NORTH EASTON, Mass. The Rev. Robert J. Kruse, C.S.C., of the Congregation of Holy Cross, died on Tuesday, December 29, 2015, at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts. Fr. Kruse was a religious studies scholar and a Counselor to the President of Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. He was 83 (born November 15, 1932).
After completing doctoral studies in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Fr. Kruse joined the Religious Studies Department at Stonehill in 1961 and went on to Chair the department. In 1978, he became the College’s Academic Dean, a position he held until 1987 when he was appointed Executive Vice President, a position he held until 2001. Fr. Kruse was a specialist in 19th and 20th century religious thought. A thoughtful, spiritual man, he loved to read, garden and walk.
Fr. Kruse devoted his life to the service of Stonehill and played an instrumental role in its growth as a Catholic liberal arts college. During its Golden Anniversary in 1998-99, the College presented Fr. Kruse with its Moreau Medallion in recognition of his critical role in Stonehill’s first 50 years.
Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Fr. Kruse grew up in Indiana, Missouri, and New York, and came to Stonehill as a young seminarian in the early 1950s when the College was still in its infancy. A philosophy major, he graduated from Stonehill in 1955. Fr. Kruse was first received by the Congregation of Holy Cross on August 15, 1950, made his First Profession of Vows on August 16, 1951, made his Final Vows on August 16, 1954 and was Ordained a priest on November 30, 1958.
Preceding him in death are his parents, Robert James Kruse and Dorothy (Oliger) Kruse. Father Kruse is survived by his brother Keith of Mansfield, Massachusetts and by three nieces, Kathy Murray of Billerica, Massachusetts, Valerie Scott of Blandon, Pennsylvania, Roberta Kruse of Warwick, New York and a nephew, Casey Kruse of Ardsley, New York. He is also survived by his adopted family Thon Chen and his wife Sophak Pek, of Lynn, Massachusetts.
The Wake Service will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday (Jan. 5, 2016) in the Chapel of Mary at Stonehill College. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday (Jan. 6, 2016) at the Chapel of Mary at Stonehill. Burial will be in the Holy Cross Cemetery on the College campus. Kane Funeral Home, Easton, is in charge of the arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross via: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online at donate.holycrossusa.org.
Wake Eulogy by Rev. Peter Walsh, C.S.C.
Jan. 5, 2016
In our reading this evening from Mark’s Gospel, which is the gospel reading for today, we see what emerges as a familiar pattern in the ministry of Jesus. He looks out across the lost and lonely faces of the crowds of people who have come to him looking for a reason for hope. They are, as the gospel describes them, “like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus looks at the listlessness, the lack of direction, the absence of fulfillment of his brothers and sisters and “his heart is moved with pity…and he began to teach them many things.” Later, Jesus will become concerned for their physical well being and he will perform the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. But first, he is moved with compassion for their spiritual and intellectual hunger and he will feed them with his teaching. So often our attention is drawn to second miracle, with the feeding of thousands with meager loaves of bread and a couple of fish and we gloss over the first: the formation of wayward sheep into a people with a purpose through the miracle of teaching. We are unable to hastily run over the significance of that first miracle as we remember Father Robert Kruse and his life as a Holy Cross educator. We can almost feel his probing baritone voice echoing in this chapel: “He taught them…many things…feast on that before rushing head long into the smoked salmon and crostini.”
I first met Bob 35 years ago when, as a freshman at Stonehill, I moved onto Upper B in Holy Cross Center after spending my first semester in O’Hara Hall. I did it for the dining room. That and the calmer atmosphere of the SEM, which had been the site of an experimental intentional community under Bill Braun, was more suitable to me over the rough edges of an all male dorm. It was worth the long, cold walk to campus. One day I was walking back for lunch in a cold, icy rainstorm along that old road that ran by Br. Jim Madigan’s shop and Bob pulled his green Chevy Impala along side me and offered me a lift. I was soaking wet and no sooner had I gotten into his car–his chariot as Richard Mazziotta called it–when I saw that my boots were making a puddle on the floor. Mortified I apologized, but Bob waved it off and asked me about my classes. They weren’t the boilerplate questions you ask a freshman–“so, what’s your major?” “How are your time management skills?”–but serious questions about what I was learning and how I was making sense of things. The conversation continued over lunch. He spoke little, mainly asking questions as he devoured a grilled cheese with tomato soup. When he finished eating, he said “I’d like to suggest that you read a small book, Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke. See you Peter.” With that he abruptly stood up, grabbed his coat, and headed to Upper B. While his style might not have met current standards of pastoral care, that conversation shaped the course of the rest of my life.
