Priest, retired teacher were role models for living out faith

| January 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

Blessed Mother Teresa once said: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

They are words that come to mind following the recent deaths of two people — one a priest, the other a layperson — whose lives exemplified the Gospel spirit at the heart of Mother Teresa’s quote.

Father Bernard Reiser, who passed away Dec. 27, garnered a good deal of praise and media attention during his 86 years. He was well known as the founding pastor of Epiphany parish in Coon Rapids and for starting Reiser Relief, Inc., a charity dedicated to helping the poor in Haiti. Last year, KARE-11 honored him with an Eleven Who Care award.

But it’s the “small things with great love” that he accomplished that have been coming to light in the days since his death. The comment section that follows his obituary on The is filled with tributes to the priest who touched so many lives in quiet, but significant, ways.

One person wrote how Father Reiser used money gifted to him for a new car to distribute instead to families in need just before Christmas. Another told of how Father Reiser helped her “re-find” her faith one night when she talked to him for hours after showing up unexpectedly at the rectory door. A woman wrote about the comfort the priest provided when he made a special trip to a St. Paul hospital and prayed with her following the death of her child after she underwent an emergency delivery.

Touching hearts, minds

Like Father Reiser, Fidelis Lindner also did small things with great love. Lindner, a retired schoolteacher who died Dec. 28, was perhaps best known outside of her parish of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings for her work helping to cultivate the solidarity partnership between the archdiocese and the Diocese of Kitui, Kenya.

Lindner traveled to Kitui several times, including last summer with the most recent archdiocesan delegation. Over the years since the partnership took root in 2004, she was instrumental in helping to launch and raise funds for various projects, such as building water dams to aid this drought-stricken part of Kenya. She used her talents as a former schoolteacher to engage the hearts and minds of Minnesota schoolchildren in support of the partnership.

Although Lindner wasn’t the focus of much media attention for her work, she touched many lives as part of the partnership — both in Minnesota and in Africa. She was a mentor on how to treat others. Her dedication and lifelong commitment to social justice will be missed.

Worthy resolution to make

Many of us know (or have known) others who have touched our lives by being quiet, consistent and determined witnesses of faith. They have never cared about receiving adulation or thanks; their only concern is responding to the Gospel mandate to serve God and our fellow human beings who are most in need — whether near or far away, whether personally convenient or not, and always with kindness.

There is no better time than the start of the New Year to reflect on the lives and actions of these people and resolve to model our own lives after their example.

The “new evangelization” — a re-energizing of Catholics to be stronger witnesses to the faith — will be a top priority of Pope Benedict XVI and the entire church during 2012. What better way to honor this than to follow the example of people like Father Reiser, Fidelis Lindner and all those who preach the Gospel by their actions and by doing small things with great love.

We want to hear from you

What person, living or deceased, has made a big impact on your faith life by doing “small things with great love”?

Tell us in 200 words or less. The Catholic Spirit will publish a selection of responses in print and online at Send your answers either by email or postal mail:

By email to:; Write “Faith Witness” in the subject line.
By postal mail to: “Faith Witness,” c/o The Catholic Spirit, 244 Dayton Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.

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Category: Editorials