Religious Brothers Work With the People

Prepared by SVD vocation team

Religious Brothers Work WITH the PeopleBrother_Bernie_With_Group_at_Table.jpg

Born in Michigan, Bro. Bernie Spitzley, SVD professed his first vows as a Divine Word Missionary Brother in 1975 and his perpetual vows in 1981. Through the years, he served as a college instructor, dean of students at a seminary, director of a formation house and was involved with the Catholic Social Justice Lobby.

“I have spent over 46 years as a brother and 18 of those years were in formation where it was an honor and a privilege to walk with young people to help them discern what God's calling them to be,” he said.

Each of his early roles were important, but Bro. Bernie’s greatest fulfillment as a brother came in 1999 when he started his mission in what he calls “God’s country” – Jamaica. For years, he labored side-by-side with the Jamaican people constructing buildings that would become the homes and lifeblood of the communities.

Brother_Bernie_Instructing_Students.jpgToday, he continues to serve in Jamaica by working in a parish.

“This little boy who grew up on a farm in Michigan and wanted to go overseas and help poor people with plantations, got to get his hands dirty by building houses, got his hands dirty by having Bible groups, got his hands dirty by now serving as an administrator of a parish where I sit and work with people by counseling them,” he said.

In general, Bro. Bernie said he thinks most people don’t fully understand or appreciate the brotherhood vocation. A brother can serve God’s people in almost any profession imaginable – as a teacher, information technology specialist, medical professional or mechanic to name a few.

With so many options, some people struggle to understand what it is that unites religious brothers and sets them apart from other religious. Bro. Bernie says it’s actually quite simple.

Brother_Bernie_Working_on_House_Frame_With_Worker.jpgWhat does it mean to be a brother? For me, it’s to be an equal,” he said. “And what I love the most about it, is that I work with people, not for people.”

For example, in Jamaica, Bro. Bernie built the foundations for houses alongside a man named Max Smith for 12 years. There was no hierarchy between them, no one in charge of the other. It was just two men collaborating each day for a common mission.

For Bro. Bernie, that is the definition of a brother.

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