On Dec. 21, 2023, as the time of Advent was drawing to a close, Br. Gerald Grantner’s, OFM, own season of waiting for the coming of Christ came to a peaceful end at San Juan Diego Friary in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His most recent struggle with cancer was one that Br. Gerry faced with quiet acceptance. A poem he wrote some years ago, titled “Compassion,” describes what his brothers witnessed in Br. Gerry’s final months: “From immersion/To emerging/Contemplation/Love overflowing/Self emptying/Empty of Self.”
Br. Gerry was born on July 11, 1947, the son of the late Martin Grantner and Mary Cassidy, in Evergreen Park, Illinois. He was one of six children, with one brother and four sisters. He attended a vocational school in Chicago.
Prior to joining the Franciscans, Br. Gerry was drafted into the service during the Vietnam War. Not wanting to join the Army (“I didn't want to kill people!” he told the friars’ newsletter years later), he enlisted in the Air Force for four years. He was stationed for a year in Thailand as a member of a ground crew. There, he was exposed to Buddhist philosophy and theology. After leaving the Air Force, Br. Gerry worked awhile in a factory and took philosophy classes during the evenings. He began to feel stirrings of a religious vocation, and in 1975, entered the Franciscan Brothers School at Mt. Airy, Cincinnati, at the age of 28.
Br. Gerry made his first profession in 1979, as a member of the legacy Province of Saint John the Baptist, and was assigned to St. Michaels Mission, Arizona, center for the friars’ work among the Navajo People. There, Br. Gerry began what would become a Franciscan life devoted primarily to “internal ministry,” serving his brothers in various capacities. Adept at administrative work, he was bookkeeper at St. Michaels for seven years. But realizing that he was missing a deeper dimension in his life, he applied for work in the province’s formation program.
“'I was like a pendulum,” Br. Gerry observed later. “I would want quiet, bookkeeping type work for a while, then I would want a deeper relationship with people.” This impulse led him to request work in formation, serving in the pre-novitiate program on several occasions, as well as caring for senior friars.
When the pendulum swung again, Br. Gerry became the archivist of the new province in 1993. His file attests to his meticulous work in preserving the legacy of the friars in the Southwest. He catalogued thousands of items, including rare and fragile glass plate negatives documenting the work of the early friar-missionaries, safeguarding these images for future generations.
In 1987, Br. Gerry contracted lymphoma cancer. Surgery left him cancer-free for the following decades, until its recurrence years later. By his own testimony then and in recent months, his contemplative life was where he drew strength to face illness. The same inner life helped him address other difficulties he would face. As a Provincial Minister wrote to him in 2013, “your struggles…to understand and bring healing to your physical and emotional difficulties has made you a stronger and wiser friar.”
Br. Gerry’s life and gifts are best attested to by the Provincial Ministers who knew him over the years. When the legacy province of Our Lady of Guadalupe was formed in 1985, Br. Gerry asked to join. Then-Provincial Minister of St. John the Baptist Province, Br. Jeremy Harrington, OFM, wrote to him: “You have given yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord and have given witness to what it means to live the Gospel. You have been very responsible in your ministry and have served your brothers well.”
Br. Larry Dunham, OFM, Provincial Minister from 2000-2009, recalled recently, “Gerald Grantner was a gentle friar. He was reserved and quiet (generally) but loved a good laugh. Gerry’s spirituality was profound, and he was also blessed with brilliance and insightfulness. I laid some tough assignments on him, and his response was always a gracious and humble ‘yes.’ This man was a true Friar Minor.”
Br. Gino Correa, OFM, Provincial Minister from 2009-2014, wrote to Br. Gerry regarding his service to the senior friars of the province: “Your care and concern are evident. You care without being overbearing or controlling. You are obviously respected and well-liked by the men and that is the most important thing.”
Those qualities attest to what Br. Gerry himself strove to achieve, as he wrote in his poem, “Compassion:” “Heart of passion/Living compassion/Embrace of the whole.”
The friars will receive Br. Gerry’s body at San Juan Diego Friary, Albuquerque, at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 10. The Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11:00 a.m., with Provincial Councilor Br. Rommel Pérez Flores, OFM, presiding. Interment will be at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Albuquerque, in the friars’ plot.