Yesterday I received word that Fr. Robert Struzynski, OFM had been greeted by Sister Death at 5:00 am. I knew it was a matter of time since Fr. Bob had been taken off life support because he had suffered a brain hemorrhage and was unresponsive. Nonetheless, even when it is expected the departure of a friend is marked by sadness. As I thought of Fr. Bob during the days leading up to his death I remembered our first meeting on the “Peace Path” at Mt. Irenaeus. We were both taking a meditative walk in the woods and though we didn’t speak there was a silent greeting that passed between us. Later at lunch we met more formally and shared a meal together. The next time we met when I was a guest at St. Patrick’s Friary in Buffalo, New York. Then in 2005 Fr. Bob came to Mt. Irenaeus and it was from that point until now that our friendship grew. One of my many memories of him was at a Sunday brunch following one of his homilies. I told him how meaningful his message was to me that day. I don’t remember the exact content nor context but I do remember the quote from Karl Rahner that he shared, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.” That quote continues to resonate with me.
In 2006 I became minister of the St. Irenaeus Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order and Fr. Bob shared his vision that involved a more active involvement between Secular Franciscans and the students of St. Bonaventure University. We continued our conversation on this topic and we both thought of how this could be effected. In the spring of 2009 when I was on my way up the hill to Mass at Holy Peace Chapel I told Fr. Bob that I was thinking of retiring. He told me, “The provincial said I can’t retire until I’m seventy-five.” That brief statement invited me to rethink my decision. Then in August 2009 I became a St. Bonaventure University graduate student. We continued to discuss many other topics including Fr. Bob’s very active involvement with the Cephas Ministry and how he was sharing that ministry with St. Bonaventure University students.
In May 2011 I graduated from St. Bonaventure University and as I entered and processed through the Reilly Center I was greeted by Fr. Bob and the other professors each in their doctoral robes. That was a very moving experience. We had many occasions to share in the time that followed. After the Easter Vigil service this year while we were sharing coffee and treats at the House of Peace at Mt. Irenaeus Fr. Bob told me how much he enjoyed what I shared and that he was leaving Mt. Irenaeus. He was going to St. Anthony’s Friary in Butler, New Jersey. I thanked him and told him that I would miss him very much. He sent me a card with his address and asked that we remain in touch and then he left in early June. Nearly four months elapsed and finally in mid-October I wrote him. I told him that I had retired but that I was spending my time volunteering at a number of places including the Warming House. He wrote back and I’m very grateful that I saved the letter. It’s priceless now! Rest in peace Fr. Bob! Your spirit lives on within us all.