Father Angelo Bertini settles into retired life

By Kira Ciupek
Correspondent

He may appear quiet and unassuming, but once you get to know him, you soon discover that Father Angelo Bertini has a depth of wit and wisdom that is inspiring. Since 2006, Father Bertini served as chaplain at Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center in Belton; he retired on July 1. He is an avid reader of the classics, a former pianist for the Army, and a gourmet cook whose recipes could win awards. He is also considered a good friend and a wonderful chaplain.
“Father Angelo, for me, has been a real beacon of light,” said Beverly Collin, assistant director of Cedarbrake. “Working in the church can be challenging from time to time. He’s the one who brings the perspective back. He’s the one I can talk to and resolve whatever difficulties I am facing.”
For the last nine years, a typical morning at Cedarbrake for Father Bertini has begun with fellowship. To start the day, the spry priest in his baseball cap and casual clothing would meander over the grounds on his way to visit the office staff.
“Generally he came in every morning to check mail and catch up. And we’d talk about what he cooked for dinner last night, about the recipe, and how he changed it up. He brought in cupcakes that could win prizes, in my opinion,” Collin said.
Abby Jimenez, who has served as the Cedarbrake office manager for 24 years, already misses his laughter.
“He has a sense of humor you can’t imagine. Every day he comes in and says, ‘You know what today is?’ And then he’ll say something crazy like ‘its yellow sock day.’ He makes us laugh all the time,” she said.
Donna Luene, the administrative assistant, concurs. 
“He is so witty. He comes and visits every morning and afternoon and he just makes my day,” she said.
Father Bertini and his twin brother, John, were born in 1936 in Galveston, to Italian-born parents, Mario and Catherine, who also had a daughter, Mary Ann. Following graduation from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, in 1958, Father Bertini was drafted into the Army where he spent two years in Germany as an accompanist for the 3rd Infantry Division Glee Club. From 1961 to 1964 he worked as a chemist for several Texas companies before entering Assumption Seminary in San Antonio.
“Everything that I had learned as a child about Catholicism and Scripture all began to make imminent sense in seminary,” Father Bertini said. “People have different views of God and the church and Scripture. The important thing to remember is that pastoral care is the essence of the church — being able to help people understand their relationship not only to the church but to each other and to God, and their inherent worth in God’s eyes, no matter what … I was hoping to convey that, not just through teaching, but through living.”
Father Bertini’s vocation as a parish priest has spanned over four decades and included parishes in Waco, College Station, Burlington and McGregor. Since coming to Cedarbrake in 2006, Father Bertini has witnessed its incredible growth, as the retreat area has doubled in size, and expanded to include Driscoll Hall and Theresa of Avila House. As Cedarbrake chaplain, Father Bertini celebrated an average of seven weekly Masses, led various Scripture retreats, offered the sacrament of reconciliation, and gave spiritual direction. In spite of his busyness, he says it is the peaceful, wooded surroundings that offered him the most conducive environment for reflection and prayer. 
“When I came to Cedarbrake, it made me slow down from this hectic parish life. It calmed me down and gave me time to think and pray, and to especially help people with their understanding of Scripture,” he said.
Frances Essig, who attends retreats at Cedarbrake quite ofent, credits Father Bertini for illuminating the historical and social context of Biblical passages for her. 
“He tells you what you may not have learned before,” she said. 
Brian Egan, the director of Cedarbrake, said Father Bertini “prepares his homilies like a well-cooked meal.”
Father Bertini’s devotion to Scripture, his dry sense of humor, and his deep love for people inspire both the staff and the visitors of Cedarbrake and the greater community, Egan said.
“He doesn’t just serve Cedarbrake — he serves the community. When they can’t reach another priest, they call him, and he goes,” Egan said.
Father Bertini said his retirement has opened a new phase of ministry. He plans to continue helping parishes in the area by providing pastoral care when needed, as he is able. Yet, he said he will miss the friends he has made during his time as Cedarbrake chaplain.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “It’s a really great place to be and work. My time here has been helped immensely by the staff … Their kindness and understanding have made my time here extremely pleasant, invigorating and encouraging.”
Father Joseph Nisari is the new chaplain at Cedarbrake.
“We all walk by faith,” Egan said. “We’ve been blessed by Father Angelo. We look forward to the same relationship with Father Nisari.”