January 15, 2015

Letters from Bernie

Email To a Friend

Like most friars of SJB Province, “I did not know him very well at all,” fellow missionary Blane Grein says of Fr. Bernardin Schneider, who died Jan. 8 at the age of 97 in his beloved Japan. “I had a few layovers in Japan on my way to or from the Philippines when I had the privilege of meeting him.”ᅠBernie was a legend, respected around the world for translating the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into a critical, annotated Japanese edition.

“The impactᅠof the translationᅠin evangelizationᅠcannot be measured,” Fr. Blane says. “Bernie has been very instrumental inᅠmaking the word of God alive and meaningful to the hearts and lives of many Japanese people. Not knowing him well is my loss and void.”

Fortunately for us, Bernie was a great correspondent, sharing both the personal and professional highlights of his year in letters he faithfully wrote to family and friends at Christmas. Here are a few excerpts that shed some light on his extraordinary life.


Studium Biblicum Franciscanum

St. Anthony Seminary, Tokyo

Dec. 3, 1977

Bernie in 1972Dear All of You – Dear Each One of You,
The big event coming very soon now on December 16 is the setting up of the new Franciscan Province of Japan. Father General will be here from Rome for the grand celebration. As most of you know already, both [Uncle]Sigfrid and myself have made the very heart-wrenching decision to join the new Province, here in the Far East where he and I – 25 years for me now in Japan – have spent most of our lives as friars. According to the special regulations in this case we foreign friars who join the new Province retain radical membership in our original provinces that would immediately become full-fledged again should we ever return home definitely. I shall always remain at heart a confrere of St. John Baptist Province, just as I am always one of the brothers among the 11 of us in the family, though far from home and homeland. But I have never been happier in my life, and I hope it is the same for all of you.

Peace, Prayers and Love, Bernie

Loading the page...

St. Anthony Seminary

Dec. 3, 1988

Bernie in 1989Dear Each and Every One of You,

… I enjoyed very much a good three-day visit with Fr. Jeremy, our Cincinnati Provincial, June 4-7, on his way back from the Plenary Council Meeting of the Order held in Bangalore, India, in May. On his way here he had visited our former Missions in Wuchang, China, where I was originally supposed to go. He found the memory of Uncle Sigfrid still alive there. Upon his arrival in Tokyo we went directly to Seibo Byoin (St. Mary’s International Hospital), where he celebrated Mass in the chapel room dedicated to Uncle Sigfrid’s memory. A side note here is that the elderly Alsace-Lorraine Marianist Brother Albert, who was Sigfrid’s roommate there, passed on to his heavenly reward last month at the ripe age of 98. Remember him, too. …

Love and prayers, Bernie



St. Anthony Seminary

Dec. 3, 2000

A most Blessed Merry Christmas! And a Happy New Millennium that begins with the New Year after the 2000 years now ending! Peace and All Good!

And what a wonderful way for us here to celebrate the end of the Grand Year of Jubilee: with the long-awaited birth of our Studium’s translation of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Its appearance is set for the Wednesday before Christmas. Our prayer of last year that it be in this Jubilee Year has been answered. Praise and give thanks to the Lord our God, whose Son is born for us in Bethlehem! …

Once more: Merry Christmas! And a Blessed New Millennium!

Love and prayers, Bernie

St. Anthony Seminary,Tokyo, 2010: A visit from Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler

Nov. 11, 2002

A Blessed Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year to You All! Two events in the past year were truly outstanding for me. First, very happily for all concerned, after 46 years we now have a new director of our Studium, Fr. Linus T. Odaka, OFM, our former local superior. He remains the Seminary Rector, residing now in our nearby parish friary. The other outstanding event was the grand family trip in China and Japan, Oct. 16-30, with many friends. Very special was the evening of Oct. 27 with the presentation of the book of essays The Lord Is the Spirit commemorating the completion of the Studium’s translation of the Bible, my 50 years in Japan, and my 85th birthday the day before. …

Thank you, Quin and Pat [McCloskey] for the superb book of essays you put together, and to all of you who contributed to it. May the Christ Child bless you and all whom this letter reaches, most abundantly!
Love and prayers, Bernie

St. Anthony Friary

St. Anthony Seminary

December 2007

Dear Each and Every One of You,

An appropriate logo for this year’s Christmas letter and personal unofficial report would seem to be the motto, or mantra as one confrere put it, of my missionary classmate, who went to his eternal reward this past July 4th, Fr. Bede Clancy: “Man proposes, God disposes.” To begin with, many of you already know of my recent new fall. It certainly takes the cake. For those of you who haven’t heard, here is a profile: On July 18th I tumbled headlong down the first flight of 10 steps leading to the Biblicum downstairs making a three-point landing of back, hip and head. The bloody gash in the scalp above my right ear was duly stitched together and is now all but invisible. My hard-headed cranium held intact with no internal damage there, as Bede suffered, leading to his departure from this life. The result of the other two landfalls was four broken ribs and a fractured pelvis. The only operation needed (minor, without anesthetic) was the insertion of a tube under the upper arm for drainage, left in for nine days till the internal bleeding stopped. After seven weeks I got back here to the Seminary on September 4th but am now confined to a wheelchair and stranded on the main floor with no access to the Studium downstairs, where I’m itching to get back to work. …

Love and prayers, Bernie

December ‘09

…How am I getting on? I’d say my second full year in a wheelchair with twice daily rehab exercises saw a 5% improvement. At which rate I should be 100% okay in 20 years. That is within the post-Deluge 120-year life span set in Gen. 6:3 (cf. that of Moses, Dt. 34:7). Although that may not be very probable for me, now 92, a breakthrough before is not impossible. For God nothing will be impossible (Lk. 1:37). “Walking in Hope!” (with a walker!) …

To you All: All the Best!

