Brother Lambert Berens, O.S.B., a monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, died Thursday, October 29, 2009. He was the son of the late Peter and Sophia (Randerath) Berens, was born in Lieck (now Heinsberg–Lieck), Germany, on July 4, 1913. He was one of ten children. His brothers and sisters are: Hubert Berens of Heinsberg–Lieck, Anna Zimmermann, of Heinsberg, Peter of Heinsberg, and Barbara Hennen of Heinsberg–Unterbruch. Three of his brothers: Brother Othmar Edmund Berens, O.S.B., Joseph, and Heinrich, and two sisters, Gertrude Lisges and Maria Dombrowe, are deceased.
He received his education in Kirchoven. He made simple profession of the monastic vows on February 11, 1932 at the Benedictine monastery in Ilbenstadt, Germany.
In May, 1939, the Gestapo ordered the Ilbenstadt monastery suppressed, or closed. The monks were told to leave. Brother Lambert was sent to the Benedictine Monastery Kornelimünster in Aachen.
In 1939, he was forced to leave his monastery and serve in the German Army. He was first sent marching to Paris, but when the city capitulated his outfit was marched to the south of France and then marched back to Germany in 1940. Later, when Germany invaded Russia in June of 1941, his troop was sent near Leningrad, where he was wounded. He was wounded a second time during a battle near Shisdra, Russia, in 1942, and a few months later was wounded yet a third time near Leningrad. Finally, in 1943, he was sent back to France, where his outfit executed maneuvers but engaged in no active battles.
On the third day of the Allied invasions in June of 1944, Brother Lambert was taken prisoner and sent to the P.O.W. camp at Ortley, England, and then later to the P.O.W. camp at Fort DuPont, Delaware City, Delaware, where he remained for a year before he was shipped back to a transfer camp in Attichy, France in 1945. He became a free man in January 1946 when he was returned to Bonn, Germany.
Brother Lambert returned to a post–war Germany that was confusing. He returned to his hometown and found his family all well, but his original monastery Ilbenstadt, shut down in 1939, was not reopened. So he returned to the Kornelimünster monastery in 1946. In 1956 he transferred his stability to Saint Vincent Archabbey. He became an American citizen in 1959.
At Saint Vincent, Brother Lambert was in charge of the greenhouse and truck garden (1952–64, and 1965–69). He also worked at Saint Benedict Priory, the Archabbey's missionary apostolate in Brazil (1964–65). From 1969 to 2001 he worked in Saint Vincent Library processing and repairing books, and in his spare time helped maintain the grounds of the Archabbey. In the fall of 2001 he began assisting in the Saint Vincent Archabbey Development Office until his death.
At the library, Brother Lambert prepared books to be added to the collection, prepared items for binding and checked returned items. He also examined the collection to identify Saint Vincent authors, alumni authors, Benedictine authors and Saint Vincent imprints, among other duties. He also conducted an inventory of the entire collection every four to five years and was the only known person to have handled every book in the library.
Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., said “Brother Lambert has been a great inspiration to the entire Saint Vincent community—young and old—his faithful perseverance in prayer and his steadfast commitment to his assigned responsibilities provided a wonderful example of what it means to be a faithful servant.”
In the fall of 1999 Brother Lambert received the Presidential Medal of Honor as part of the Saint Vincent Founders’ Day celebration. College President Father Martin R. Bartel, O.S.B., praised Brother Lambert for his many years of devoted service to Saint Vincent, noting that “throughout his life he quietly served as a model of humble devoutness. His hard meticulous work and dedication to whatever task is assigned him, provide an example to be emulated by both Benedictine and lay colleagues alike. To those that know him well and/or work with him, he is the personification of the Benedictine motto, Ora et Labora (prayer and work).”
The body will be received at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, October 31, in the Elizabeth J. Roderick Center of Saint Vincent Archabbey. Viewing will be held from 7:15 to 9 p.m. Saturday and from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, November 1 in the parlor of the Roderick Center. A Vigil Service will be held at 7:15 p.m. Sunday in the Archabbey Basilica. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., at 2:30 p.m. Monday, November 2 in the Archabbey Basilica. Interment will follow in the Saint Vincent Cemetery.