‘How can I understand God? How can I know what God wants for me?’” As he inevitably slowed down, Brother Roger ceded practical control of the community to others and named a successor—Brother Alois—but at the age of ninety, he remained the spiritual heart of Taizé. In the 1990s, he co-wrote two books with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Brother Roger was one of the honored guests at the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

     On Tuesday, August 16, as the community gathered with 2,500 young pilgrims for evening prayer at 8:45 PM, a Romanian woman stood behind Brother Roger and stabbed him several times. The brothers carried him to the monastery, and a doctor came, but he died at 9:00. Ten thousand mourners gathered in Taizé for his funeral on August 23, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, celebrated the funeral Mass.

It is obvious to say that the community of Taizé has been a powerful witness to reconciliation and ecumenism. The community has also modeled a style of liturgical prayer that is strongly communal, biblical, contemplative, musical, and universal. The music and prayer of the community has been enormously influential in the liturgy of Catholic communities in the United States.” From the prayer at Taizé on the morning after Brother Roger’s death: “Christ of compassion, you enable us to be in communion with those who have gone before us and who thus can remain close to us. We confide into your hands our brother Roger. He already contemplates the invisible. As we follow in his footsteps, you are preparing us to welcome the radiance of your brightness.”  There is no more needed to say about this humble servant of God, whose presence we certainly miss, and whose vision presses forward.  Thanks be to God (DH: 3.29.18)

Videos featuring Brother Roger:

The Beauty of Listening

Taize’ - Where the Rainbow Never Ends

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