Twin Friars Who Died On Same Day Reflected 'Good Side Of Humanity'

Jun 15, 2011

Word seems to have spread around the world about the 92-year-old identical twins who died within hours of each other after spending nearly their entire lives as Franciscan friars.

Starting with a Buffalo News story on June 3 and leading on to a New York Times report this week, something about the story of Brother Julian and Brother Adrian — the Riester twins — has touched many, judging from the interest on websites around the world.

They did have remarkable lives. The News started its story about the brothers' unique tale this way:

"From the moment of their birth in Buffalo 92 years ago, twin brothers Julian and Adrian Riester rarely left each other's side. They played together, went to school together, as young men traveled cross-country together — and, in their 20s, joined the Franciscan order together.

"And on Wednesday [June 1], after 65 years as identical twins wearing the identical brown robes of the Franciscans — mostly at St. Bonaventure University — Brother Julian Riester and Brother Adrian Riester died together at St. Anthony Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. Julian died Wednesday morning, followed by Adrian in the evening."

The Times, which says the attention being paid to the brothers' deaths has stunned officials at St. Bonaventure, expands on the news by exploring the "rather un-Franciscan caste system," that the Riesters entered when they were in their '20s, "with priests the well-educated elite, often working with books, and the lay brothers the less educated support staff, often working with livestock."

And, according to the Times:

"Together, they attended to the menial so that their fellow friars could focus on the cerebral. Brother Julian became the sacristan, maintaining the chapel, and Brother Adrian became the chauffeur, but they also built the bookshelves and maintained the garden and cleared the growth from the shrines in the woods — and rarely spoke unless invited."

At St. Bonaventure, in western New York state, officials think the brothers' story of devotion and sacrifice, and their deaths within hours of each other, just speaks to many people.

"For a few days," the Rev. John O'Connor said at the funeral service for the friars, people who have followed the story "had the chance to read about the good side of humanity."

H/T to brother (not "Brother") Jim Memmott.

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