Brother Renatus (Arnold Richard) Foldenauer, CSC

July 20, 1923 – June 29, 2018

Brother Renatus Foldenauer, CSCThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Renatus Foldenauer, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Michigan City, Indiana, Br. Renatus died in Albany, New York, on June 29, 2018. He was in his 75th year of religious life in the Congregation.

Affectionately known in the community as “Ren,” he was born in Michigan City, Indiana, on July 20, 1923, the third child and only boy of George Foldenauer, a farmer, and his wife, Margaret Boehnlein Foldenauer. Nine days after his birth, he was baptized Arnold Richard Foldenauer in the family church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Michigan City.

Throughout his long and faithful religious life, Ren was known in the community as a kind, gentle and considerate man, always a gentleman, impeccably dressed, who was a talented and gifted musician. Those who knew him would chuckle to know (or learn) he was raised on a farm. Writing in 2009 of his early years, he observed: “I just had no interest in farming and shied away from that type of work.” No, farming was simply not in his blood; his gift was music and at an early age he began to play the piano: “Since we had an old upright piano at home, I began to play all the popular songs of the day by ear. People who came over to visit would always ask me to play the piano.”

In 7th grade he began piano lessons under the tutelage of a Sister of the Holy Cross and before long he was playing for elementary and high school dances. Most memorable was giving his own recital: “A peak experience was in presenting my own piano recital in my senior year at St. Mary’s. I prepared and memorized nine compositions. This was nine months of hard work, often practicing four hours each day. The recital was given on May 22, 1941.” How significant was for him – seventy-six years later and he remembered the very day!

Upon graduation from high school, and without the funds to go to college, Ren worked, initially as a shoe salesman at Montgomery Ward, and then at Citizen’s Bank in Michigan City. By his own accounting he “liked this work and stayed on for a year and three months. I was successful and well-trusted.”

During this time, Ren found himself drawn to daily Mass before going to work at the bank, and eventually he found himself “stopping for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament every day after work.” Karl Rahner speaks of the experience of the Spirit as “experiences of everyday mysticism,” and although Renatus would probably not think so, he had such an experience: “I can remember May 31, 1942, when I was ecstatic with joy after Holy Communion. I thought what a wonderful thing it would be to live in religious life, to be under the same roof with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Recalling a talk about the Brothers of Holy Cross that Brother Theophane, CSC, gave to his sophomore high school class, Ren located the address of the vocation office from a Sunday Visitor ad and wrote to Brother Theophane, “who wrote back immediately.” Brother Theophane invited him to enter the September postulancy class, but Ren found that “fear came over me and I said I would need more time to reflect, pray and check things out.” Even after submitting his application to the Brothers in June 1942, “tremendous fear came over me as to what I had done.” Nonetheless, facing strong opposition from his pastor, his family and even his piano teacher, Ren entered the postulate at Sacred Heart College in Watertown, Wisconsin, on September 9, 1942: “Some of my happiest days were at the postulate, a period of six months where I took some college classes.”

Ren entered St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, on January 5, 1943, “a good year of learning and being formed,” and he professed his first vows, receiving the name “Brother Renatus,” on February 2, 1944.

Following his novitiate, Renatus began studies at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in music. However, at that time the community did not believe music a practical major and changed his major to Education so he could complete his studies a year earlier.

Reflecting on this event, he once wrote: “So, being obedient, I changed to Education and found the courses quite boring.”

During his senior year at Notre Dame, Ren’s father died. Religious life was very different back then, the rule often taking precedence over mercy and compassion, and his father’s death and funeral left a life-long ache in his heart that is best expressed in his own words: “I’ve often reflected on the inhuman manner in which this took place [having to leave the cemetery immediately after the burial of his father and return to Notre Dame], and the fact that no one from the scholasticate came to the funeral. Well, the rule had to be kept!”

Ren graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.A. in Education in June, 1947, and on August 16, 1947, he professed his final vows in the Sacred Heart Basilica at Notre Dame.

Following his final profession, Renatus was assigned to teach World History and Religion at Msgr. Coyle High School in Taunton, MA, where he taught for five years.

