Jubilarian – Br. David Ernst, CR

This year the Congregation of the Resurrection in Canada is blessed to be celebrating four Jubilarians!  Today we would like to share a reflection by Br. David Ernst, CR, who is celebrating 60 years of perpetual vows in the Congregation of the Resurrection.

Brother David Ernst.

I was born and raised in Walkerton and later moved to Deemerton where I lived on the farm and grew in appreciation of rural life.    

Upon finishing high school in Walkerton in 1957 I began my religious life at the Resurrectionist Novitiate in Dundas, ON.  Then it was in London where I continued with religious formation and helping with chores at St. Thomas Scholasticate located alongside St. Peter’s Seminary.

It was in the spring of 1964 when our provincial superior approached me, wanting to know if I would be interested in joining our mission in Bolivia.  The thought had never crossed my mind!  All I remember saying was that it would be different. And, so be it!  From that moment on I was convinced that God was highlighting my future with activities to favour the less fortunate.  Within a few weeks I became the sixth member of the Bolivian Resurrectionist household.

It turned out to be a grand adventure of some thirty years within the confines of San Miguel Parish.  This included invaluable labour provided by the School Sisters of Notre Dame as I accompanied them in the rural areas of the mountainous parish region.

My introduction to the Spanish language and the Bolivian culture quickly had me running errands here and there, then directing the altar servers and eventually church singing.

Another of my experiences involved driving.  I had just obtained a driver’s license for the first time within weeks before going to Bolivia.  The Notre Dame Sisters who would accompany me, whether around the city or on the country hillsides, could tell you some memorable stories about riding with me!

The sparsely populated rural area of the parish extends way beyond the densely populated urban region, the latter being a distant suburb of La Paz.

During my years there I was most appreciative to be able to accompany at separate times Sister Beatrice Zinger and Sister Rosemary Sander and later Sister Yvonne Nosal, all three belonging to Canada’s School Sisters of Notre Dame. Then in the early 1990’s Sister Dorothy Goetz, SSND, also from Canada, joined San Miguel’s campo ministry. (the word “campo” we use to refer to the rural area. Hence, comes the word “campesino”, that is, anyone belonging to the campo).

In 1965 I helped in the functioning of our parish credit union and after about seven years I returned to full time ministry in the campo.  With the health issue of spasmodic torticollis which hinders proper neck movements, I needed to withdraw eventually from active participation in pretty well everything.

Most noteworthy of my Bolivian reflections is the Sept. 26, 1969, tragedy of the plane crash in the mountain region which took the lives of more than eighty passengers and crew members. Included were Fathers James O’Connor, the mission’s superior, and Walter Strub, the pastor.

Early in 1998 I moved to Ruskin, Florida, just south of Tampa Bay.  The mission, Our Lady of Guadalupe, momentarily under the direction of the Canadian Resurrectionist Province, served Mexican migrant farmers.  By that time the treatment I underwent in Canada enabled me to be of service there on a temporary basis.

With the St. Petersburg Diocese of Florida recruiting a new director for this mission the resurrectionists withdrew from this particular area.  As for myself my new move was to Resurrection Manor in Waterloo, Ontario.  Thus, Florida became a brief stepping stone between Bolivia and Canada. During that time I came to appreciate what these migrant farmers mean for us in their daily struggles.

And so my life as a religious brother has been forever a special blessing!  In accordance with god’s divine plan.  I would have it no other way.