Editor’s note: Guest blogger Jeff Redder is a Secular Franciscan who currently serves as the minister of his local fraternity and as the JPIC Animator for St. Katharine Drexel Region. He is married, has four adult children, and six grandchildren. As part of our FMS’ Advent blog series, Jeff reflects on different faces of brotherhood, both in the United States and abroad.
While growing up on a large dairy farm in eastern SD, I shared many wonderful experiences with my six brothers and five sisters (I was #5 of 12). Through our parents, we embraced our Catholic faith, a daily routine of hard work and care for creation, and a commitment to serving our community.
In October, my next younger brother, Jim (66), who had battled multiple myeloma for four years and underwent a stem cell transplant, was diagnosed with the coronavirus. Jim was immediately hospitalized, then moved to a major medical center as his condition deteriorated. On Halloween evening, Jim passed into eternal life. For our family, this loss was especially difficult as we had already said our farewells to our oldest sister Liz in February when she lost her battle with cancer.
As is typical with many funerals, we learned something new about this brother who followed my Dad’s example by being a lifelong farmer. After his own cancer diagnosis, Jim began to make rosaries for the children in his parish who were receiving the sacraments of First Eucharist and Confirmation (some students whom he had taught). Last year, his handmade rosaries were given to all confirmandi in the state of SD. Knowing my brother, I can only imagine the prayers that accompanied the threading and knotting of each rosary.
For five years, my wife Teresa and I have been part of a parish mission team that went to Kingston, Jamaica, to work beside the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP). On my first visit there, it was so inspiring to meet the MOP brothers and to share what brotherhood meant to them as a community and in their ministry in economically poor communities and with individuals with disabilities. Through daily shared prayer, Scripture, and Eucharist, the brothers started each day with joy and smiles. In turn, the people whom we served were so aware of the sincerity in being called “brother” or “sister.” While the MOP brothers came from many parts of the world, they were united in their seeing Christ in every person they encountered.
One of the men at Good Shepherd Center (where I ministered), welcomed me each day: “What’s your name?” My answer to him was always, “Jeffrey, just like yours.” He would then smile broadly and follow me, but his question would return the next day. When we learned that Good Shepherd had a catastrophic fire in the summer of 2019 and two brothers had died, my first thought was of Jeffrey.
The Secular Franciscan Rule (#5) binds professed members to live this way: “Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters.” Living with this spirit requires us to leave our comfort zones, yet that is where we will encounter the darkness to bring Christ’s light to others—the assurance of a love beyond all telling.
Through faith, Christ calls all of us to be brothers and sisters with Him and one another. Christ gives us the grace to be the person who we are to do what is ours to do. When we live with a fraternal spirit, we bring light into the darkness and reveal God’s Kingdom here and now.