In Memoriam: Brother Cosmas Rubencamp, CFX 1932-2017

Brother Cosmas Rubencamp

Brother Cosmas was born to Elizabeth and Harry Rubencamp in Manhattan on October 27, 1932. He grew up on Central Park West and attended various primary and elementary schools including St. Walburga's Academy, St. Catherine of Siena and Holy Name Schools before entering Cardinal Hayes High School for the 9th grade at the Good Counsel Annex in the Bronx. Cosmas then finished his high school years at St. Joseph Juniorate in Peabody, Massachusetts. He entered Sacred Heart Novitiate in Fort Monroe, Virginia in 1950. Cosmas earned his BA at Catholic University. His first teaching assignment was at John Bapst High School in Bangor, Maine (1956- 1958); he then served at Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Maryland from 1958 to1961. Cosmas taught high school Latin. From 1961-1968 he taught theology at Xaverian College, Silver Spring, Maryland while earning his doctorate at Georgetown University where he taught from 1969-1971. Cosmas is survived by two sisters. Elizabeth Rubencamp Rapa and Susan Rubencamp Gilmore.

In December 1955 Brother Cosmas wrote to the then Provincial, Brother William Sheehan, "I hope I have lived faithfully the life of a professed Xaverian Brother. I feel that I have experienced something of the challenge and also the joy that the Lord sees fit to give us in His service. I feel I can persevere as a Xaverian until death. Therefore I ask respectfully permission to make profession for life on March 19."

Cosmas has fulfilled this commitment made 62 years ago. He kept his word and promises " to Christ the poor man," ever reaching out to those on the periphery. Now Cosmas enjoys eternal life, the eternal love of God. As I remember Cos, three images come to mind: the theology room in Edmund Hall at college; a chapel scene at a province assembly; the plaza to the side of the Cathedral in Hinche, Haiti.

As a theology teacher Cos was most knowledgeable and thoroughly prepared. I greatly benefitted from his 'reading lists' for the various themes in systematic theology. He was years ahead of the Church in his choice of theologians. His presentations were methodical but not often enthusiastic. He could take ribbing. I can remember his classic pointing both hands in the form of a pistol to acknowledge whoever had a question or comment. At times the wags in the class would imitate him and shoot back. His humor took no offense. Cos developed a very positive relationship with us his students.

My second image goes back to a province assembly. The topic was about how we are called to bring Christ to others. Cosmas led a prayer service at which he asked us to form a circle, to shut our eyes, to stand in silence and then to open our eyes and look in silence at the crucifix and bible. Still in silence, he had us turn outward, shut our eyes again, and this time to hold each other's hands. The point of the silent prayer/reflection was to emphasize that we need to look internally to meet God, but we equally need to turn to the world to experience the same solidarity Christ did with those in need. In doing so we need each other. It was a simple exercise that taught me much about our mission as a community.

The third image is with Cosmas in Haiti. He led Matthew, Richard Angarola, Sister Mary Ann, Dr. Steve Savage from Louisville and me to Hinche where after Mass on Sunday about one hundred people surrounded us. They were there because of their friend Cosmas who was bringing them letters from family members and friends in the States, and donations from the diocese of Richmond. You could see the joy on Cosmas' face. In his own words, "Haiti may not be better off, but we are from the twinning process. It really is a mutual relationship. Haiti certainly has done a lot for me." (Connections, the Newsletter of Catholic Young Adults, Fall, 2002).

In 1971 Cosmas brought the Xaverian mission to "manifest the compassionate love of God" beyond our traditional school ministries. At the invitation of Fr. William La Fratta, Cosmas went to minister in the Diocese of Richmond. He worked in campus ministry in the Newman Center. He developed the Encounter with Christ program for college age students. His presentation was always on God's Friendship. The college age students who worked the Encounter would rib that the talk was the exact same one he had given them including the jokes!

People who knew Cosmas in Richmond are "quick to say that he touched their lives in a way that is profound and lasting."(Connections, Fall, 2002) Cosmas' sense of mission also led him to begin the diocese of Richmond's Twinning Program with Haiti. Cosmas encouraged Brother Matthew, then provincial, to establish the Xaverian Brothers in Haiti. Cos introduced many Xaverians and lay teachers to the extreme poverty, the many sacrifices and the ever present joy of the Haitian people.

Cosmas' hidden gift was his courage. He spearheaded the first diocesan ministry to gays and lesbians in all of the United States at a time when doing so was very difficult. He also started a ministry to help people with HIV/AIDS. Again at the time this ministry was not well accepted or understood.

There is no doubt that in his quiet, steadfast, gentle way Cosmas had the strength of faith that prepared him to persevere as a Xaverian until death. During a recent visit to Xaverian House I had the privilege of talking to Cos about his death. He said in his own inimitable way, "I am ready."

Today we thank our Brother Cosmas for being an example of living the Xaverian charism through a humble understand of the call to embrace the mission of Christ "over the course of his lifetime thus allowing God to gradually convert him." (FP) Cosmas expressed to Brother William Sheehan the same feelings about God's service. "I feel that I have experienced something of the challenge and also the joy that the Lord sees fit to give us in His service. I feel I can persevere as a Xaverian until death. Therefore I ask respectfully permission to make profession for life on March 19." Cos, we are all enriched because you did. May you enjoy eternal life. 

In the Risen Lord,

Brother Edward Driscoll, C.F.X. General Superior