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A Tribute to Bernadine Asher
by Father Dennis Wait

(Excerpt from the September 2002 Words of Hope Newsletter)

 

Dear Friend of Sanctuary of Hope,

I’m writing this article on August 2nd, at Queen of Peace Franciscan Brothers Friary in St. Paul, Minnesota. This is the feast day of our Lady of the Angels of Portiuncula. This Church in Assisi marks the beginning of the Franciscan Order throughout the world. I am celebrating with the Brothers, their families and friends, their 20th Anniversary as a religious community. Eight years ago, I came to this friary to discern the beginnings of Sanctuary of Hope Prayer Center and twenty years ago, Brother Michael Gaworski, fbp, founded this community. Our prayers and love go out to all of them and we ask Jesus, Our Lady, Sts. Francis and Clare to bless them with more vocations and resources to help the people of the twin cities and beyond.

  Bernadine.jpg (27250 bytes)    

It is with mixed emotions that I honor another “foundress” of a community and her name is Bernadine Asher. Her son-in-law, Tony, affectionately calls her, “Mrs. A.” Bernadine, along with Donna Cermak were the first live-ins at SOH. Bernadine lived here for three and a half years, since 1998.

Bernadine resigned from SOH in May of 2002. In these four months since then, she has had more quality time to visit her sisters, her children, their spouses and her grandchildren. Bernadine told me that she really enjoys cooking for her family as their family reunion draws near. She said she also enjoys continuing with being a spiritual director, like she did at SOH. Helping others find their path to God is a deep love of her heart. To me, this time away has given her time to be renewed and to rest, a true sabbatical.

Bernadine will always be a part of all our hearts and the mission of SOH, no matter how her future unfolds. It has been said many times about her: “Sanctuary of Hope would never be the place it is today without Bernadine.” Her knowledge, experience and delight in construction, from her marriage to Bernie Asher, Mr. A., until now, made the impossible task of bringing new life to this 100-year-old building a reality today...not to mention the countless lives that have been touched by God thru SOH and Bernadine. She gave her 100% commitment to SOH and its mission of prayer and retreat.

What I believe is key to Bernadine’s passion is knowing in her heart how much she is loved by Jesus (the one who “tents” with her on a mountain fastness) and all of us at SOH. Bernadine used to always say: “If I know I am loved, I can do anything.” All I needed to hear from her, after talking about certain decisions for SOH, was: “you bet we can!” These words gave me strength and enthusiasm to go forward as well.

Bernadine’s love for social justice and order in the house were very evident. She delighted in seeing all guests welcomed and cared for; to see human life ennobled by grace and just practices; to see the beauty in flowers and plants growing at SOH; and to see people of different faiths and backgrounds all working and praying with each other. It was Bernadine who really opened up the community to use inclusive language in prayer and in our writings.

I believe that we worked so hard at bringing the building and grounds up to speed, that we often neglected the more important element of community life. This is why we are calling Mondays our “sacred day.” We are closed to the public in order for the live-ins to have this kind of time with each other and God. We are also working hard to develop the community between the live-ins and the associate members too. This isn’t easy, but nothing worthwhile is.

My images of Bernadine are seeing her sitting quietly in the chapel before morning prayer began; watching her walk out on the trails and stopping to see the beauty of nature; preciously holding her kitty, Mercy and petting ole “velvet ears” as she called Sheba; listening to people she counseled and asking the key questions of myself, our professional workers, staff and guests. There is a South hill at SOH that overlooks I-70. We are naming this “Asher Mountain.” It is a small, but lasting tribute to a friend and a family of sisters who have done more good that this world will ever know.

Hopefully at the end of each day, we will all be touched by God, to give each other a good night hug; just like “Mrs. A.”

Con mi amor y mis oraciones, Padre Dennis, tu hermano y amigo.  

 

 __________________

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