BROTHER DENIS HEVER
Eulogy by Brother John Klein, Provincial
In Psalm 103 the Psalmist prays, “The Lord is good; his love is eternal
and his faithfulness lasts forever.” Throughout his life, our Brother
Denis gave flesh and blood to this description of his God; for Denis was
a very good and loving man who remained faithful to his vocation, his
family, his Marist Brothers, and his friends. Borrowing the words of
Brother Sean Sammon, Denis was truly a “marvelous companion.” Whether as
teacher, Formation Director, Director of Religious Education, or
Hospital Chaplain, Denis was always loving, non-judgmental, and
genuinely interested in the other person. Yesterday we found a copy of
his Masters Degree thesis that he wrote in 1976. It was entitled,
“Self-Acceptance: The Basis for Authentic Response to Life.” This is
really how Denis lived his life. He knew who he was and he remained the
same for everyone and accepted everyone just the way they were. As one
brother remarked, “Denis was a user-friendly person.”
Denis was first and foremost faithful to his God and his vocation. Last
week Brother David Cooney recounted a conversation that he had with
Denis when he was in his early twenties. It was a turbulent time in the
post- Vatican II Church and our congregation, as well. Denis told Dave
that while he could not understand or judge other individuals’ decision
to leave the congregation, he did know that his call was real and that
he had no choice but to respond. He faithfully responded to that call
for forty years. His daily prayer time and Eucharist were essential to
him and he once told Dave that, “…it is the most important thing that I
Much of Denis’ life was spent in spiritual formation and he could speak
without any awkwardness about his relationship with God. People who
interacted with Denis sensed this and it attracted them and encouraged
Denis always remained faithful to his family, his sisters Winnie and
Marie, his brothers Bob, Bill, and Ed and their families. He delighted
in them and, above all, listened to them with genuine interest. He
encouraged his nieces and nephews and they knew that he cared for each
of them. He visited, wrote cards, and followed their lives without
judgment but with loving concern. How delighted he was when the doctors
gave him permission to travel with Winnie to Mexico for a family
wedding. It was a highlight for him.
Denis’ relentless pursuit of developing his family history was deeply
rooted in his love for them and his wish that they would always remain
close to each other. We will always remember him seated at his computer
surrounded with details of his family genealogy even when he could not
exactly remember how to turn the computer on or how to use the printer.
He would often remark that he wrote and researched in order to try to
keep his mind alert. We knew he did it because of his love and his hope
to always remain part of his family’s life.
Throughout his ministry Denis had a sensitive heart for those in need.
He looked after the parish Outreach Program at Sacred Heart in
Highbridge and in the Marist community in Liberia. Br. Danny Taylor, one
of the Liberian Brothers, wrote expressing his sorrow at the loss of
Denis this weekend. He described Denis as “…a humble servant, a brother
and a friend to many, most especially the cripples and the needy. They
are going to miss him, he wrote, especially his deep understanding and
listening skill.” I remember visiting Denis when he served as Chaplain
at Wheeling Hospital. Wherever we walked people flocked to him and, not
surprisingly, it was in the Dialysis Unit with people most in need of
comfort that Denis devoted a significant part of each day.
Denis consistently remained remarkably faithful to his friends. Cards,
letters, phone calls, invitations to go to a movie or out to a meal were
Denis’ hallmark. Throughout the past three years he would walk to the
public library so that he could access his e-mail and keep in touch with
his friends. It also gave him the opportunity to socialize with the
librarian and senior citizens who frequented the library to read the
newspaper each day. As we know, Denis loved a good conversation. His
unique facility with languages enabled him to have a wide and eclectic
group of friends. Even one of the Haitian aides in Hospice said that she
loved to speak with Denis in French.
Last spring Denis gave Brother John McDonnell the password to his e-mail
account and asked him to open it when he died to let people know that he
had passed away. How aware he was of his own mortality! When John opened
Denis’ e-mail he discovered 134 unanswered messages from mid-August and
174 friends listed in his Address Book. Denis remained very interested
in each of them and they loved him for it.
Denis was always faithful to his Marist family. He always gave his best
and he brought the best out of each of us. In many ways the life of our
community revolved around Denis for the past three years. We would
accompany him to doctors’ visits and eagerly anticipate their reports;
discreetly watch for any sign of physical decline; attempt to allow him
as much independence as possible and, at the same time, share our
concerns and fears with him. In so many ways, Denis was our life and our
hearts break to have to say goodbye. It was a privilege to live with
Denis and struggle to accompany him on his long journey. Denis was a
blessing to us and we will always be grateful to him.
