Interview with Fr. Bernard Reiser

Father Bernard Reiser was born in 1924. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1949 and in 1964, pioneered Epiphany Parish in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The parish, which is located on 70 acres of farmland, grew to become one of the largest Catholic communities in the state. In 1996, he traveled to Haiti and what he saw caused him to establish Reiser Relief Inc., a nonprofit relief organization for Haiti. He has since retired from serving the Epiphany Parish but remains the chairman of Reiser Relief. All profits from the sale of Reiser’s Ramblings goes to Haitian relief efforts. The book is a USA Book News Best Book Award finalist. Visit the Reiser Relief website at www.reiserrelief.com.

You established Reiser Relief Inc., a nonprofit relief organization, for Haiti after traveling to that country and seeing first-hand the poverty there. What makes you so passionate about the Haiti cause?

I am very interested in working in Haiti, because thousands of people there are living in utter poverty, looking for water that is drinkable, food to sustain them, and housing to protect them again the elements. So where you matter turn or what you do, there are Haitians every where with great needs far greater any of the needs that we in America face day by day.

After going to Haiti and seeing the extreme poverty of the people, I just knew I would have to do something to relieve their poverty, to ease their life with the various we take for granted, such as food water and housing. To see them so deprive, I couldn’t turn my back on these people and ignore their extreme poverty.

What keeps you going strong in your support for Haiti aid?

When you have witnessed poverty in such a real fashion, it’s a memory I can’t forget. We just need to continue to give, to support, and to help them in their extreme poverty and to make their life a little more tolerable. I feel with Reiser Relief we can give Haitian families a chance to live and provide them with necessary needs of daily life. I can’t sit back and I feel a need to give to my greatest ability and share in every manor possible, to make their life a little better and little more endurable with the food and water we provide.

You have been in the priesthood since 1949. Do you have any regrets?

I have absolutely no regrets; I appreciate everyday of my priesthood and anytime I can give to others what Jesus Christ advises to be done, I need to do it. To can’t stand back and not assist people in their great need, just doesn’t make any sense. I’m a giving and sharing a person and therefore I want to share with others as much as I can. So when people have needs for spiritual sacraments and or need for food, water and housing, I am here to help.

Anything you wish you’d done better?

I can’t think of anything that wished I had done better because in all of my giving to people, I always done my very best. I was raised by my parents to be generous and giving to anyone who has a particular need; therefore, I can’t sit back and do a mediocre job, I need to give to my greatest ability and share in every manor possible.

Reiser’s Ramblings is a collection of columns you wrote when you were overseeing Epiphany Paris in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. What is the main aim of your columns, your main goal when you are writing them?

My main aim was to inspire the people of the parish to give of themselves totally and completely to the needs of others. To know that when they were sharing with other peoples’ needs they were sharing with the Lord himself. “For whatever we do to the least of the Lord’s brethren we do for Him.” I continue to challenge the people of the parish to share with the needy and the poor – to share a reasonable amount with those poor souls, in America, in Haiti or other parts of the world.

Is there anyone in your life who has impacted you so that you are who you are today?

In all my years, my parents have impacted my life the most. My dad was a man of strong conviction and he would not say “we will TRY this” but “We WILL DO this”. So if there was people in need or people that had any particular problem, we just went out and did it. We did not Try but we Did it. My dad was a “Will” man not a “Try” man, he would do and do all his strength, energy and conviction. He indoctrinated into us five kids the need to do and never hesitate to do for others who were in need.

My mother was a very gentle and loving person and I never saw my parents quarrel or fight. They always had great respect for one another and shared with one another. They did the best they could for one another and this was a real inspiration to me, that my parents were a living example – of people who gave and shared for each other without hesitation. As I walked out the door to leave for seminary, my mother said “Bernie don’t ever embarrassed the Reiser name, that whatever you do that it be a source of honor to our family name and name that would be exalted.”

How is a single day in your life now like?

I’m a “retired” priest and my priestly work is not extensive as it once was before when I was the pastor of the parish. From time to time, I fill in on the weekends for various parishes in the area and I love going to these parishes serving them in anyway possible. I have an apartment in a senior high-rise and I thoroughly enjoy spend time reading books. I read a wide variety of books to broaden my education and what humanity is about.

I am reading three various books that tell about the era of Lincoln and another book by Tom Brokaw, an American television journalist. I’m also reading a book on South America which shares about experiences on Amazon. And so I go from one book to another to broaden my experience and to give me a great oversight about the world. I love to learn and absolutely enjoyed all my years in school.

What is your greatest wish and desire in life?

My greatest wish and desire in my life is to bring people to heaven. I’ve had many years of education about ministry and opportunities to serve people. When I go to any parish or to any area is with the desire to bring these people in a closer roll with God, and the serving of God and the betterment of their own life. What ever they do and what they are attempting to do will be done with all their heart. To have them bring others to God and also bring themselves to closer to the Lord God in heaven and joy of the Kingdom to be theirs for all eternity

Can you please tell us a little-known fact about yourself?

My greatest little known about my life is to bring people to heaven. Everything else will someday fade away. Getting people to be a member of God’s Kingdom in heaven to enjoy the glory of the Lord is my foremost and absolute purpose of life and purpose of ministry. It’s not thinking just of what am I going getting out of all of this, but my ambition to help each and every person I encounter to get to heaven in the most beautifully and wonderful fashion. And that may heaven be their outstanding reward for all of their life on earth and their efforts and walking with them through life to bring them to God’s kingdom.

Also, how about my favorite musical movie?

The Music Man is my favorite musical movie and which the 76 trombones came down street playing with all their heart. The Music Man actor was Robert Preston played character Harold Hill, who brought to that town a real sense of music and appreciation of giving their best and playing these trombones with absolute power and dedication. I think it was the greatest musical movie I have ever seen.  Harold Hill came in to town and changed the attitude in town and gave the young people an incentive to do something remarkable, to play the instrument with fervor, devotion and dedication. It just lit of the whole town and everyone responded, followed and clapped for these young people playing that magnificent tune The 76 Trombones.

Update from Evangeline: It is with great sadness that I wish to inform Sugarpeach readers about the going home to the Lord of Fr. Bernard Reiser on December 27, 2011. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Interview with Fr. Bernard Reiser

  1. Kate

    I love this! Thanks so much for this interview & for sharing it with us. Was this interview actually conducted this past December? It is just priceless!

    • Either in November or December. Yeah, pearls of wisdom. It saddens me to read about the passing of Fr. Reiser. I don’t know him personally, but he touched my life with this book.