Fundraiser to carry on giving tradition of priest who worked in Albertville
Two nieces of the late Rev. Bernard Reiser are looking to continue his tradition of giving.
Reiser died in December 2011. After he retired from Epiphany Church in Coon Rapids, he had worked many months at the St. Albert Catholic Church in Albertville, driving there on weekends to fill in for an absent priest at the time.
“Many people from the Albertville area still donate to Reiser Relief and come to our events,” said Ann Brau, niece of Reiser and president of Reiser Relief. Brau’s sister, Joyce Getchell, is secretary of the board.
“Everything about Father Bernard Reiser was larger than life,” Brau said. “His handshakes were legendary.”
When he was asked to build a Catholic church in Coon Rapids, Minn., he built the largest Catholic church in the state.
“His love for God and for his family was insurmountable,” Brau said. “His sermons were remembered for decades. His driving style was beyond description even by the Coon Rapids Police Department.”
She also said his passion for helping the disadvantaged and the poor never wavered and that the imprint of the footprint he left in Haiti after his first trip there in 1996 at the age of 72 still remains.
Brau and Getchell made their first trip to Haiti in May 2011, just four months after Reiser’s death. Brau said they were greeted with undeserved adoration simply because they were “Father Reiser’s nieces.”
“As we helped deliver water in the slums of Port au Prince using the trucks our uncle had shipped there, visited the schools he helped build and still supports, and toured an abandoned women’s complex funded largely by Reiser supporters, his legacy of love and care in Haiti surrounded us,” Brau said.
She said it was nearly impossible to comprehend all he had accomplished in the few visits he made to Haiti before it became too difficult for him to travel and what he had continued to do right up until the time of his death.
“But it was easy for us to understand why our uncle had not been able to turn his back on Haiti: a complicated country filled with beauty, devastation and spirituality,” she said.
The sisters’ mission is to continue Reiser’s ministry, Reiser Relief (www.reiserrelief.org) in Haiti and to expand it as he would have wished.
“Unlike our uncle, we aren’t bigger than life, and we are well aware we will struggle to fill his shoes,” Brau said. “But with the loving guidance of Father Reiser from his heavenly home, of our family and all his loyal friends, we will follow those prints as best we can and carry on his work.”
The sisters have each made two trips to Haiti and will continue to lead mission trips there to sustain Reiser’s existing missions and to find new ways to serve the needs of the desperately poor people of Haiti.
The annual Reiser Relief “Keep the Wheel Turning” fundraiser is 6:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at Totino Grace High School in Fridley.