Our dear friend, Bryn Catherall, passed away on November 18th, leaving a legacy of friendship, compassion and hospitality to so many of us here at St. Augustine's and in Marpole. In this time of COVID where we cannot gather to celebrate his life and say good-bye, we have shared our thoughts and memories here.
When I was ordained Deacon in 2010, I took a vow to “make Christ’s love known, by word and example, to those among whom I live, work and worship and to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely” (from the Anglican service “Ordination of a Deacon”). It is a vow I continue to embrace. As I got to know Bryn and be around him either at church or the community meals I began to see a young man who exemplified the practice of Christian hospitality and service to others in ways that, for me, modeled my diaconal vow. He was kind, non-judgmental, caring and had an infectious laugh and great wit. He was incredibly loyal to his friends and everyone seemed to really like Bryn. We shared some great conversations.
This all came home for me even more after hearing the heartbreaking news of Bryn’s death on November 18. I thought about how he was the face of Jesus Christ to so many in our church and in the neighbourhood; he was Christ in his compassion, his actions, and his words. And what struck me was that I don’t think he ever saw himself as that and, if I was to tell him, he would likely have dismissed the idea. On Sunday, November 22, as I prepared to read aloud the Gospel passage for the day during our service, I was profoundly struck at how the passage described Bryn. He demonstrated the heart of Jesus’ message to his disciples. The text is from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25, verses 31-46 and is Jesus’ words to his disciples about what it means to enter into the Kingdom of God. I want to share with you the part of the text that deeply touched me:
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me’. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ “(Verses 34-40)
Bryn modeled for me this Gospel passage as he lived out a deacon’s ministry in the world. He sought out and cared for the least, the lost and the lonely. He was the face of Christ to all whom he encountered. I will be forever grateful his example to me and for the friendship we shared. I miss him very, very much.
“I remember Bryn with a great smile whenever I see him when I do my walking by the park and he tells me to enjoy the day in very positive way. Sometimes when I do my reading (at church service) he always says ‘thank you’. Such a wonderful guy.” ~Delma
I got to know Bryn through the sandwich ministry. Once we got to know each other, he would always ask me how things were going at work and let me know how important teachers are - it always gave me a boost. He would also always ask for a separate bag of veggies for a friend who couldn't eat the sandwiches; he never forgot to ask for her and he always said a big thank you to us, just for packing a baggie of vegetables! He was such a good friend to everyone - he helped people with everything, and did so with such respect and never even a hint of talking down to anyone. He was the same with everybody - authentic, real, down-to-earth, respectful - it didn't matter who you were, and he was always mindful of everyone's needs and feelings. There was openness and vulnerability in Bryn, as well as a kindness and acceptance that I've met in very few people. I liked him very much and admired him immensely.” ~ Diane
“Bryn was taken from us much too soon. I feel honoured to have received his loving hugs & happy smiles. I bumped into him one day in Save-On and he was so excited to introduce me to his father—- they were shopping together. Our Bryn will be sadly missed but never forgotten. I have another Angel watching over me.” ~Noelle
“Every time I read something about Bryn I start to cry. We worked a couple of times together setting up the Thursday dinner and he would say, ‘just follow me as I have done this so many times’. So, I would take direction from him and he would kindly tell me if I did not do it right. And, then he’d say, ‘I hope you are okay with me correcting you’. He also was a great help setting up and serving at our fundraising events at Church and was so happy to help. He would always stop me on Granville St. and say hello and greeted my dog ELLA with much love. Then he would talk about his cat. We are thankful that Bryn was a part of our Church and meal program life. He will be missed by us at Church and the Community. May he rest in peace.” ~Betty
“I knew Bryn in the church when he came for services and he always had a warm smile.” ~Joan
“Bryn gave so very much- way more than we could ask for or imagine- for our little community of St. A’s. I loved him deeply. He was so amazingly perceptive and went that extra few meters of reaching out to identify someone hurting and supported them whenever he could. His sense of humour and love of fun were infectious! He loved a good joke and his laughter and fun just made such a huge difference to me and I know many others involved in the community meal program. I have seldom known a millennial of such commitment and reliability. He took the job of setting up the hall for the community meal EVERY Thursday and was there at least by 4:00 pm pulling friends along with him whenever possible. Bryn left this world a better place because he cared and did something with that ‘care’. Bryn will live in my heart for a very long time.” ~Gwen
“Bryn was an awesome guy! Everybody loved him!” ~Linda
“I am so sorry to hear about Bryn, he was a very warm and helpful person. We valued his presence very much at St. Augustine’s church. We will miss Bryn very much and he and his family are in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.” ~Sherry
“If I recall, it was our outreach programs that brought Bryn to us. I know it was something he was very passionate about.” ~Sarah
“Bryn always acted upon his faith. Bryn brought me two days worth of food when my landlord gave me the wrong new front door key. I asked him for help and he was at my door in 20 minutes! I will never forget Bryn. I have a little shrine for him in my home. Death ends this life but the relationships carry on.” ~Gwendolyn
“As a young adult, puzzling over how to live a Christian life, I was taught the verse from Micah 6:8, “…And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” In Bryn we had an example of that person – treating all he met with compassion and kindness, working for justice and always speaking and acting with humility. I recall Bryn’s baptism at St. Augustine’s. Rev. Andrew told us that Bryn had doubted he was qualified to be baptized. Andrew shared with the congregation how Bryn approached his work with the Thursday evening community, and reminded all of us, and Bryn, that in his acts and words Bryn truly lived out his role as part of Jesus’ body on earth. Personally and most recently Bryn took the time to commend to me how my youngest child, Evie, and their partner, Toni, had conducted themselves while volunteering on Thursday nights and asked me to be sure to convey his encouragement and appreciation to them. Bryn was always on the lookout to encourage and uplift, while remaining so honest about the realities of a life where great courage was needed to manage mental health issues.” ~Meredith
“I would go for walks with Bryn during the week. We started going for daily walks since the lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic. We would hang out at his place sometimes after the walks. He was always a supportive friend who I will miss deeply.” ~Mike
“He was the face of Christ to so many, including me.” ~Rev Andrew
“My heart is heavy with grief. Bryn was such a gift to the community of Marpole and St. A’s. His love was wide and genuine. He cared for people in such a kind and non-judgmental way. His faithfulness, friendliness and compassion have made such an impact on so many”. ~Rev. Sharon
Bryn, we at St. A's are so much richer for having had you in our lives. We miss you. We thank you.