What do Christmas crèches, Wisconsin cheese, Benedictine Oblates, and Pilgrimages have in common?
For those who know and love him, the answer is obvious. Fr. Volker Futter.
Each is an expression of his hospitality. A true gentleman with a heart for one who needs compassion and comfort and the most energetic man I have ever met celebrates his 80th birthday today, December 29, 2020. Fr. Volker has touched many lives through his work as a Missionary Benedictine—as Oblate Director, Sub-Prior, and Mission Procurator—known especially for his hospitality. He is the living example of the instructions of St. Benedict, “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, because He will say: “I was a stranger and you took Me in” (Mt 25:35).”
For over twenty years, Fr. Volker has arranged an exhibit of over 100 nativity scenes at St. Benedict Center for guests to enjoy—this pandemic year is the only exception. As Mission Procurator, Fr. Volker acquired over 300 crèches from over 23 countries including Peru, Tanzania, Korea, China, and other countries with Benedictine missions. “We want to show that the nativity scenes are important, not only in America, but all over the world,” Fr. Volker explains. Fr. Volker enjoys the variety represented by the extensive collection including wood carvings in olive wood from the Holy Land and in ebony, alabaster, ceramics, tapestries, and many other forms, ranging in size from tiny to 4 feet tall— “to see that Christmas is … for everybody all over the world – that Christ is born for each one of us.” Read more here.
Christ the King Priory exists because of the work of two monks, Brothers Felix and Egbert, who were sent to the United States from Münsterschwarzach Abbey in Germany during the 1930s. They traveled throughout the United States, humbly accepting donations for their mission work. Fr. Volker has continued this traveling tradition by taking a 2500-mile journey each year, visiting more than 150 homes in two weeks. He raises funds for the missions, visits with the many friends he has made over thirty years and brings back over 900 pounds of cheese to be used throughout the year by the monks of Christ the King Priory. Unfortunately, there is no cheese for the monks or guests this year—again, the pandemic caused Fr. Volker to adjust his annual travels. Read more here.
Benedictine Oblates live according to the Rule of St. Benedict, as a monk in the world seeking God in their everyday life. Fr. Volker is our guide to learning and growing in our spirituality through our oblate community. We meet monthly for Lectio Divina, prayer, to celebrate the Eucharist and to have discussions on books or study guides by Benedictine authors. Members of the Oblate community are from Schuyler, Omaha, Lincoln, Missouri, South Dakota — even as far away as New York and Louisiana. Fr. Volker has adjusted beautifully to this time of pandemic when we are not able to meet in person, and instead leads our oblate meetings through Zoom.
I shared at Fr. Volker’s 50th monastic profession— “Some of the things that stand out to me about Fr. Volker are his love of books and taking pictures, his passion for leading the Oblate group and especially, how he makes others feel special. He shares countless books he has on a particular topic on Oblate days or at retreats. He carries dozens of books over from the monastery for us to look at, whetting the appetite of any book lover… When preparing for an Oblate day, you can tell that Fr. Volker combs the depths of his books, articles, songs, Scripture and Google to bring to us a rich experience and a new way to look at an old topic. What his interests say about him is that he pays attention to detail, that he focuses on the beauty around him, that he wants to share his joy with others. He keeps nothing for himself but shares with everyone. Fr. Volker is the embodiment of hospitality.” Read more here.
Fr. Volker has planned several Benedictine pilgrimages to Europe—the last two I was able to participate in included travel to Czechia, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. A year or more in advance, Fr. Volker planned an itinerary, working with pilgrimage guide, Fritz Minhard and travel agent, Roland True, to create a pilgrimage experience unlike any other. Our pilgrimages were opportunities to create friendships, deepen relationships with other Benedictine oblates, monks, and sisters and to practice the ritual of daily prayers. The pilgrimages were a shared experience of faith, beautiful art, architecture, history, culture, delicious food, so much laughter and joy, and especially Benedictine hospitality. More pilgrimage reflections here.
A Zoom Birthday
This pandemic year has been full of uncertainty and adjustments, but what is constant is the leadership, service, Christ-like love, and hospitality of Fr. Volker—an amazing monk, priest, and human being. He shared his thoughts of priesthood with the Catholic Voice, “The gracious help from a Benedictine monk, to me, a refugee attending the Benedictine boarding school, prepared and nourished in me the call to the priesthood. I am deeply humbled for all the graces I have received from God the last 50 years for my priestly service and I am thankful that I was able to reach out to so many people and hopefully touched their lives a little.”
I am humbled and grateful to know Fr. Volker—and I know I speak for many others who joined Fr. Volker this morning for birthday wishes. No big celebration (the pandemic, of course) and no courtyard serenade (a timely Nebraska blizzard caused a last-minute cancellation), but so very typical for 2020—instead we had Fr. Volker’s 80th Birthday Celebration via Zoom!
Despite the time lag of internet connections from Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, California, Florida, and Germany we attempted a version of the birthday song (oh my, we do sound better in person) that conveys our deepest feelings for Fr. Volker. He closes with these words of thanks, “Everything is grace.”
Yes, it is. So many have been graced with 80 years of loving and being loved by Fr. Volker Futter. Happy Birthday and Amen!