Thursday, June 05, 2003

Those special priests, II
Father Russell Banner, associate pastor, St Martha, Akron OH, early to mid 1970's

A couple of years after we moved into Akron, a new associate came to our parish. He was ex-career-military. He had a name that wasn't a saint's name, people said he was a convert. He came to us from a year of monastic retreat --- a whole year! Before that, he had helped run a place for unwanted kids called Parmadale, and there had been a financial and church-political type disaster and scandal, after which he had spent a year with the Trappists putting his soul and spirit back together again, then he came to us.

Now St Martha's, like most parishes in Akron at that time, had seen its share of characters. We had an associate who habitually picketed the local newspaper, and another who ran away one night, got married, and opened a Jesus People coffeehouse. The pastor, "Monsignor," whose last name I don't remember anymore, was a virtual recluse who we only saw at his Sunday Mass; after I left for college, I've been told, he also ran off one night, leaving behind an empty parish checking account and a set of overcooked books. But Father Banner was the good kind of character. Outspoken, yes, which may have been part of his trouble at Parmadale and what got him reassigned to Akron, but also humble, wise, solidly common-sensical, and absolutely convinced that he could be wrong and somebody else right.

In my first year of high school, I rode in a particular car pool one night that turned into a spiritual disaster ---- Fr. Banner was the priest who helped put Humpty-Dumpty back together again afterwards. He was the one who put me to work when I turned 16, taught me about liturgy and rubrics, encouraged me to learn manuscript illumination and calligraphy, and gave me my first copy of the complete Documents of the Second Vatican Council. And I still have a painting of his that was a present when I got my BA in Theology, "....and a little child shall lead them."

I settled in Milwaukee and lost contact with him; he went on to pastor several parishes in Cleveland Diocese. This past summer his name came back into my life --- as a designated pariah on Cleveland's Scarlet List, one of the pastors who was removed after the Dallas bishops' meeting for having been at some time accused. It's mostly for him that I composed the Prayer for Priest-penitents. I will always owe him a great debt, my soul's healing after That Horrid Night. Please pray for him, and for all the exiled ones.
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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

St. Martha's was my parish church--I walked a couple miles to get there-and never missed mass. It so hurt me to hear of the "priestly" goings on. I remember Frs. Mckeever,Peters,Johnson and others. How sad this all is!

Charles E Schiffbauer said...

I cannot believe that anyone would accused father russ banner of anything other than being a nice man, and a priest that loved his flock.you folks that read this must be thinking well this man does not know what he is talking about. if you folks are thinking this way then you are sadly mistaken because I know Father Russ Banner, very well you see I grew up in a place called Parmadale. Parmadale was a place for unwanted kids. I would not be the man that I am today if it wasn't for father Russ banner stepping into my life when I needed someone the most. and No I am NOT a sex freak or someone that goes around molesting kids.and father banner is not either. I was alter boy and served mass with father banner a lot. and at any given time father banner could have molested me but he did not so why do you all want to destroy his life when he tried so hard to enrich the lives of young boys and girls. I don't deny that some of you may have been molested and if you had, I am sorry for you. but don't destroy this man's life because you are upset with a few other priests. there was 1 year when I was about 12 we were having a Halloween party in the gym at Palmdale and I did not have outfit to wear to the Halloween party. father banner test time out of his busy day to help me make a outfit. I became a walking box of rice crispy which gave me 2nd place in the Halloween party and all I can say is thank you father banner for being the priest that I looked up to God Bless you father banner. Charles .

Anonymous said...

Lucky for you, you weren't targeted.
These aren't casual accusations. I know. There are too many or them, and I was one of the victims. So, fuck off, pal. You knew a nice guy ... others knew him as one sick individual
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