Father Bernard Reiser: Eleven Who Care Winner

9:10 AM, Jan 25, 2012   |    comments
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  • Eleven Who Care winner Fr. Bernard Reiser
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  • COON RAPIDS, Minn. --  Father Bernard Reiser of the Church of the Epiphany has been honored by KARE 11 with a 2011 Eleven Who Care award.

    Father Reiser passed away in December 2011, but his legacy and his work will live on through the community he touched.

    Bernard Reiser was born in 1924 to farmers Aloys and Otillia Reiser. 

    "She, a very kindly gentle individual," Father Reiser said, describing his parents. "He was a strong, deliberate person."

    Father Reiser says his parents have been the inspiration for his life's work. "Know where you're going, what you're doing and what you're about. I've brought that into my priesthood." 

    Ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 1949, Father Reiser was assigned to a parish in White Bear Lake.  In 1964, he was asked to start a new parish in the fast-developing city of Coon Rapids.

    "I'll never forget it," Father Reiser said. "We sat down out in what is the parking lot and I said, 'Gentlemen I'm going to lay out the future.'"

    His vision for The Church of the Epiphany went way beyond just a place of worship.  Father Reiser wanted to create an entire campus that would offer services for young and old alike.

    "Every time he brought it up, there would be people in the church that would say, we can't afford it," said Doris Schulte, a charter member of Epiphany Church.  "Father would say, 'watch me,' and he would get it done."

    He got all of it done.  In 2011 Epiphany is one of the largest Catholic communities in the state.  In addition to a spacious church, there is an elementary school, senior housing and an assisted living facility.

    "They all pitched in and were generous," Father Reiser said of members of Epiphany Church.

    It was a job well done for a priest whose work was far from finished. 

    A 1996 trip to Haiti would give Father Reiser a new mission.

    "His heart was broken wide open," Schulte said.

    Father Reiser says the Haitian trip brought him face to face with the worst suffering he's ever seen. 

    "Everywhere I went, it was unreal. They had no fresh water, they had no food," Father Reiser explained.  "And I said, you can't walk away from misery and do nothing."

    Father Reiser returned to Coon Rapids and started a charity called Reiser Relief, Inc. Soon the non-profit group had a truck on the ground in Haiti delivering thousands of gallons of fresh water to residents. 

    "They come running with their buckets. They are always so happy," said Shelley Mannella, a mission coordinator with Reiser Relief.

    Thanks to support from Father's friends, Reiser Relief's efforts in Haiti now include regular food and water delivery.  Schools, an orphanage and senior housing are also being developed. 

    "He's making a huge difference," Mannella said.

    "He touches lives wherever he goes.  He's blessed us all," Schulte added.

    A fundraiser for Reiser Relief, Inc. will be held on Tuesday, April 26th in Andover.   There will be an auction, raffle, music and more.  Find more information on the Reiser Relief, Inc. website.  

    Father Reiser has also written a book to help raise money for his charity.  All the proceeds from the sale of "Reiser's Ramblings" go to Haitian relief efforts.  Find more information on the Reiser Relief, Inc. website.

    (Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)