Bernard Russell, SSJE

Br. Bernard Russell

The Brothers of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist are saddened to report that our brother Bernard Francis Felix Russell SSJE died on 11 January 2016 at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Medford MA in the ninety-fourth year of his life and the forty-eighth year of his religious profession.

Born at Alexandria VA in 1922, Brother Bernie grew up in the Washington area. It was in Washington that he first came into contact with the Episcopal Church through the ministry of the Parish of the Ascension and St. Agnes. He graduated from Central High School, Washington in 1938 and served for two years in the United States Air Force as a bombardier navigator during the Second World War. Following the War he worked first as a reservations clerk for Colonial (later Eastern) Airlines, New York City and then for Peterson Travel Agency in Garden City, Long Island. He would often take his passport to work with him as he would never know if he would be needed to fill in as a flight attendant or assist with a tour group. He came to our community at the Monastery in Cambridge in 1962. The thing which drew him to our community was our life of worship. He believed that worship was central to our life, and everything else was peripheral. He made his life profession on 17 November 1968. In the community, Brother Bernie filled a variety of roles: he taught Sunday School at the Parish of St. Augustine and St. Martin’s; he lived and worked at St. John’s, Bowdoin St and for a number of years acted as Treasurer of the Society. He will be best remembered however for the years he lived at Emery House where he was the cook and gardener. Guests will remember him there creating delicious meals or spending endless hours on the tractor mowing the lawns. He loved nothing more than chatting with guests over coffee or sitting in the refectory gazing out the window at the meadow. Often when brothers travelled to other parts of the country, the first person former guests would ask about was Brother Bernard. Once when asked why guests so often spoke of the difference Bernie’s presence made to their experience of Emery House or the Monastery he responded “I guess it’s because I am happy, and that influences everyone. I’m not trying to do anything special, it’s just me.”

For the last number of years Brother Bernie was cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor at their residence in Somerville.


A Wake will be held at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Somerville on Friday, 15 January 2016 from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM with the Office of the Dead at 4:30 PM.
Little Sisters of the Poor, 186 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

Eucharist of the Resurrection 

The Eucharist of the Resurrection will be celebrated at the Monastery Chapel on Saturday, 16 January 2016 at 11:00 AM. Cremation will follow.
Monastery Chapel, 980 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02138

His ashes will be interred in the brothers Memorial Garden at Emery House.

The Brothers invite you to share your memories and messages:


  1. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas on January 17, 2016 at 15:20

    It is touching to read through these condolences and memories, to share with others in the sorrow of Br. Bernie’s passing and also to know how many others feel gratitude and joy as we recall the gifts he gave us. I, too, relished his excellent cooking, his gentle spirit, his mischievous smile, and his kind hospitality. My heart goes out to the SSJE community as you grieve his death. May light perpetual shine upon Br. Bernie!

  2. Chris McBain on January 16, 2016 at 14:59

    May his memory be a blessing.

  3. Rathbun K. [Bernie] Rhodes on January 14, 2016 at 23:38

    Many condolences to the SSJE Order on the loss of Brother Bernard [Francis Felix] Russell, their beloved friend and colleague of many decades.

    Bernard was my mom’s slightly younger brother and my uncle. He joined the order when I was around 10 years old so I only got occasional glimpses of him over the next twenty-five or so years when he visited Jacksonville. However, even in those short glimpses it was obvious that he was one of the happiest people you could ever meet. He was many things to many people – son, brother & friend, Pastoral Brother, teller of familial tales, exceptional cook, gardener, dancer and skater extraordinaire, bridge/pinochle maven, solver of jig-saw-puzzles, with a tune at the ready and his consistently mischievous voice ever present that let you know that a joke or prank was just moments away. He had the gift of fitting in seamlessly everywhere with everybody and was a joy to be around. Certainly when he visited it was Christmas for a week in our home as he and my mom Roxanna were great friends as well as siblings.

    Many thanks to the Order for providing such a peaceful enclave from which he led a life of service over these last fifty years. I am also particularly grateful that the Order permitted him an extended leave in early 1988 to stay with my mom and the family in her final weeks. He was of great comfort to her and an invaluable help to the rest of the family in getting through those times. I can still picture all of us watching the winter Olympics on the sofa and then him going to town preparing dinner with me as the chief of the cleanup crew. To this day I still wash my dishes by hand not machine as it is a settling reminder of home.

    Peace to him as he completes his final journey.

    RK [Bernie] Rhodes

  4. bobbi patterson on January 14, 2016 at 12:56

    Br. Bernie was a beautiful ordinary light in my life with SSJE — like sun streaming through the window at Emory House — or a generous smile at the end of the day (often with a smuggled cookie or three which he would craftily hand over to me as I walked by him) — or a series of tasks when he was riding the gang-mower at Emory House as I would weed-wack along the road, among other activities he prescribed, including bird-watching, just watching… From strength to Strength. bobbi

  5. Jane Goldring on January 14, 2016 at 11:38

    My most vivid memories are of when John & I would spend a couple of weeks out at emery house. we often had meals with bernard. we had some great conversations also. bernard was a great guy. Bernard was just Bernard. May he rest in peace. jane

  6. Sylvia Gilman on January 14, 2016 at 07:33

    Brother Bernie was a special presence – always genial, full of wit and humor, and utterly lovable. His longevity testifies to his warm spirit and zest, and his passing a celebration of all that is good in humankind.

