Father John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO, abbot emeritus of the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, died Feb. 21, 2020. He was 93.
Father Bamberger was born in 1926 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He entered the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 and served in World War II before becoming a medical doctor at a young age. He entered the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky in 1950. When he entered, Father Thomas Merton, a well-known Trappist monk, author and theologian, was his novice master, noted Father Isaac Slater, OCSO, prior of the Abbey of the Genesee.
Years later, Father Merton would become Father Bamberger’s colleague when they both worked on their order’s vocations screening team. It was Father Merton who suggested Father Bamberger should study to become a psychiatrist, since he already had medical training and could gain additional useful information, Father Slater said. Father Bamberger greatly admired Father Merton and later wrote a book about him, titled Prophet of Renewal, Father Slater said.
Father Bamberger made his solemn profession of vows in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1956. In 1969, he was elected secretary of the order’s Consilium Generale and served in that role until 1971 , when he was elected abbot of the Abbey of the Genesee.
He was abbot of the Trappist monastery for 30 years before resigning in 2001 when turned 75, in accordance with the rules of his order. He suffered a massive heart attack shortly before he resigned, and although his surgeon gave him just a 1 percent chance of survival, he made a full recovery, Father Slater noted.
“He was a warrior. He had off-the-charts vitality and intelligence as well,” Father Slater said.
Shortly after recovering from his heart attack, Father Bamberger traveled to the Philippines, where he lived for four years while helping a community there. Upon his return to the United States, he then once again made his home at the Abbey of the Genesee, this time living the life of a hermit. He lived on his own in the monastery’s hermitage and spend much of his time reading and praying in solitude, although he did come to the monastery for meals and offered confession and spiritual direction to several individuals, Father Slater said.
“He was a hermit, but he loved people. He was very sociable at the same time,” Father Slater added.
His health began to fail several years ago, so he moved into the monastery’s care facility. He lived there until he entered Dansville’s Noyes Memorial Hospital several weeks before his death.
He was predeceased by his siblings, James and Nancy Bamberger.
Father Bamberger is survived by his sisters, Michelle Bamberger and Joan Brennan; brother, Joseph Bamberger; many nieces and nephews; and his fellow Trappist monks in Piffard.
Father Bamberger’s funeral liturgy took place Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. at the Abbey of the Genesee, where interment was to follow.
Contributions in Father Bamberger’s memory may be made to the Abbey of the Genesee, 3258 River Road, Piffard, NY 14533.