Even thirty-five years ago, Bob was long-present on Upper B. They practically built Holy Cross Seminary around him. From his perch there, he shook his fist at the groundhogs who were always eating his plants. He watched amazing sunsets. He awoke one morning to spy a small herd of five deer grazing. He paced the floor at night when he had trouble sleeping or when as he would say, he was “in the booby hatch.” That was usually about something that Bartley MacPhaidin bought. In that straight backed chair by his floor lamp and wall phone, he read…he read everything. For Bob, reading was instinctual. The same way our brain stem keeps us breathing and our blood pumping, his brain stem kept him reading. Gladly would he learn and gladly teach and Bob always shared what he was reading, usually over a long Mazziotta meal of linguine and Italian sausages. We heard his progress through a biography of Bishop Ireland for a few weeks. Then we’d hear the latest book by Shelby Foote on the Civil War. Well into the Sambuca, we listened to him weigh in on Brideshead Revisited or Death in Venice or Endo’s Silence. When we had had our fill, he would stand, say “see you all” and go back to Upper B to finish the night’s reading.
As a young teen Bob joined our apostolic religious community, even taking the Fourth Vow to go anywhere in the world that the Superior General would send him. That turned into a life at Stonehill College and many decades in an almost monastic stability on Upper B. As a graduate student in Rome, he wrote his dissertation on Blessed Basil Moreau’s theology of the Cross. But he spent the vast majority of his priesthood incarnating in himself and in other’s, Father Moreau’s pedagogy on the formation of young people. All of the phrases we have gleaned from Father Moreau on our distinctive approach to education–the formation of hearts as well as minds, the importance of education as a transformative event in a person’s life, the way in which the future can be shaped and nudged closer to the Kingdom of God through the miracle of education–Bob embodied in his lifelong commitment to his own learning and to the learning of others. At the dedication of the Kruse Center in the Cushing-Martin building, Bob summed up his life as a Holy Cross educator so well. Borrowing a phrase from the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who once described his own vocation as a poet as a “journey into the wideness of the world,” Bob said:
“Why do I value liberal education and why do I equate it with a ‘journey into the wideness of the world’? I think that such an education contributes mightily to making both individuals and societies wiser, more tolerant of differences, more just in those relationships that call for justice, more understanding in those relationships that demand understanding. Insofar as it helps us appreciate the inconsistencies and contradictions in human life. a liberal education nourishes our sense of humor too.”
From his rooms in Holy Cross Center, Fr. Kruse educated and formed us and sent us out with an appreciation of “the wideness of the world.” Generations of seminarians learned from him, and while he remained in Easton, they went off to Santiago and Lima and Kampala, to New York City, Wilkes Barre, Bennington and South Bend. Students from the South Shore of Boston entered academic life, began medical careers, started businesses with the benefits of an education that valued a lifelong journey into the wideness of the world. As Academic Dean, he encouraged the research and teaching of young faculty members and the administrative skills of young staff members. Bob had two adopted families. First, the Binneys with whom he had dinner every Friday evening. Later, he befriended Thon Chen of Cambodia as a student who shared the avuncular Fr. Kruse with Sophek his wife and their children. In a way, you could say that Fr. Bob Kruse wrote his theology in our lives and with our lives.
That old shop where Br. Jim fixed cars and stored tires was converted into a community chapel, when our complex of buildings near the Barn were given a considerable upgrade. At a Monday community night Mass, Bob preached on this gospel on the feeding of the multitude. He bypassed the feeding part and focused on the leftovers, making the observation that Jesus was careful that nothing was wasted. He talked about our usual attitude to the scraps of our lives–the ordinary things, the times of unproductivity, the times when we are dilatory or over cautious or bored–fails to see what Jesus sees. The grace of God bundles those things because nothing of our lives is ever to be wasted. On all of our behalf, I want to thank Bob for his attention to us and our lives. Bob, rest assured that nothing of your life was wasted on us.
Funeral Homilyby Joseph F. Callahan, C.S.C.
Jan. 6, 2016
We gather this day in this place to remember and celebrate the life of a man who touched the hearts of many, who exemplified God’s love and who suffered much at the end of his life. That man is: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the prophet who came out of Galilee, and our brother. Every mass, every funeral has Jesus The Christ (the anointed one) at its center. Every Mass plays out again the death and rising of the Son of God. In this context father bob kruse lived out his life; in this context we can appreciate (yes, and even celebrate) Bob’s life and his passing over to the father even as we grieve. For him death is over, death is destroyed as Isaiah proclaims in the first reading. Death is finished; a new dawn has come.