It was during this time that his musical gifts were rediscovered by the community, and, in addition to his teaching, he was asked to take direction of the school band: “I was given the band to direct and felt so helpless since I didn’t know anything about directing bands. I actually didn’t know the name of some of the instruments in front of me. So, I got some beginner books and spent almost every Saturday and Sunday learning and fingering the band instruments.”

The success of the band that first year was the beginning of many years of band direction, choruses and concerts in community schools, and it allowed Renatus to pursue a Master’s program in music that would take six summers to complete. In August 1952, Renatus was awarded a Master’s degree in Music from Vandercook College of Music, in Chicago, Illinois, and he began teaching at Vincentian Institute in Albany, New York. This assignment was to last seven years.

Under Renatus’ direction, Vincentian Institute’s music department achieved superior ratings in local and state concerts. “The annual concerts had a long tradition of being the event of the year. It brought together two choruses, a concert band, an orchestra, a swing band called ‘Red Jackets,’ as well as dancers – over 300 kids involved.”

On the occasion of his 70th anniversary of religious profession, Renatus received a congratulatory note from an alumnus of Vincentian Institute, one of his music students. The alumnus queried: “What has kept you going for all of these years?”

In a later reflection on his 70 years in Holy Cross, Renatus spoke of this note and observed: “I think I can answer that by recalling the enthusiasm and hard work of the students at that time, especially in producing some outstanding musical performances with the concert bands in all our schools. Quality music often brought high ratings in state contests.” It is interesting to note that Renatus gives all the credit to “the enthusiasm and hard work of the students.”

In 1955, Ren received a call that his mother was diagnosed with cancer and was in critical condition in the hospital. Religious life was still very much as it was in 1947 when his father died: “I was allowed to go home for a weekend (16 hour trip via train). I knew when I saw her, this maybe would be the last time. That parting was extremely difficult and I cried as I left her room and hurried down the corridor. It was three weeks to that day that she died.” Ren returned for her funeral. “As it was with my father, I had to leave from the cemetery to get a train back to Albany, New York. This time it was because of the annual concert, the extravaganza was to begin the next night and I was the only one to direct the concert with 300 kids involved. My heart was heavy but I did it.”

After seven years teaching music at Vincentian Institute, Renatus was assigned to teach at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, New York. “I went and found that my six years there were blessed with new experiences in dealing with a more sophisticated student body – more worldly wise. There was an overwhelming student body of a thousand boys. It was my introduction to the “Big Apple” with all its glitter and cosmopolitan spirit.”

After six years at Holy Cross High School, Renatus was assigned to Cardinal Mooney High School in Rochester, New York, once again appointed head of the Music Department. His superiors also appointed him assistant superior of the religious community and he served in these positions for three years. It was during this time that Ren got the news that his oldest sister had died. “I felt the loss severely and knew this would certainly end my relationship with my brother-in-law since he had been so anti-religious. And so it happened.”

In June 1968, Renatus received a telephone call from the Provincial informing him that he was appointed the religious superior of the community at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland. “I suggested to the Provincial that my great desire was to remain at Cardinal Mooney since things were going so well for me. But, he said this was an obedience and that I was to get down there and do the best I could. I went!”

The Second Vatican Council had ended three years earlier with a call for religious communities to update and renew, and these years were a time of great upheaval in the Church and Religious Life. Renatus found his years as religious superior “difficult.” He taught and directed the band and chorus for five years until his life took another significant turn.

In the summer of 1973, Brother Renatus accepted the position of Assistant Provincial of the Eastern Province of the Brothers of Holy Cross. He had no idea of the changes that were on the horizon for him.

At that time the provincial headquarters was in West Haven, Connecticut, but in 1974 the administration established temporary headquarters in a former convent in Riverside, Connecticut. As Assistant Provincial, Renatus was also the Director of Personnel for the Province, and in these roles he came to know the needs and hopes of his fellow religious. “I GREW through this experience.”