In the conclusion of his Dissertation Denis wrote about trust and
self-acceptance as being essential to living a fulfilled life. “Lack of
self-acceptance, he wrote, is permeated with a coldness, a fear, and a
self-preoccupation. It is like a person who hugs himself tightly in the
winter and comes to feel only his own chill. It is self-enveloping but
not self-sustaining. Trust, on the other hand, is characterized by an
openness that is sensed as joyful, warm, outward, calm, and unifying.”
In reality, I believe that Denis was describing himself….the joyful,
warm, outward, calm, and unifying Brother.
The Book of Sirach speaks of Goodly men whose virtues will not be
forgotten. “Their wealth remains in their families and through them
God’s covenant endures. Their bodies are peacefully laid away, but their
names live on and on. At gatherings their wisdom is retold, and the
assembly proclaims their praise.” Denis Hever will live on and on; his
virtues will be recalled; and his family, his Brothers, and his friends
will always proclaim his praise.
EMAILS RECEIVED BY BROTHER JOHN McDONNELL
FROM FRIENDS OF BROTHER DENIS HEVER
We have all been blessed by having known Denis. He was through and
through the ultimate gentleman and gentle-man! And choosing you (his
alter ego) to send his final letter showed he had good sense, too! If I
am able to die with a modicum of the grace and graciousness that Denis
showed us over these past few years, I will be a very grateful.
You know, it has occurred to me recently that those Marists (and small-b
brothers) that I have known have been overall remarkably spiritual and
wonderful men. How much of it is the accumulation of personal
attributes, and how much of it is the spirit of Champagnat? Or is this
really the wrong question?
It really cannot be dissected, can it? Or is it this: those who have
been attracted to the Marist way of life already have the soil that has
been prepared for the planting of the seeds of the Marist spirit!
I guess I still do a little meditating....
Thanks you for informing me of the recent death of Br. Denis Hever. I am
truly at a loss of words this morning. Denis was a truly loving person,
and I can't even begin to express in words how he touched and changed my
life. I have been extremely blessed by his kind and loving friendship
and support over the past few years, even as he was going through his
own suffering. I would be extremely grateful if I could receive several
of Br. Denis' prayer cards... Thanks and my prayers for all of you and
Br. Denis's family and the repose of his soul...
Peace of Christ,
Marty Roers, Maryknoll Associate
1900 Laramie Trail
Brooklyn Park, MN 55444-1905
Dear Marists Friends,
Sorry to hear of the death of Bro. Denis RIP. He was a personal friend
of mine while he was here in Monrovia, Liberia. He was a very good man
and was held in the highest esteem here in Monrovia.
I will offer Mass for him and his family. Our deepest sympathy on the
death of a very well loved Religious Marist Brother.
Usually, the news I receive from around this time is, “Happy Birthday,
Michael, may God richly bless and protect you and your family.” Little
did I know that November 8, which is my birthday, would turn out to be
your date of burial, Brother Denis. Why this day? Why did you tell me
before time. My heart sinks.
But I thank God for giving me opportunities to enjoy and share His love
embedded in you. From an independent life in the classroom at Pleebo to
the life of a refugee in Ghana for 12 years, you have been there. Thank
you. Rest in peace on my birthday.
Michael Worgbror Topor, II
Have just heard the news of the death of Brother Denis with deep shock
and with a heavy heart, knowing that you and Denis have been brothers
and friends for many years. He death would certainly crack your soul to
some extent. In this regard, I am writing to express my very sincere and
deep sympathy to you. Please know that the people of Monrovia and
especially the FMS would be thrown into confusion about his death. Denis
was a humble servant, a brother and friend to many, especially the
crippled and the needy. They are going to miss him, especially his deep
understanding and his listening skills.
We are all wailing at his death. We are also going to remember his good
deeds and sense of humanity. His deeds characterized by generosity and
prayer would be our consolation. We remember that we shall meet someday
in our Father’s house.
I miss Denis and will ever remember him with deep respect and affection.
Once again, John, let us continue to pray for his soul and for those he
touched in small, but many ways.
I am attaching a group of Denis and the Brothers of Monrovia. The photo
was taken in 2001. This is to show how Denis and the FMS were united in
heart and mind.