Like the wise one in today’s Gospel, Bob built his life on the solid rock of Christ . Hearing His words and acting upon them. He was steady and imperturbable.
He weathered the storms of the 1960s and 70s as well as the challenges of ill-health in later years. His spiritual life had a deep keel which allowed him to withstand the buffeting winds of change. He was poised yet reserved. He was attentive to God’s word and the words of others. He paid attention to life and took things in and pondered them. He was an introvert who was sociable and engaging at the same time. (No one was defter than he at slipping out of a cocktail party early and unnoticed.) He possessed the virtue of humility, the foundation of the spiritual life. Bob knew who God was and who he was and he knew the difference. He knew himself and was capable of self-criticism and learning from failure. He was precise and spare in his ways. In his speech and writing there was not a wasted word. He worked against the tendency of others to overdo descriptions and to use unnecessary words: adverbs mostly!
Father Bob lived out the Sacrament of the priesthood. One could see this in the prayerfulness and insight he brought to the Eucharist. His ordination meant that there was Holy Order within him and he brought that same Holy Order to ministry.
He was not just organized and neat; he was making straight the path for the Lord. He was a thoughtful and original preacher as well.
Above all, Bob was kind. In his work at the college as teacher, guide and administrator, he demonstrated the divine virtue of merciful kindness. Many have commented since his death that they cannot recall an unkind word on his lips. His kindness was such that as a young priest on the seminary faculty he was much sought after as a spiritual director and confessor. So many wanted him as director that some seminarians had to be directed to other priests. In the interest of full disclosure, Ishould report that sometimes seminarians who were smokers sought out directors who also had the habit.
Bob’s spirituality was sure-footed; he walked upon the heights of God’s mountain. He reached the mountain top; he was prepared for death by the way he lived. He was anchored upon the rock; his spirituality was grounded. He knew what was at stake in life and in relating to God.
Bob led a circumscribed life. He stayed close to Stonehill all these many years. He did not cultivate a wide circle of acquaintances but had dear and deep relationships with family and friends. When the time came to retire from Stonehill, he did so gracefully and without complaint.
He became a tutor in an English as a second language program in Brockton. His detachment was also demonstrated in regard to books. He was a great reader but did not collect books. He borrowed them from the library, took notes and returned them.
In the old days we had a monthly meditation on death. We were reminded that, when we died, we left all behind even our books. I thought at the time: no, not the books! Anything but the books! What does go with us then? If anything? The second reading from revelation tells the tale: when we die, our works accompany us our good deeds go with us. Not even Bob Kruse needs now the books. “He has found rest from his labors,” says Revelation, and his deeds go with him.
The book of Genesis reveals that we are made in the image of God. We reflect God’s attributes in some way; how was this true in Bob’s life? Not only did he have an appreciation for the cosmos, God’s grand scheme of the universe, but also creation at the local level .. He was the tree-planter of Stonehill. So many of the beautiful trees which adorn the campus and Holy Cross center were planted by Bob. They are alasting memorial to his co-operation with God’s creative and nurturing hand.
Like Jesus, he was a searcher. He stood in the long tradition of those theologians who, as in the case of Thomas Aquinas, began every treatise with a question.
Jesus was full of questions, too: who do you say that Iam? Do you also wish to go away? Do you love me? And my favorite, when Jesus is risen, do you have anything here to eat? Of course, Jesus had some answers as well.
So did Bob. He declared his answers to life’s persistent questions by the way he lived and carried himself as a believer, as a religious and as a priest.
Bob believed in the religious community and saw it as primary in his life. Though he had other wonderful families, his Holy Cross Community was at the root of his life as a religious person. He played a pivotal role in all our Provincial Chapters. When he spoke, all listened.
I’ve already mentioned the devotion he brought to celebrating Mass. Often, after Communion, he would recite this prayer aloud; it comes from the old Holy Cross Directory of Prayers:
O Jesus, living in Mary,
Come and live in Your servants,
In the spirit of Your holiness,
In the fullness of Your power,
In the perfection of Your ways,
In the truth of Your virtues,
In the communion of Your mysteries.
Rule over every adverse power
In Your spirit
For the glory of the Father.