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The varied ministry of a religious brother

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I send you Greetings from Lowell on the shores of the Merrimack River.

About 51 years ago I made my first vows as a religious brother. Recently, a lady in a church foyer asked me "What's the difference between a priest and a brother?" It's a perennial question, but it's been a while since I was asked so directly. In my answer I mentioned the sacramental ministry of the priests -- Masses and Confessions, weddings, etc. Brothers can do some of that, but quite often the brothers do just about everything else to keep the places of ministry functioning.

When I saw that many questions seemed to remain on her face, I found myself using what one of my South African confreres told me of his experience traveling through the many border crossings to eventually get on a plane to Rome. When other explanations failed, the idea of a "male nun" worked. He simply told the border authorities and customs officials of all the different works and jobs that religious sisters did. When he saw recognition and understanding come across their faces he told them, "That is what brothers do, too."

You name it and just about in any job there is, a brother doing it. I know of brothers who are doctors in the streets of Manila and the mountain villages of Bolivia. There are other brothers who are mechanics, cooks, farmers, teachers and bio-nano lab techs in research laboratories. The list could be endless.

For 15 years or so I used sign language to teach deaf and multi-handicapped children about God and Jesus and his love for us. I also did outreach to senior citizens in the Catholic Deaf Community. We brothers are all answering an inner call we've received to share the love and caring of Jesus using the seemingly infinite gifts and graces we have received. We may simply share our presence with a willing hand or a listening ear. We share some of the intimacy with Jesus that we have acquired through our formation and years of living and praying among the people we serve and in our various religious communities.

Technology, computers and the internet for starters have made our world today smaller, and at the same time opened up and broadened new vistas I couldn't have imagined 50 years ago. Communication has become instantaneous so now medical research around the globe becomes available to prevent Ebola pandemics and cure diseases. As a cardiac patient and a cancer survivor I humbly lift my prayers with the Psalmist saying, "How fearfully and wonderfully we are made!" Awesome! The Resurrection truly is Eternal! "Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate!" I wish you Easter blessings of health, Happiness and peace.

BROTHER CHARLES GILBERT, OMI IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE ANDRE GARIN RESIDENCE IN LOWELL.

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