The order of the Holy cross – Crosier Fathers and Brothers

Categories: Around the Diocese,consecrated life

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Brother Alex Juguilon, right, prays the Liturgy of the Hours with other members of the community in Onamia. Photos courtesy of the Crosier Fathers and Brothers

During this Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis instructs Catholics to “look to the past with gratitude … live the present with passion… [and] embrace the future with hope.” The Visitor will to help commemorate the past, present and future of the religious communities housed in the St. Cloud Diocese, in the lead-up to the Mass for Consecrated Life at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. This is the second in a series.

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

The striking contrast of the red and white cross boldly emblazoned in the center of their black scapular, or apron-like garment, is more than just a logo that identifies the Crosier Fathers and Brothers of Onamia.

It is the heart and soul of the life they live as members of the Order of the Holy Cross.

Crosier spirituality and the core of the community is rooted in the Paschal Mystery, said Crosier Prior Kermit Holl.

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Father Kermit Holl gives a ritual blessing with a relic of St. Odilia during a recent healing Mass at Holy Cross Parish in Onamia.

“The cross of Christ is the meeting point of failure and triumph, grief and gratitude, brutality and peace,” he said. “With our strong fraternal call and charism based upon the life of the earliest Christian community and the Rule of St. Augustine, a particular place and action of our ministry is not the key to our service, but rather the Word of the Cross and the Paschal Mystery of the Lord and now the gifts in each of us. We can do almost any ‘work’ if the work of the Lord is at its heart.”

The Crosiers’ diverse ministries span 800 years, from serving as missionaries around the world to working as priests in parishes right here in central Minnesota.

Locally, the Crosiers built a priory and school in Onamia in 1922. Though Father Holl grew up in the Twin Cities, three of his brothers attended the Crosiers’ high school seminary here.

“When I was old enough to attend, I had already decided that I wanted to go to Crosier — not really thinking too strongly of being a priest, but because I liked the school from having visited it so often to see my brothers,” Father Holl said.

After high school, he stayed on for the junior college program.

“It was then that God ever so gently seemed to say to me, ‘Maybe this is for you.’ And the Crosiers were willing to discern my call with them.”

Father Holl had also considered joining the Navy. “The seas and the world still intrigued me,” he said.

While in graduate school, he discovered the Navy had a program for seminarians to try out Navy chaplaincy life for a summer.

“My Crosier formation director allowed me to give it a try,” Father Holl said. “He knew I needed some stretching.”

In 1990, Father Holl was ordained a priest and began to serve at St. Peter Parish in St. Cloud.

“That was a great experience,” he said. “I learned so much and the parishioners were gracious in letting me learn. Some still tease me about my early homilies.”

After his time ended at St. Peter’s, Father Holl asked his superiors if he might try a tour of duty as a Navy chaplain. They gave the OK, and Father Holl was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Navy Chaplain Corps and served in San Diego for three years.

As chaplain, he did a lot of pastoral counseling with sailors and Marines who were struggling in their young adulthoods away from home as well as sacramental work in baptisms, marriages and funerals.

“Being a Crosier and having to live away from our order as a Navy chaplain taught me even more how much I need and treasure our life shared as brethren of the Holy Cross, so I did not request another tour of duty,” he said. “But it was a great ministry experience and one difficult to leave.”
Father Holl has now been a Crosier superior more than half of his years in the order.

“It’s fascinating trying to weave the threads of faith, hope and love together in the midst of a fast moving and often uncertain world,” he said. “We must passionately keep the message of hope and healing and joy resounding in our world. Pope Francis wants us to wake up the world with this sound.”

A life of prayer and ministry

Crosier Brother Alex Juguilon made two visits to the Crosiers in Onamia in 2010 before beginning his postulancy in June 2011.

“I knew right away there was something special about them,” he said, “especially their fraternity and hospitality. I felt welcome and at ease spending time with the men there. I was also impressed by their devotion to prayer.”

Brother Alex appreciated the history of the order founded in 1210 by Blessed Theodore de Celles, a Crusader who came back from the third crusade and gave up the sword to fight for God with prayer, fasting and service to the church.

“I was also impressed by the men themselves,” he added, “down-to-earth, devoted men who were happy to be Crosiers despite the challenges and difficulties of religious life.”