His genuine concern for his brothers and his gentle manner did not go unnoticed. In 1976 the Provincial Chapter elected Brother Renatus Provincial Superior. “I was overwhelmed by the support [of the Brothers] and truly scared. But somehow the Lord had been preparing me for the here and now. I continued for six years, at which time there was another election. I had been somewhat determined to remove my name from the list of possible candidates. However, my spiritual director kept saying, “don’t interfere with the work of the Holy Spirit.” So, after prayer and reflection I left my name on the list and was elected at the Chapter. This meant another three years. The nine years as Provincial at times were crucifying, but at the same time were blessed in many ways.”

During his years as Provincial, Renatus was known and greatly appreciated by his brothers for his gentle and caring ways, and his honesty and true sense of concern for each Brother.

In 1985, Renatus was given a year sabbatical. During that time he made a 30-day Ignatian retreat in Gloucester, MA. “It was truly a profound experience,” and changed the direction of his life.

In January 1986, Renatus began a six-month internship program in Spiritual Direction at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. “The program was truly a blessing, preparing me for the ministry of spiritual direction…in completing the program I was assigned to assist with our candidate program in the Bronx, New York. I remained there for two years.”

During this time, Renatus would periodically return, by invitation, to the Jesuit Center in Wernersville to assist with directed retreats. His gifts shone like the stars. In June of 1988, he “received an invitation to join the staff of the Spiritual Center at Wernersville, PA. This was a blessing and an opportunity to use the training I had received. I was asked to direct 8-day, 30-day and weekend retreats. Because of my musical background I became the director of liturgical music for the Center. It was truly a grace-filled time in accompanying so many people on their spiritual journey. Living with the Jesuits was also a grace in being so well-accepted as part of their community.”

Living at Wernersville allowed Renatus to frequently visit his sister, Alberta, who still lives not far in New Jersey. Together, they would join other seniors from her church and “take the bus to Atlantic City.” Gentleman that he was, he endeared himself to Alberta’s friends.

From June 1988 to August 2002, Brother Renatus served as spiritual director and companion to countless hundreds of people: priests, religious, bishops, single people, married couples, gay people, Catholics and non-Catholics. People would write or comment:

  • Brother Renatus is kind and a great listener. He knows the scriptures. Renatus is a blessing.
  • May he continue to be the great musician and retreat director that he is.
  • Please continue your fine ministry of direction.
  • Brother Renatus is a patient listener with a deep understanding of religious life and an opening to the Spirit in direction.
  • Renatus is an excellent listener, very balanced and sensible in his approach, full of wisdom. He is skilled and experienced as a director.

Not enamored of praise, Renatus knew the real source of his gifts: “One plants. Another waters. But only God gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3: 7-9).

In August 2002, Brother Renatus decided to retire to the Brothers community at St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York. However, he kept active as a “visiting director” at Wernersville, directing four or five retreats each year – and arranging the music for liturgy and prayer while he was there! Additionally, many who had him as a retreat director made the trip to Valatie for annual retreats under his guidance. Being the accomplished musician that he was, Renatus continued to play the organ at St. Joseph Center, enhancing and enriching the prayer and Eucharistic liturgies of the community, until he was 92, when his health limited his abilities. Nevertheless, in a reflection he shared with the Brothers several years ago, Renatus said this: “Whether you are 70, 80 or 90, for those who love life there exists in our hearts the thrill of a new challenge and the insatiable appetite for what is coming next.” What was coming next was not so easy.

The final years of his life, the threshold of eternal life, were a struggle for him. “Letting go” is not easy for most, but in the end he was able to pray confidently and peacefully the prayer (Suscipe) of St. Ignatius he so often asked his retreatants to pray:

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.”

Arnold Richard Foldenauer (Brother Renatus) lived his life courageously, selflessly and humbly. May he rejoice in the arms of our God whom he so faithfully served.

Obituary by Brother John Gleason, CSC

One Song Alone

Welcome! I welcome all of you – family, friends, members of the Congregation– today to St. Joseph’s Center for the funeral of our brother, Renatus. On behalf of the Congregation of Holy Cross and especially the Moreau Province, I offer you our deepest sympathy on this great loss for all of us. I am especially mindful of Ren’s sister Alberta who is not able to be here with us today. I offer to her, his nephews, grandnephew and grandniece, Chuck, Randy, Richard, Shawn and Kimberly Hyska our sympathy and our prayers and the assurance of our love and support. Because of our faith, we know that the God of all consolation embraces us all and gives us comfort. Renatus rests in the loving embrace of the God he loved so deeply and served faithfully with all his heart.

