Br. John Kummer, CO

Posted on Aug 23, 2011

Br. John Kummer, CO

When I joined the Oratory in Rock Hill, SC, July 17, 1996, I joined about the same time as Father Joseph Pearce and we read this “prayer” by Thomas Merton (to the right) in its entirety for our welcoming service. I have kept it in my heart ever since, for it says a truth that I must never forget. I do not know for certain what tomorrow will bring, much less the next moment. All I can do is try to discern God’s will and do the best I can following it. The rest is in God’s hands!

I had always thought that there was but one certain path for each of us and it was our job to discern that path God wanted us to follow. Now I realize that no matter what path I take (be it for better or for worse) God can make good come from it. We can serve God in many ways not just one.

In my life I have gone many different ways. Some chosen by me and some by others. As a young child I was put up for adoption and lived on a farm for about five years with caring foster parents. Even at this young age I can remember the beginnings of faith. I can vaguely recall Sunday School and a glow in the dark cross on the wall of my bedroom.

At the age of 8 or so I was finally adopted and had a permanent “home.” It was quite a change. I was blessed that my new parents took me and my new sister to church regularly. I was baptized and confirmed in The Episcopal Church of America and I grew up in that faith body. It was the foundation for my faith and worship. And though I am now Roman Catholic, I still hold a warm feeling for the Episcopal Church. Even when my adoptive mother died and Dad remarried several years later, church was still a regular part of our lives.

However, as with life in general, there were ups and downs in my faith practice. When I joined the Navy I stopped going to church overall and just went when I was back home now and then. After the Navy though, I did start to go back to church regularly and during college I was blessed with friends who practiced their faith and helped me to practice mine. However, after I graduated, I once again felt lost and isolated and dropped out of church once more. This time God pulled me back through some Catholic friends I had made. I went to a Catholic Cursillo and later found myself in R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and was confirmed in the Roam Catholic Church on Easter Vigil 1985.

For several years I was a faithful churchgoer and active in its ministries. However, I found myself once more dropping out and this time for 3 years. I moved to Houston, TX to be near my father and sister who both lived there then. I worked and coasted and did not think much about my faith. But God is persistent and one day I forced myself to go back to church. I took part slowly and hesitantly. I have been back ever since. Do not underestimate the Holy Spirit!

When I was a teenager I thought of being a minister in the Episcopal Church, but that thought never became concrete, and I taught hyperactive and dyslexic children for 6 years. After moving to Houston I worked as a telephone operator for two different companies. I was just working and existing with no real direction in life, even though I was active in my parish community. God however, as usual, stepped in and I was laid off, and my communication career ended. I went back to teaching in a small privately owned daycare school. I began to think once more of that calling long ago and my closeness to God. I began to explore different religious communities. I was still just day dreaming until one night I was robbed and then I realized how short life is and how empty my life had become because of my stubborn refusal to risk and reach out.

I had written to the Oratory once or twice before this; so I wrote again a year or two later. At the age of 49 I was accepted into the Oratory. What attracted me to the Oratory was the combination of freedom and community it provides. I am living with other men who share my faith and love for the Lord, and yet are individuals too. This can be a challenge at times, but a challenge well worth the effort to take. I was also attracted to St. Philip Neri, our founding father, who believed a follower of Christ should be a joyful follower. We should be glad in our Savior’s love for us and show it in our daily lives (another challenge).

So here I be, having been led by the Holy Spirit. A late vocation, it took me awhile to adjust, but here I still am. My parents have died. I have left friends behind. I have wandered with no set direction, and yet here I am. I have regrets about some of my decisions and how they affected me and others. But at the same time, God still got me here. In and out. Up and down. All around. But, here I am.

Led by His consistent love, God has constantly gone with my aimless flow and redirected this lost soul through all the faithful friends I have met along the way. . . my own family, my Oratory community, and through His own persistent calling inside of me. I am now 62 going on 63 and I still do not know for certain where the “road” will lead, but I do know God will be there. And as Peter put his hand in Christ’s hand when sinking, so will Christ pull me up every time I sink as long as I reach out to Him. “And I know that if I do this You will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.” (Thomas Merton)

A Prison Ministry according to Matthew 25: 31-46

Brother John has a prison ministry at The Moss Center in York County, where he and Father William Pentis have visited the inmates for several years. Moss Center is a temporary detention center for men and women awaiting trial for various infractions from misdemeanors to felonies. Due to the number of cases presented to the courts the waiting period for trials can be anywhere from a short time up to three years. The people incarcerated there are mainly those who cannot make bail, though there are probably those inmates who are also denied bail.

Many people in the Center may be there for just a short time for such things as drunkenness, etc. There is no time schedule per se for when “inmates” see their lawyers or go to court. It is a sort of limbo of waiting until each case comes up for consideration.

We read Scripture and then discuss what we have read. Sometimes there are men very familiar with Scripture, and there are some who aren’t. There are moments when I feel great about it and there are others when I feel I am wasting my time and theirs. However, that is not for me to decide — I do what I can, and God the rest.

God can lead us to places were never thought we would be, and this is one for me. The one thing that I have learned from this ministry is that we are all children (brothers and sisters) of God who get into trouble. We a go astray and need help to get back on track. Some get into more trouble than others in different ways. There is a price to pay for our actions, but it never separates us from God and His love. I have learned much from the prisoners. God has given many blessings to this ministry, to the imprisoned and to me.


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