  7. Norman Newbery on January 13, 2016 at 10:17

    Bro. Bernard was the face of S.S.J.E. for so many. When I lived at 980 Memorial Drive from the Fall of 1978 until the Spring of 1979, Bro. Bernard made me feel welcome and at home. I was a professed brother of the S.S.J.E., Canadian Congregation and was exploring doing an advanced degree in Theology or a possible priestly vocation. I was also there to help promote harmony and understanding between the Canadian and American congregations which were responding to renewal in different ways.
    Bernard was the Treasurer and Cellarer then and he often took me on shopping trips to buy groceries or other supplies for the Monastery. He was so earthy, joyful, unpretentious, warm and caring. He was unselfish and never spoke about himself…he was anchored in God. When our Superior, Fr. David Hemming died, I returned to Canada to assist in the operation of the house there.

  8. Marty Hedgpeth on January 12, 2016 at 21:04

    Bernie was without exception the most uncomplicated, genuine, kind, joyful, and generous monk I have ever known. He was for me, the truest and best face of SSJE. I hope they have tractors in heaven! Rest in peace dear brother.

  9. Robert E. Bennett on January 12, 2016 at 20:32

    Thank you for letting us know about the end of Brother Bernard’s rich life. I remember his warmth and hospitality and good food, and his excitement as the gay movement nationally and in the Episcopal church became more open. I got to know him best the year I was a student at EDS, 1982-83. A really wonderful man and brother. RIP.

  10. Giovanni Figueredo on January 12, 2016 at 17:56

    I have memories of Bernie walking around EH, drinking coffee and sitting by the window quietly looking down the meadow. He always looked happy and peaceful. May he rest in peace. My condolences to the brothers.


  11. Lawrence H. Bradner on January 12, 2016 at 17:20

    Thank you very much for sending the news about Brother Bernard. I remember him happily from his earliest days at the monastery. I think we met last during the calling hours for Brother Paul; his warmth was still strongly felt.
    When I preside at the Eucharist tomorrow morning I’ll make a special intention for him and the Society.
    With my affectionate greetings,


  12. gwedhen nicholas on January 12, 2016 at 17:17

    Dear Brothers,
    So sorry to hear of your loss. May you each especially feel the comfort of Gods’ arms at this time. May Br Bernard rest in peace and rise in glory!

  13. Chrishan Thuraisingham on January 12, 2016 at 16:53

    I am saddened to hear of Br. Bernard’s passing. I remember him well from my visits to the monastery as a soft and gentle presence.

    Blessings and peace Br. Bernard

    Chrishan Thuraisingham

  14. Margo on January 12, 2016 at 15:37

    What a wonderful life to celebrate and give thanks for. He was to guests the warmest and kindest of hosts. I treasure his stories of earlier times at the monastery and his wry comments on the changes. His knowledge of the bird life he shared with many of us. He has been missed at Emery. Have a glorious mass of the resurrection for him. He would love that. Margo

  15. Friar Joshua CZM on January 12, 2016 at 11:56

    Will miss you Brother Berni, may the Lord grant you joy with the saints.
    Friar Joshua CZM

  16. Christie Olsen on January 12, 2016 at 11:31

    Such a sweet and warm presence he was. My love to all of you. Rest in peace, brother.

  17. j on January 12, 2016 at 11:16

    My prayers I send in love and support to each of you may God continue to light your paths and bless your work

  18. Jack H Haney+ on January 12, 2016 at 11:06

    Br Bernard was the first monk I met the Guesthouse on my first visit to the Monastery. His laughter and joy was infectious and I felt welcomed. I wasn’t then an Episcopalian, so the Silence and finding my way there seemed, at first, strange and foreboding. But initially hanging out at the Guesthouse office with Br Bernard took much of those feelings away, and I settled in. The Superior was away, and Br Bernard’s comment was “When the cat’s away the mice will play.” So play on in God’s eternal peace and joy Br Bernard.

  19. June on January 12, 2016 at 10:50

    Br. Bernie’s ready smiles, his warmth that came up from the depths of real joy, were such a grace and silent teaching. Sometimes, even not so silent, as I recall him humming happily to himself. Emery House’s beloved Fozzy Bear will ever be in my heart. May all who remember, love and grieve Br. Bernie feel the warmth of his joy.

  20. Bill Lee on January 12, 2016 at 10:46

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses(including brother Bernard Francis Felix Russell SSJE) , let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

    Heb 12:1 NRSV

  21. Audrey Murdock on January 12, 2016 at 10:43

    I have joyful memories of Brother Bernard on my many visits to Emery House – thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of his cooking and he was such a genial host and his faith shone through. Audrey Murdock+

  22. Eileen Harakal on January 12, 2016 at 10:26

    I remember Brother Bernie so fondly–his genial disposition and pleasant conversation, his good cooking at Emery House. When he picked me up at the bus station, I saw his smile and knew I was in the “right” place, so happy to be there. He is certainly in the right place now! My heart goes out to the Brothers who loved him.

  23. Charles Taliaferro on January 12, 2016 at 10:21

    Brother Bernard was the bedrock of my experience with SSJE when I lived and was in graduate school from 1977 to 1984, coming every Tuesday I could to the Eucharist at the Monastery, going on retreats at Emory House and the Monastery. Martin Smith and Tom Shaw gave extraordinary homilies over those seven years, but it was also largely because of the faithful witness of brothers Paul Messenger, David Clayton, Brother James, Father Allen, Thomas Cure, and, of course, Brother Bernard who provided the deep background experience of the liturgy and the rule of life that continues to inspire me to this day almost forty years since I stepped into the monastery in my mid-twenties. I give thanks to you, the Society of the beloved disciple and give thanks in particular to Brother Bernard –peace be upon him. Sincere and yours, Charles

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