One of the “added values” of being a student of the Living School is meeting remarkable people who share the same desire for a deeper understanding and experience of unitive consciousness lived through witnessing. Brother Dennis was one such student. He modelled life-long learning and spiritual growth as the oldest member of the first cohort. Dennis died on December 15, 2017, at age 86 in his hometown of Chicago after complications arose from surgery.
Dennis was a teaching Brother with the De La Salles for 60+ years and spent 20+ years with the Catholic Worker Movement in its promotion of non-violence, simple living, practice of the works of mercy, and, to quote Dennis, “an attitude of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” He founded Su Casa House in Chicago and worked at the Catholic Worker House located down the road from the CAC in Albuquerque. I, Paul, had the privilege of staying with Dennis there during my intensive. His life of prayer, sense of humour, thirst for knowledge and understanding, and unrelenting commitment to serving and being with the poor, especially the homeless, inspired many of us.
We had the privilege of having Dennis stay with us for a visit this past summer. During our time together, we were deeply moved and humbled by his wisdom and commitment to ministering with the poor, especially refugee women and children from Latin America. Dennis told us, “I’m working really hard at being present. When I’m with a person, I try to become aware of all of my thinking. I try to empty out my thoughts, my reactions, my emotions, my judgments, my getting ready to respond. It takes so much patience to really be faithful to being present.” All those who met and knew Dennis have been blessed by his presence.
The following words from Holy Cross Father Dan Groody (Notre Dame) were offered in the eulogy Brother Larry Schatz gave at Dennis’ memorial service. They provide a good descriptor of the life Dennis lived.
Discipleship begins with dwelling in Christ, entering the place of his loving embrace, staying under the gaze of his tender mercy. It involves living with a heart open to love, a heart willing to change, a heart ready to serve, a heart disposed to pray, like Samuel, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” The world is hungry not for busier people but bigger-hearted people. They seek not only people who work for God but people who are so at home with God that they become a doorway into God.
We are grateful for Dennis’ life of witness and for his new presence with us.
Paul (’15) & Teresa (’16) Tratnyek