Father Ben Hermann, OM.: A big man who cast a large shadow

Bernard Michael Hermann was born on Oct 21, 1922 to Bernard and Anna Marie Hermann in Odessa. He was born into a large family of 11 children. After completing his education in Odessa, in 1940, he entered the Noviate of Oblates of Mary Immaculate at St. Charles, Man. He professed his first vows on Sept. 15, 1941. He then attended the St. Charles Scholasticate in Battleford where he made his perpetual commitment as a Missionary Oblate on June 4, 1948 At St. Mary's Church in Regina.

In 1948, Father Ben began his religious life as a high school teacher at St. Thomas College, first in Battleford at the old Government House, then from 1950-1976 at the newly built St Thomas College in North Battleford. His students affectionately referred to him as "Big Ben," and will always remember him for his huge frame, booming voice and a heart as "big as all outdoors." Father Ben's lessons were positive yet forceful. Father Ben was always in good humour and he had an open-door policy; students could drop in to see him for advice or a helping hand at any time. He projected a big and powerful presence but he had a unique and effective way of encouraging his students to work hard at their studies. It goes without saying that Father Ben had no problems with student discipline.

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North Battleford residents will best remember Father Ben for his work with sports teams. Although he coached many teams, he was most visible as a hockey coach. Father Ben encouraged and directed his boys with his own personal public address system. Father Ben also joined the local North Battleford Militia as its chaplain, and he supervised the training of St. Thomas College army cadets. In addition, he spent many summers as a chaplain at Camp Dundurn and at cadet camps. As Captain Hermann of the Royal Canadian Chaplain Corps, he made many friends. Despite his size, he was highly respected as a gentle and compassionate person.

In 1977, Father Ben was appointed pastor of St. Mary's Parish at Macklin and in 1985 he was assigned to St. Vianney Parish at Lac La Ronge. Both parishes profited from his leadership and administrative skills. Father Ben remembered and could sing every hymn in the hymnal. He was also an exceptional marriage counsellor. And, he had a way of encouraging people to attend mass, or religious services of other denominations.

Father Ben remained a teacher his entire life. He frequently spoke to groups at parishes as well as other organizations. More important, he had a strong commitment to educating others on the most unfortunate in our society and their relationship to God. Father Ben had a fundamental respect for human life. He gave public voice in an effort to protect the weakest and most vulnerable in society, whom he considered to be a gift from God. The Pro-Life organization recognized Father Ben for his work and awarded him the Dombowski Award.

Father Ben was particularly active with the Knights of Columbus and travelled many miles to attend conventions and special events. In 1978, he was appointed State Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus of Saskatchewan, a position he held until 1980. Even in retirement, Father Ben continued to be involved in various charitable groups as well as personally helping others. He often drove hundreds of miles in his van, his home away from home, to help an elderly brother priest living alone and pastoring a church in an isolated village in Northern Saskatchewan.

Father Ben passed away after a short illness on Aug. 3, 2000. His funeral mass was celebrated at St. Vital Church in Battleford, and he was buried in the oblate cemetery on Government Ridge.

Father Ben was a larger than life personality. His faith, generosity, his passionate defence for the most vulnerable in society, and his desire to help his fellow man will long be remembered by his students, his colleagues and the citizens of our city. On the occasion of North Battleford's centennial, we are humbled by this extraordinary man who indeed cast a giant shadow.

(Sources: Interim Publishing; writers' personal experiences)

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