Fr. Ben Hermann OMI – a big man who cast a giant shadow
By Margaret Purcell
Those who keep archives will say that Fr. Bernard Michael Hermann was born on Oct. 21, 1922 in Odessa, Sask. In 1940 he entered the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate novitiate at St. Charles, Man. He professed his first vows on Sept. 15, 1941. After attending St. Charles Scholasticate in Battleford, Sask., he made his perpetual commitment as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate on Sept. 15, 1944, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 1948, at St. Mary’s Church, Regina.
The archivist will probably record that Fr. Hermann spent 1948 to 1976 as a teacher at St. Thomas’ College in North Battleford, Sask., before being appointed pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Macklin, Sask. and it’s surrounding missions. In 1985 he was appointed pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Lac La Ronge, Sask., where he served until his retirement in 1997.
The final chapter in the archives will show that he died on August 3, 2000, being predeceased by his parents, Bernard and Mary Hermann, four sisters, Margaret, Christine, Catherine, and Mary, plus his brothers Joseph and Fr. Jack Hermann. He is survived by his brother Oblates, his sisters Madeline, Anna, and Joan, together with his brother John and their families. His requiem Mass was celebrated at St. Vital Church, North Battleford, Sask.
Those of us who keep precious memories instead of archives will always recall Fr. Ben’s huge frame, the voice to match, and a heart literally “as big as all outdoors.” In addition to being “a priest forever like Melchizedek of old,”
he was obedient to God in the finest detail. If being joyful in the Lord were to be an indication of holiness, he passed with dazzling colours.
Many of us will remember the way he charged around in his van, his home away from home, aptly called “Big Ben,” and using his own public-address system, he warned pedestrians, this unworthy scribe included, to watch the traffic lights, and not to run across the red light. We remember the way he could sing every hymn in the book without looking. We were awed by the way this big man could pick up a small, fretful child and comfort her until her missing mother was found.
We were fascinated with his own unique way of encouraging people to attend daily Mass, just as we were moved by his abilities as a marriage counsellor. He proved himself “sworn in glad service” in his compassionate care for his fellow priests, to the extent of driving hundreds of miles along a dirt track to see how he could help an elderly priest alone in a church in an isolated village in northern Saskatchewan. I personally observed him on his knees mending door locks.
Those of us in the pro-life movement will forever remember his undying respect for human life, and his public efforts to protect the weakest and most vulnerable in society, together with his commitment to educating others on this gift from God. Never one to mince words, he often made us laugh silently as he reminded civil servants, in a sulky manner unique to himself, of their duty. So outstanding was his steadfast effort in protecting life that he was honoured by his pro-life peers in Saskatchewan with the presentation of the Dombowski Award, named after two equally dedicated pro-life activists from Saskatchewan.
Fr. Ben was not a man whose passing into eternal life we mourn. Rather, we will miss him, while rejoicing in the fact that we knew someone such as this and were blessed to work beside him. May his joyful soul rest in peace.