Which Leaves Brother Ben
By Brother Brandon Berg
The Caperone, Newsletter of the North American Pacific Capuchin Conference Novitiate
Which none of us wanted to. Nor he us, as he told us when it came time to head west. Brother Ben’s homilies when he celebrated Mass for the class were among the most profound, poetic and moving as many of us have heard since we began our journey in the order. He helped us see how each one of us brings a different perspective to our call, our way of life, and our duty to serve. He was also a superbly empathetic and inspiring confessor.
Brother Ben Colucci was born October 22, 1930 in Annapolis, MD, and professed July 14, 1952. True to the Capuchin charism, Ben has worked all his life with the poor. This included working in Puerto Rico at a leper colony. Ben was in the first group of Capuchins to move to Denver, where he did pastoral work and ministered in the city center at Samaritan House, a live-in shelter for men, women and families. He went on to Hays to be a hospital chaplain
I came to know Ben even before I met him. He sent me a handwritten letter upon my acceptance into postulancy. It was a heartfelt piece in which he told me that if I gave myself to the order that I would find the spirit of Francis alive among the brothers. This has turned out to be true. Though things have changed in 800 years, Francis’ spirit challenges us to pray to God, to love others, and to laugh at ourselves.
Ben shows genuine care for everyone he meets, and is particularly loving to his Capuchin brothers and sisters. It is an honor to hear him reflect on the work he and others have done and about the
good qualities his brothers possessed which made the work so fruitful. Ben is also a fiery and funny preacher. He calls on his expressive Italian cultural heritage and his years of religious life, and couples that with the heart of Francis to create moving homilies. The first time I heard him preach he said, “God is not something far away that we can’t know or touch. No. God’s life courses through our veins. It is our lifeblood, our air source.”
During our months in Victoria Ben was his same caring self. Knowing the lack of facilities in Victoria, Ben arranged discounted access to the Hays Family Health Center, which many in the class used intensively. And he went to a higher level in his preaching, week after week providing us with foundational messages about Capuchin life and Christian witness. In a homily following a Gospel about Jesus healing through the power of his touch, Ben preached that,“Touch doesn’t lie,” and urged us to invest ourselves bodily as well as spiritually in our ministries, to be fully present. He told a story about a dying man with leprosy who shared with Ben a vision of the Virgin Mary standing at the foot of his bed, as Ben annoited him with the last rites. His presence and his message were fundamentally about compassion and love, of who we are, and where we are, and he reminded us to love every person, all of creation, and with brotherly love “to take care of one another.”
As a confessor Ben brought great depth of meaning to a lot of the class. As my classmate Alex put it, “Ben taught me that in the Gospels it is arrogance and pride that disgusted Jesus Christ, not the sins of the flesh. This forced me to dig deeper into my sins of the flesh, to know myself a little bit better, to be attentive to where my heart’s at.”