Brother Marvin Becker went to his eternal reward on Wednesday, March 18, 2015. He was a man of service, humility, and quiet presence...and we are blessed to have known him. May God's grace surround him as he is welcomed to the communion of saints.
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An article in "The Catholic Missourian" on April 17, 2015 on the legacy of Bro. Marvin...
A Holy, Loving, Hard Working Brother
Jefferson City native was a household name in retreat ministry 04-17-15
By Jay Nies
Eighty-seven cars followed the funeral coach to the cemetery at the La Salle Retreat Center in western St. Louis County.
Jefferson City native Brother Marvin Becker of the De La Salle Christian Brothers was to be laid to rest at the place where he had spent over half of his 65 years in religious life.
The cortege slowed midday traffic on one of the area’s busiest thoroughfares, then turned onto rural Rue De La Salle, winding past the magnificent stone grotto Brother Marvin had spent untold hours working to restore.
“While on some level I regretted the inconvenience we mourners had injected into the lunch breaks of all those many hundreds of drivers along the way,” stated John Schroeder, a friend of the deceased, “I felt oddly blessed by the spectacle, too. Somehow, it just felt right to see the work-a-day world pause — ever so briefly — to acknowledge the passing of this holy man.”
Brother Marvin, 82, died on March 18.
The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on March 23 in St. Joseph Church in St. Louis, with Monsignor Edmund Griesedieck presiding and several priests of the St. Louis archdiocese concelebrating.
Born and raised in the capital city, Brother Marvin was one of two of the five children in his family to enter religious life. The other was Sister Esther Becker of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, formerly of Holy Family School in Freeburg and St. Peter Interparish School in Jefferson City.
Brother Marvin attended St. Peter School through eighth grade and went on to the old St. Peter High School.
That’s where he got to know several Brothers of the Christian Schools — also known as the Christian Brothers, a religious institute founded in France and dedicated to education.
Halfway through his freshman year, at age 14, Brother Marvin entered the Christian Brothers juniorate at the LaSalle Institute in Glencoe.
It is now known as LaSalle Retreat Center.
He was received into the novitiate in 1950 and professed first vows the following year.
Having been chosen to become what was known as a “working brother,” he took college classes while studying “the trades” at the Christian Brothers Scholasticate at St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minn.
He learned how to build and fix just about anything.
He spent the next 16 years in maintenance, construction and plant supervision at the LaSalle Institute and the new Christian Brothers Scholasticate in Memphis.
He professed perpetual vows in 1957.
After four years on the staff of Sangre de Cristo retreat center in Santa Fe, N.M., he served as a social worker for adjudicated youth in St. Louis.
He then became a campus minister in Memphis before going to Rome to take part in an international formation program.
He served for two years as director of formation for the brothers in Memphis, then worked toward a master’s degree in pastoral studies at Loyola University in Chicago while living and working at Mercy Boys’ Home.
He returned to St. Louis as director of residency and then as director of vocations and formation for the Christian Brothers’ St. Louis Province.
In 1990, he was asked to take charge of property development at La Salle Institute, a collection of 1880s-vintage stone and brick buildings situated on 180 wooded acres.
The facility had been converted to a retreat center in 1969 but had closed in the 1980s.
He recalled in 2010 that “nearby residential developments and the purchase of some of La Salle’s property for a public school made it possible to bring water, natural gas and sewage treatment to the property at minimal cost.”
He singlehandedly rehabilitated the buildings and grounds and oversaw the kitchen, maintenance and administrative operations.
“He was a farm boy and a working machine!” said Father Tom Santen, who got to know Brother Marvin while organizing parish-based ACTS retreats at the center. “You could just see that his heart and soul were in that place.”
“He literally saved La Salle and kept it going,” said Mike Sawicki, the center’s president. “He would do anything and everything. He’d be up patching the roofs, doing the electrical work, serving in the kitchen, maintaining the buildings and grounds.
“You can’t look around our facility and not see something Brother Marvin touched,” said Mr. Sawicki.
Brother Marvin especially loved sharing stories about the Christian Brothers and their deep and rich history in Glencoe.
“He was a man of great spiritual insight,” Fr. Santen noted. “He was dedicated to building up the Catholic Church, and he saw a great resource that could provide spiritual renewal for Catholic people at the La Salle Retreat Center.”
Always eager to help retreats run smoothly, Brother Marvin became all the more enthused after taking part in an ACTS weekend.
“On the retreats, we sing a song called, ‘This is Holy Ground,’” said Fr. Santen. “And he certainly helped make it so.”
Brother Marvin remained the center’s director until 2007 and continued on the staff until his death.
The many who knew him were as impressed by his spiritual depth and sense of humor as by his unbreakable work ethic and technical prowess.
“You just never know when you’re about to come face to face with a saint,” said Mr. Schroeder.
“Whenever someone had a conversation with him, that person had the opinion that Brother Marvin was his best friend, that whatever concerns were being expressed to him were the only thing on his mind,” said Mr. Sawicki.
A massive labor of love
Shortly after the La Salle Institute opened, brothers and novices built an intricate grotto from limestone they quarried on the property.
It was a replica of the grotto in Lourdes, France, where the Blessed Mother appeared to a girl named Bernadette in 1858.
Dedicated in 1891 and expanded in the decades that followed, the La Salle grotto gradually deteriorated and became unstable in recent years.
Brother Marvin, with help from several lay volunteers, set about the hot and tedious work of stabilizing the weak parts and reassembling the stones that had fallen down.
“It think that was one of his proudest achievements,” said Mr. Sawicki. “He shored it up and built it back so it could once again be a stable place for people to gather and reflect.”
Brother Marvin’s online guest book at http://lasalleretreat.org overflows with tributes from people whose lives were touched by a man who had turned his mind, hands, back and spirit over to revealing God’s holy presence in the simplest of ways.
“He filled vacuums accomplishing important things that would have been left undone without him,” stated a friend in Santa Monica, Calif. “He always focused on the best in everyone; he was never judgmental. He was a man of diverse talents; he could learn how to do anything.”
“When I think of being up on the Mountain and in a Holy Place, what a better and more holy of a man one could see there than Brother Marvin?” queried a friend from St. Louis.
“What a guy — we are richer for having known him,” stated a friend from Eureka.
“There are tens of thousands of us who’ve come to know La Salle as ‘holy ground’ during this most recent chapter of his life,” wrote Mr. Schroeder. “We’ve been blessed by his energy, his vision, his zeal.”
Preceding Brother Marvin in death were his parents, Vincent and Esther (Prenger) Becker; his stepmother, Alberta (Prenger) Becker; and two brothers, Robert and Bernard Becker.
Surviving are a brother, John Becker of Jefferson City; and two sisters, Catherine Ann Herman of Garden City, Kan., and Sr. Esther in St. Louis.