April 5, 2013

Bro. Norb Karpfinger was the subject of a profile that appeared recently in The New York Times. “Letter by Letter, Keeping a Catholic Outpost Alive,” by Samuel G. Freedman, tells of Bro. Norb’s decades-long dedication to the Catholic Daycare Center in East St. Louis, Ill.

Bro. Norb, 80, has been a vowed Marianist for 62 years. He served as a teacher, coach and administrator at schools in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and East St. Louis until he turned 65 and began ministry with the Catholic Daycare Center there.

Bro. Norb hand-writes an average of 600 letters per year – on a clipboard he’s used since 1955 – seeking donations in support of the center’s efforts.

“The center is one of the handful of outposts of the Roman Catholic Church left in the city, where Catholic social teaching about service and the preferential option for the poor can still be enacted. That center was the subject every time Brother Norbert set pen to paper,” said the article. His queries generate about one-fifth of the center’s budget, enough money to fund tuition for several children.

Bro. Norb has already received donations resulting from the story. A few days after it was published, a man from North Carolina who was visiting St. Louis drove to East St. Louis to personally deliver a donation.

“Bro. Norb is a stellar witness of our Marianist call to advance justice in our world today. As he lives and works in solidarity with the poor and marginalized of East St. Louis, he is proof that the Marianist charism is alive and well,” said Brian Reavey, Province assistant for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. “Bro. Norb embodies our founders’ mission of building a community of communities to change the world.”

The article concludes, “At the pinnacle of the Catholic Church, a new pope has now been installed and has spoken of serving ‘the poorest, the weakest, the least important.’ At a table in a convent, beside a vacant lot on a potholed street, Brother Norbert has more letters to write.”

Read a story about Bro. Norb that aired on KMOX Radio as a result of The New York Times article.

Bro. Norb Karpfinger in front of the Catholic Daycare Center in East St. Louis, Ill. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat of The New York Times
Bro. Norb writes letters to raise money for the center. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat of The New York Times


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