Cambridge-Brother John Hoffman passed away on Thursday, Jan 9, 2020, after a long illness. He was born Glenn Hoffman in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, on April 25, 1944, the son of Glenn and Mary Hoffman. He is survived by a sister-in-law Provina Hoffman, a niece Diane, several cousins, and his monastic brothers and sisters at New Skete.
Brother John was born towards the end of World War II and his family lived in Arkansas and Pennsylvania during his early years. He was attracted to religious life from a young age, attending high school with the Franciscans in Sybertsville, PA, and Lowell, MA. He entered religious life formally in 1962 at Holy Dormition Monastery with the Byzantine Rite Franciscans, making his simple profession of vows in 1963. After studying for a time at Immaculate Conception College of Philosophy in Troy, N.Y., Brother John decided his vocation was as a Franciscan brother rather than cleric. In 1966 he was part of the original group of brothers that founded The Monks of the Brotherhood of St. Francis (later known as The Monks of New Skete). As a monk of New Skete in Cambridge, NY, Brother John took care of the goats (some from Robert Frost’s herd), helped with cooking, did carpentry work, helped with farming, and then gradually transferred his energies to the monastery German Shepherd breeding program. He remained closely involved with this the rest of his life. Brother John had a passion for dogs and a very good eye for evaluating gait and structure, and over the years he took care of many of our male breeding shepherds.
Above all Brother John had a passion for monastic life. He loved reading scripture (especially the Psalms), loved the services, and had a very down to earth spirituality. He was able to sniff out phoniness and could be disconcertingly direct, but with love. And yet, silence, prayer, and spiritual reading were at the heart of his life. He never saw himself as an intellectual, yet his remarks were always perceptive in community discussions and sharings. He loved people, and was always interested in the lives of those who visited us as retreatants. We often joked that John would know their family history within one conversation at dinner, but no one ever doubted his kindness and compassion. His tolerance and patience regarding his own chronic physical pain gave him an instinctive ability to empathize with the suffering of others. Finally, how he handled the final year of his life when he was forced to live apart from the community was a testament of faith and grace. May his memory be eternal!
Viewing will be on Tuesday Jan 14 in New Skete Holy Wisdom Church, 273 New Skete Lane, Cambridge from 5-7 pm, followed by the vigil service from 7-8 pm. The funeral will take place the following morning, Jan 15 at 10 am and burial will follow in the New Skete Cemetery. A brunch will follow the service in the monastery refectory.
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