Brother Alex was born in Manila, Philippines, and immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was just 1-and-a-half years old.
“There was a need for physicians, which both my parents are, in northeastern Ohio and so they settled in a suburb in the southern Cleveland metropolitan area,” he said. Brother Alex followed in his parents’ footsteps, becoming a doctor himself before God called him to religious
life.

“As I look back on my life, I think of how many different ways it could have turned out,” he said. “I was working as a doctor and dating someone seriously. But I felt a strong pull that God was calling me to something different.

“At the time, I hoped it wasn’t the priesthood. I used to think that it was all about all the things I had to say no to and give up. But I
have gained more than I have lost. I think back and thank God for blessing me with the call to religious life. I have no regrets and feel at peace
despite the challenges and difficulties of this vocation.”

One of Brother Alex’s greatest joys is in knowing that the Crosiers have allowed him to live the “vita mixta,” or mixed life, of prayer and ministry.

“For me, it starts with our commitment to the daily celebration of the Eucharist, devotion to the Liturgy of the Hours and to serve our parishes and surrounding community,” he said.

Brother Alex is in his third year of theological studies at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville. “I’m a theology geek,” he said. “I love to study theology.

The experience of going to school is a grace and benefit to my development as a person and as a Crosier.”

For Brother Alex, living life in community is what sanctifies him.

“That’s why our motto is ‘For God Alone, Together.’ How you love your brothers in community reflects your love for God,” he said. “This is not always easy and calls me to the everyday realities and struggles of becoming Christ-like, of loving my neighbor, even at times when they don’t seem lovable. It’s in the midst of community where transformation and growth takes place.”

Grateful past, hopeful future

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Father James Remmerswaal greets mourners at the funeral Mass of Crosier Bishop Alphonse Sowada at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud Jan.17, 2014.

Crosier Father James Remmerswaal always knew he wanted to be a priest, even before he entered the Crosier novitiate in the Netherlands in 1958. The church was a place of sanctuary for him, especially as a young child. Born in 1938, just two years before World War II began, he lived under the German occupation with little food and poor living conditions until he was 7 years old.

“People really suffered,” Father Remmerswaal recalled. “But through all of that, I always found the church to be an escape, a refuge. That is part of the reason I wanted to be a priest, and also to help others find solace in their difficulties.”

When he told his parents he wanted to be a priest and a missionary, they talked to some Crosiers they knew and decided on the Crosier seminary in Holland.

“I grew up with the Crosiers, going to school there and attending minor seminary, so by the time I had to make a decision about what to do with my life, I had figured out that this was a good group to join,” he said.

Because the Crosiers had a mission in Indonesia, he thought he might be sent there. But after Indonesia became independent, they “didn’t want anything to do with Dutch people,” Father Remmerswaal said.

So the master general of the Crosiers sent him to America in 1962.

“Going to America was like going to heaven,” he said. “It was something special.”

Over the last 50 years, Father Remmerswaal has held many roles, both nationally and internationally. Like all Crosiers, his life has been one of prayer, community and service — as a teacher in a Crosier seminary, assistant to the master general in Rome, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, pastor in Dayton, Minn., prior in Onamia and currently serving as canonical pastor in the parishes of St. Louis in Foreston and St. Mary in Milaca.

“People in the parishes seem to notice that I am different from diocesan priests,” he said. “Since I use my habit at most occasions, people see that I am a Crosier and I bring with me the Crosier spirituality. To me, it is second nature.”

Father Remmerswaal was ordained in 1965 during the Second Vatican Council, a subject he has been studying.

“It was such a hopeful and enthusiastic time for the church,” he recalled. “Fifty years later things have settled down. I want to explore it on a deeper level and try to find out what effect the council really brought about.”

He is also working on translating a Dutch book on Crosier history into English. The work unites his love of both history and the Crosier’s devotion to the Holy Cross.

“The history of the cross has always fascinated me — from death to life,” Father Remmerswaal said. “We have always been a small order but we have been around for 800 years, so God must have had some idea that he wanted something from us by keeping us around this long. There have been times we have been close to extinguished, but then we revived. That is the mystery of the cross that we are living.”

The Art of the Priory event May 3

In celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, the Crosier Community of Onamia will hold an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. May 3, featuring the Art of the Priory.

Works on display will include significant installations, commissions and items on loan to the priory.

The event will conclude with a reception and an invitation to join the community for Evening Prayer at 4:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. All are welcome.

For more information, visit www.crosier.org.