There are many facets of the life of Renatus. They are beautiful and all shine brilliantly.

There is music, the priority of discernment, to minister with zeal, to listen with the heart, a profound faith, to be welcoming and to greet with great openness, to work and live with determination and strength, and most of all, to live the Gospel of Jesus. And this last of all binds Ren’s life together. I am sure that Renatus would echo these words of Blessed Pope Paul VI: “Not to preach the Gospel would be my undoing, for Christ himself sent me as his apostle and witness. The more remote, the more difficult the assignment, the more my love of God spurs me on. I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Homily)

There is first of all music: a note, a melody, a song, a band. It was the thread of grace that wove throughout his life. It linked and tied together the events and moments of his life and ministry. It wasn’t just about the melody or tone, but its exquisite and simple beauty rested in the fact that it was a ministry, a calling, a way to love, praise and serve God. Jessica Powers, a Carmelite poet, reflects on such a happy and blessed life in her poem, The Will of God:

Time has one song alone. If you are heedful
And concentrate on sound with all your soul,
You may hear the song of the beautiful will of God,
Soft notes or deep sonorous tones that roll
Like thunder over time.
Not many have the hearing for this music,
And fewer still have sought it as sublime.

Listen, and tell your grief. But God is singing!
God sings through all creation with His will.
Save the negation of sin, all is His music,
Even the notes that set their roots in ill
To flower in pity, pardon or sweet humbling.
Evil finds harshness of the rack and rod
In tunes where good finds tenderness and glory.

The saints who loved have died of this pure music,
And no one enters heaven till he learns,
Deep in his soul at last, to sing with God.

Renatus was “heedful” and quite naturally, it seems, “concentrated on the sounds with his whole soul.” Many of us here first met Ren through music, either as a teacher or here in Valatie in that old farmhouse that once stood along Route 9. He taught us how to sing and to chant the office. We sang: One…three…five…eight…seven, eight, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one! We sang those numbers in a variety of keys to warm up those adolescent voices. They were then followed by Mum, mu-mum, mum, mum, with reminders to keep “that nice resonant M” at the end. He was a saint to take a very raw group of 17 and 18 year olds for the most part, of varying degrees of musical talents and interest, some with great musical ears, and others whose ears can perhaps most kindly be described as tin, and made us sound halfway decent. But there was more to it than that. He taught us to be heedful, to concentrate on the sounds with all our soul, to “hear the beautiful song of the will of God.”

In my mind, he gave the former Eastern Province of Brothers the gift of music, and not only during the postulate summers, but in the numbers of young men in his bands who entered the Congregation because of his warmth, kindness, and example and, yes, his heedfulness of that beautiful song of the will of God. And many tried to emulate him and replicate the miracles in many schools and in the community.

Renatus heard this song early on, but perhaps did not perceive the depth of the gift. As he grew older, and experienced the joys and sorrows that filled his life, as they fill ours, this gift formed in him a desire to seek God’s will, to discern, to see God in all things.

His time as Provincial was a crucible for him by his own admission, and it cost him greatly because he was kind and gentle, encouraging and supportive, welcoming and loving, and challenging.  He was never harsh.  And this experience eventually drew him to Wernersville, where he became a popular and highly regarded retreat director and spiritual director.

Through Ren’s own goodness, he listened and heard the love of God singing in the pain and sorrow, in the grief and joy, in those whom God sent to him at their most vulnerable.  He led his directees to hear the song of the will of God in their lives and listen with heart and soul.  He welcomed them all with his warmth, his goodness, his openness.  These searching souls knew God’s love and, with Renatus, they listened to God singing.  “God sings through all creation with His will.”

The saints who loved have died of this pure music,
And no one enters heaven till he learns,
Deep in his soul at last, to sing with God.

Yes, Renatus knew this pure music and never pushed it away or shut it out. I remember seeing him several months ago and nodded my head in wonder and amazement, but with no surprise, as he insisted on being present for community prayer and Mass. Some would say he was stubbornly insistent. He valued responsibility and obligation and never treated either lightly. He loved and died of this pure music and now “sings with God.”

