Whether standing first in line for the biggest rollercoaster at Cedar Point amusement park, removing snow before Sunday morning Mass or performing a baptism, Father Bernard Fraser is truly a man for all seasons.
Ordained in June of 2000, Father Fraser has served as pastor at St. Cyril of Jerusalem Parish in Taylor, Mich., for the past three years. Joan Forrest, Christian service coordinator at the parish, commends Father Fraser for his ability to teach and minister to the parish community. “He’s true Renaissance man,” she says. “He has a great sense of humor but is very serious when that is called for.”
Deacon Bill Tome likewise views Father Fraser as a rich blessing to St. Cyril, a parish with 1,200 families on the first suburban ring outside Detroit.
“It is not unusual to see him doing manual labor as well as the Lord’s labor of saving souls,” he says. “It would be hard to find a parishioner who does not feel truly blessed to have him here.”
Before Father Fraser arrived, the parish passed through some rough patches. It’s now in a better place, spiritually speaking, says the deacon.
“I don’t want to overshadow his sacramental duties, but Father Fraser is not afraid to pitch in,” says Deacon Tome. “This encourages other people to respond.”
The parish remodel is a great example of this willingness to help out on all fronts. At more than half a century old, the church buildings were in need of upkeep and remodeling. Led by their pastor, the parish family chipped in with great enthusiasm to fix things up on a limited budget.
Father Fraser likens his parish to the early Christian churches that came together not only to worship but also share resources. The renovation project, he says, was a great example of the theological virtues in action.
“Parishioners would take any time they could spare to helping out, some even during their lunch break from work,” he says. “The parishioners truly give of their time and talent. While we are not a rich parish — most members are blue-collar workers — they all go out of their way to do whatever they can do for the parish.”
Father Fraser first thought about becoming a priest in second grade but only seriously discerned after high school.
“After working in a business with my brothers and finding no fulfillment, I prayed about it for a while and realized God was calling me to something,” he told the Register. “I put all my desires in God’s hands, giving them all over to him.” Soon after, he entered the seminary.
Father Fraser is proud of his Scottish heritage and has a great devotion to his patron saint, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He quotes him every chance he gets. He has five sisters and three brothers, all scattered around southeast Michigan.
He was raised in the Archdiocese of Detroit in a devout family. A number of priests preceded him in the Fraser clan, and his father was ordained a deacon just one week before he was born. In fact, Bernard was the first baby his father baptized.
And there’s more. When Father Fraser’s mother died, his deacon dad went on to be ordained a priest.
Back at the parish, youth evangelization is high on Father Fraser’s list of priorities. “We need to evangelize the young because, oftentimes, they don’t get a good example of the faith,” he explains. Under his direction, the parish launched youth Masses at which young people serve as cantors, ushers, choir members and, as needed, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
Father Fraser also set up a vocations committee at St. Cyril. The parish prays for vocations at every Mass, and the priest goes out of his way to write and speak about vocations to whoever will hear him. Father Fraser also serves on the archdiocesan vocations committee.
As for potential vocations in his own parish, he says that “a lot of young men are looking into it.”
“You can tell he loves what he does and that is very influential to the younger parishioners,” says Forrest. “His influence comes through in his deliberate, reverent way of doing the liturgy, in his smiles and through his voice in the way he responds. He puts himself very much into his ministry.”
Zeal for Souls
Father Fraser points to Holy Week and Easter as the liturgical season he loves the most. “It’s a busy time but spiritually it is the greatest time of year for me,” he says.
Meanwhile he looks back on his first Christmas Masses with some sadness. “It was supposed to be a great celebration but I just remember having a heavy heart during that time,” he recalls. “I was thinking about how to get all these people back to church for Mass every single week.”
Bringing people closer to Christ through Mass and the sacraments, he says, is always a work in progress — no matter the season.
“Some of the greatest evangelization opportunities come at weddings and funerals,” he says. “These are great chances for a priest to bring the fallen away back into the Church.”
You might say he has a zeal for souls.
Niki Kalpakgian writes from
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