Yours, Bernie

December 2011

Dear Each and Every One of You,The book of essays compiled in 2002.

Because of my weakness, I had decided not to write the usual Christmas letter this year, but so many cards and greetings have already arrived and I wanted to thank all of you most heartily that I was prevailed upon to attempt once more with a letter and to make this time its last.

 Certainly for me the best news was the long-awaited one volume edition of the whole Bible, August 1st, the first printing is already sold out. To have completed the Bible as originally planned would have taken another five years. Fr. Linus Odaka, OFM, the rector at our seminary, took complete charge of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (Franciscan Biblical School), and only he could have accomplished this. Our sincerest and heartfelt thanks to him and to all who cooperated with him for its production and revision. And most of all for the Holy Spirit who assists any translation commissioned or sanctioned by the Church. Most sincerely, Thanks Holy Spirit!

Love and prayers,

Your Brother Bernie

Bernie in Tokyo, 1956

‘A positive influence’

Bernardin Schneider was a teacher and assistant pastor in Oldenburg when our class of  ‘55 arrived for theology.  He taught Intro to Moral Theology and Intro to Sacred Scripture.  His specialty was Scripture.  Besides his influence as a teacher, he was also our leader in growing in Franciscan spirituality.  After a hard day of teaching and pastoring, he would spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament.  He gave spiritual conferences to us.  He was a positive influence in many ways. What made the greatest impact on me, however, is his work in translating the Bible into Japanese.  I can’t imagine that he could master Japanese to such an extent that he could take the Bible (with its Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), do the translation, and then compose a commentary on the Bible.  No doubt he had the help of Japanese scholars, but he had to train them and supervise the whole project.  It still blows my mind to think what he did.  I wonder if people realize what an apostolic thing he did by bringing the Bible to Japan in its own language.  I think there had been some work in the area of translation into Japanese, but it’s his work that was complete and has had a great influence on the Church in Japan.



The giving continues

This year, holiday festivities continued beyond Christmas in in the Diocese of Montego Bay, Jamaica. “Bishop Burchell McPherson donated Christmas gifts for all the children in the parishes along with $50 for ice cream and cake,” says Max Langenderfer. “We had our St. Mark Grange Hill Christmas party on Christmas Sunday,” Dec. 28, with 46 children and 35 adults in attendance.  “After the Mass we had chicken with rice and peas, then ice cream before the distribution of gifts.”

  • On Sunday, radio listeners in 38 states (and a lot of people online) heard Fr. Pat McCloskey discuss Peace and Good: Through the Year with Francis of Assisi during an interview with KDKA Pittsburgh. Pat talked about his book for nearly two hours with Fr. Ron Lengwing on the Amplify program. John Feister of Franciscan Media caught the broadcast and says, “Pat has really developed a great radio presence – very

invested in SH Province in 1992. He is currently director of campus ministry at Quincy University, Quincy, Ill. The ordination is scheduled for March 23 at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Read more about it at: http://www.escofm.org/news/pope-francis-names-rev-fernand-cheri-ofm-sacred-heart-province-as-auxiliary-bishop-of-new-orleans.

Fernand J. Cheri III, OFM

  • clear, articulate, interesting.” The program is not archived online but will be made available on CD. Read more about Amplify at:  http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/show/amplify-with-father-ron-lengwin/
  • Congratulations to Sacred Heart friar Fernand J. Cheri III, whose appointment by Pope Francis as auxiliary bishop to the Archdiocese of New Orleans was announced Monday. A native of New Orleans, “Ferd” was a priest in the Archdiocese from 1978 until he was

Bubs Kindt on Local 12: Chipotle’s loss was the soup kitchen’s gain.

  • St. Francis Seraph Soup Kitchen got a windfall of pork Wednesday – 100 pounds – after Chipotle Mexican Grills in Cincinnati pulled carnitas from their menus. About a third of the nation’s Chipotle restaurants stopped serving pork this week when the company discovered that a supplier violated the standards it promotes in its advertising: “Raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers” (in humane conditions with no antibiotics). Chipotle gave away a huge amount of pork this week; no word on the specific violations it found with the supplier. Bubs Kindt of St. Francis Seraph Kitchen was interviewed by Local 12 TV yesterday about the donation they received from the Fountain Square Chipotle. Check out the video at: http://www.local12.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/no-carnitas-at-third-chipotle-restaurants-23499.shtml
  • Memorial Masses for Fr. Bernardin Schneider will likely take place in Cincinnati and in Bloomington, Ill. Bernie’s ashes will be interred in the friars’ plot in the Catholic Fuchu Cemetery in Fuchu City, on the outskirts of Tokyo. His body was cremated following the funeral on Tuesday. According to friend Callistus Sweeney in Tokyo, “At a later date, the ashes will be placed in the underground vault of the friars’ plot in Fuchu, situated just below a beautiful, large stone engraved with the words of St. Francis, ‘Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister bodily Death’.”

I will be at the General Curia in Rome from Jan. 17-29 participating in what is often affectionately called “Provincial School.”  Each January, every newly elected or re-elected Provincial Minister is called to meet with the General Council.  Since I was last there six years ago, we obviously have a new Minister General and several new Councilors since several friars on the General Council have been called to episcopal ministry. This encounter provides an opportunity to learn of the Council’s vision and goals, especially as we move toward a General Chapter in May/June of this year.   It is an opportunity to meet about 25 other friars and share the joys and challenges of the role to which we have been called.  It also provides the chance to meet all the friars who serve in the staff offices, since from time to time we have to call upon them, and it helps to put faces on their names.  As with other international meetings, we will be helped by simultaneous translations in English, Italian and Spanish.  Provincial Vicar Frank Jasper will be available for any need during this time of ongoing formation.


— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM Email To a Friend