We are grateful for the presence of Renatus in our lives, for his example, for his gentle encouragement, for his endless zeal, for never losing hope, for his strength in his response. I am certain he is praying for all of us and has brought all of us, in our strength and weakness, to the God he knew well and loved.  He intercedes that we too learn the beauty of being heedful and of “concentrating on the sound with our souls” so that we are blessed with what we need.  We commend to our loving God, an admired and beloved brother of the Congregation who touched the hearts of many.  We give thanks to God for that gift.  And as religious of Holy Cross we all pray, Ave Crux, Spes Unica.  Hail the Cross, our Only Hope.

Eulogy by Brother Thomas A. Dziekan, CSC, Provincial
St. Joseph Center Chapel, Valatie, NY
July 11, 2018

May the Angels…

I am saddened whenever I get an email about the passing of a CSC confrère, some of whom I have lived with when I was in Holy Cross. However, the passing of Brother Renatus has struck a special note of sadness, and I would like to share some thoughts.

I first met Brother Renatus in June of 1963 when I entered the postulancy at Valatie. Learning that I was a pianist, he immediately asked me to accompany rehearsals of chant and hymn singing. There was an old upright piano in the rec room, a room that also had a ping-pong table. Some of the choir rehearsals were there. Other rehearsals were in the classroom, which housed an antique pump organ. It had two foot pedals to pump air into the bellows to get continuous sound as one played the keyboard–a bit of a workout.

taught me to play the small electric organ in the chapel to accompany Masses and other services. With that instruction, I was able to continue playing organ, and I accompanied chant and hymns at the novitiate under the direction of Brother Peter Goodman. The organ at the novitiate was larger and much more sophisticated, full foot pedals, etc., and, though my playing was adequate for the needs, I never gained much skill when it came to the art of pedaling. He, on the other hand, was an organist!

Almost immediately upon arrival at the postulancy, I was concerned about piano practicing. I must have confided this concern to him, since he became my advocate, requesting of the Superior, the stern Brother Matthew Gara, that I be permitted to practice a few hours a week, according to canonical restrictions, on the upright piano in the rec room. The permission was granted.

After my BA from Notre Dame in June 1968, where I too could not major in music, as it was not considered a teaching area, I too was assigned to Monsignor Coyle High School to teach French and to be band director. Like Brother Renatus, I was not familiar at first with all the band instruments. I certainly knew the instruments of the orchestra, but what was a mellophone!?

Brother Renatus was band director at Bishop McNamara High School part of the time that he was there, and in 1973, when he was appointed Assistant Provincial, I was assigned to Bishop McNamara High School, to teach French and be music director. I recall consulting with him the summer before my arrival at Forestville about the band program at McNamara. He was quite adamant about (against) marching bands, and so I did not inherit a marching band at McNamara, but a wonderful concert band, the members of which had been exposed to high quality band music. I inherited an ensemble of very high quality students, who had been taught by a master musician.

I am blessed to have known him. May all the choruses and musicians of heaven greet him with sounds of joy, and I hope that his funeral liturgy will include the singing of this most appropriate chant: In paradísum dedúcant te Angeli…

Reflection sent by Joseph Santo
July 1, 2018

Brother Renatus Foldenauer, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1947-1952 Teacher, Msgr. Coyle HS, Taunton, MA
  • 1952-1959 Teacher, Music Director, Vincentian Institute, Albany, NY
  • 1959-1965 Teacher, Holy Cross HS, Flushing, NY
  • 1965-1968 Teacher, Cardinal Mooney HS, Rochester, NY
  • 1968-1973 Teacher, Superior Bishop McNamara HS, Forestville, MD
  • 1973-1976 Assistant Provincial, West Haven, CT
  • 1976-1985 Provincial Superior, Riverside, CT / New Rochelle, NY
  • 1986-1988 Candidate Team, Lorillard Place, Bronx, NY
  • 1988-2002 Director of Retreats, Staff Jesuit Center, Wernersville, PA
  • 2002-2018 Resident, St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY