Honoring the Memory of Brother Robin
by Raul Barriga
You may be aware of the recent passing of Brother Robert (Robin) del Rosario Bernabe on November 2, 2012. According to his fellow Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, Br. Robin was a self-giving man and student who incorporated his spirituality into his humanity. This article is drawn from interviews with three of his brother Missionaries so as to honor his memory by relating how they best knew Brother Robin. The people interviewed were Fr. Joel Quezada (formation director), Br. Miguel Marquez (Theology IV), and Br. Josue Salgado (College I).
The devotions that Br. Robin had were a particular similarity from all three interviews. These included the Eucharist, Mary, and the Trinity, especially the Holy Spirit, which is ideal for the charism of the congregation. Fr. Joel said that when he would go to the small chapel of the Felix Rougier House of Studies in Mount Angel to pray night prayer in front of the tabernacle, he would see Br. Robin there also praying close to the tabernacle. Br. Miguel also noted that these spiritual devotions marked the life of Br. Robin by taking the Gospel to practice.
Br. Robin's second novitiate or pastoral year at St. Martha's Parish in Huntington, California, provided an opportunity for Br. Robin to practice charity. This notion of charity was also brought up frequently in the three interviews. Fr. Joel said that Br. Robin came out very enthusiastic from his second novitiate. His enthusiasm may be due, among other things, to his experience in coming to know Dolores Mission Church in east Los Angeles.
Br. Robin came to know about this parish by serving in confirmations there at one point. This parish also functions as a homeless shelter by night. Br. Miguel said that Br. Robin would practice solidarity with the homeless. According to Br. Miguel, Br. Robin would tell him that in every person there is a story, a why. Thus, Br. Miguel also said that Br. Robin would see the dignity of the human being, going beyond the poverty, the exterior, so as to help them feel that someone would listen and be with them. To illustrate this description of Br. Robin, Br. Miguel shared an anecdote.
One time during the pastoral year of Br. Robin, he invited Br. Miguel to meet a friend of Br. Robin. During the interview, Br. Miguel said that he felt the friend would be someone of the culture of Br. Robin. (Br. Robin was Filipino, in contrast with most of the Hispanic members of the community). Br. Miguel said Br. Robin picked him up, and they went through the suburbs of Los Angeles. Br. Miguel said that he asked Br. Robin if he knew where he was going. Br. Miguel said Br. Robin told him not to worry since he did know. According to Br. Miguel, they arrived at a place where there were homeless people.
Br. Miguel said that Br. Robin called someone there, and those people knew who he was. Br. Miguel said Br. Robin presented his homeless friend so as to invite him to dine with them. Br. Miguel continued, saying that this experience impacted him a lot because when he asked Br. Robin why he did this since he knew that their community and their superiors asked them to ask permission before doing such things, Br. Robin courteously responded that "the classes that they give us in Mount Angel always tell us the Gospel has to be incarnated in the practice. Thus, we have to put the Gospel into practice, not preach only."
Br. Josue shared an account of Br. Robin that ties into the last anecdote. Br. Josue said that he was in charge of the kitchen during his novitiate. He said they would get a lot of donations. According to Br. Josue, Br. Robin would see a food item and ask Br. Josue if he could have it to take to Dolores Mission Parish. Br. Josue would agree.
Br. Josue said that Br. Robin continued this practice of reserving food items from their kitchen to take to the homeless shelter at Dolores Mission Parish. What relates to the account that Br. Miguel gave is that Br. Robin would listen to the stories of these homeless people. In fact, Br. Josue said that when Br. Robin would return from the homeless shelter, he would share with him what he had learned when listening to the story of a homeless person.
Culture was a struggle that appeared in all three interviews. Fr. Joel mentioned it as a difficulty for Br. Robin. Br. Josue elaborated on this difficulty since he said that Br. Robin had to balance three cultures: Filipino, American, and Mexican. Br. Josue said that there were times when Br. Robin would share that he did not know where he was from due to the various cultures he interacted with.
Br. Miguel said that Br. Robin had the grace to be able to acculturate himself with others. For example, in their religious community, Br. Miguel said that they are Hispanic, but Br. Robin related with all kinds of persons: Anglos, German, Irish. Br. Miguel said that with the Hispanics, Br. Robin would become Hispanic. This was a charism of Br. Robin and, according to Br. Miguel, it was evident at the funeral in California through all the people he touched.
Another difficulty Brother Robin faced that came up twice was his hard work in his studies. Br. Miguel said that Br. Robin did not want anything, besides prayer, to disturb him since he was very dedicated to his studies. Fr. Joel had said that one of the things they recommended to him was to be more practical since the evaluators in his community saw that he was very intellectual. According to Fr. Joel, Br. Robin persevered in this recommendation since he would work on things that needed to get better in his life.
In conclusion, It may be fitting to see what we can learn from the life of Br. Robin. Br. Miguel said that he learned that he should share everything in life, both interiorly and exteriorly. Br. Miguel also said that he learned not to focus only on the exterior look of a person.
In doing this story on Br. Robin, I was motivated to give myself to whatever I do. This motivation came from a description from Br. Miguel about Br. Robin when he said that Br. Robin would live and give himself to ordinary things. Br. Miguel shared a prayer that the Missionaries recite in which they offer their lives to God in all moments of their lives. This can be a prayer we pray in good and painful times so as to live it out.
The Offering of the Incarnate Word
Heavenly Father, through the hands of Mary, we offer You, Jesus the Incarnate Word, the Victim in whom You are well pleased. Moved by the love of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we offer ourselves completely with Him as living hosts. May we be a living sacrifice out of love for You, in all the events of our lives, obtaining graces for the world, the Church, and especially Your Priests.
Editor's Note: As of 7 p.m. on December 21, 2012, this story was corrected to indicate that Br. Robin and Br. Miguel's superiors require permission for rather than prohibit the actions Br. Miguel describes during his visit with Br. Robin and his friends among the homeless.