Br. Martin Haberman, OSB, enters eternal rest

At 3:00 p.m. on Holy Saturday 16 April 2022, in the midst of the serene and hope-filled anticipation that belongs especially to that day, our beloved confrere, Brother Martin Haberman, OSB strengthened by the prayers of his brother monks, passed into the peace of heaven, where earthly hope is fulfilled in eternal joy. Br. Martin had come to Conception Abbey from St. Benedict’s Abbey in Benet Lake WI, when the latter community was reunited to Conception Abbey in 2016. His death came only a single day after the passing of Fr. Kevin Murphy, another Benet Lake monk who had come to live at Conception. Br. Martin had resided in St. Stephen’s Infirmary at Conception since his arrival from Benet Lake. 

Robert Haberman was born on 27 April 1930 in Milwaukee WI, the second son of Frederick and Cora (née Miller) Haberman. His parents had met when both were employed as tellers at the First Wisconsin Bank in Milwaukee. A sister was born to the family when Robert was 13. The family belonged to St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Milwaukee, where Robert attended parochial grade school. Even at that age, he began to entertain ideas about a religious calling, and specifically about monastic life. With youthful zeal, he formed the hope of becoming a Trappist. His mother, however, had doubts about the rigors of the Trappist life for her son and encouraged him to consider other options by sending him to the Carmelite high school at Holy Hill. After reading an article in the Milwaukee paper about the founding of St. Benedict Abbey at Benet Lake, however, Robert decided to enter that community, founded by Prior Richard Felix in 1945. He professed first vows on 15 January 1950, receiving the name Martin. 

In a vowed life of more than seven decades’ duration, Br. Martin held many community responsibilities. He had witnessed the construction of the new monastery at Benet Lake in 1951, and held many assignments through the years. He was cook for the community from 1951–60, though he had had no previous experience in running a kitchen. When the community also acquired some beef cattle, being cook came to include acting as butcher as well. Undertaking meat preparation while still tasked with management of the kitchen proved beyond his capabilities, however, and he admitted quite frankly that acting as cook was not his favorite assignment. He was made dairy manager from 1960–66; despite having been born and bred in the city, Br. Martin proved himself quite capable in the dairy, increasing the herd’s milk production over his years of service. Fulfilling this duty became, in his recollection, his most rewarding assignment.

With the changes in monastic living that came about through the Second Vatican Council, however, Br. Martin was replaced as manager of the dairy by a lay employee so that he could attend the regular Office with the rest of the community. Having lived under simple vows since his profession, he decided to profess solemn vows at this time. From 1966–68 he served as maintenance man, a position he took up again from 1970–73. Between those terms, he acted as Groundskeeper (1968–69). He was guest director (1973–82), and served two terms as the local Postmaster (1974–93 and 1998–2007). He spent a year helping out at Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David AZ, from 1993–94, becoming involved in the burgeoning charismatic movement that had found expression at Benet Lake and St. David. The movement occasioned, as Br. Martin recalled, a difference of opinion and practice in the community. That fact, along with his advancing years, soon brought him back to Benet Lake to serve in less physically demanding capacities. He was House Custodian (1994–95), sacristan (1995–2002), and refectorian (2007–12). This was his last official assignment in the community; the task of setting up for meals recalled his time as cook, which, as he liked to observe, brought him full-circle in his work assignments.

At this time the Benet Lake community began to discuss ways of dealing with the issues of an aging community and fewer vocations. Discussions were undertaken with Conception Abbey, Benet Lake’s motherhouse, and the two communities developed a plan to merge. Along with several confreres, Br. Martin transferred his vows to Conception in 2016, where he took up residence in St. Stephen’s Infirmary and began an Apostolate of Prayer, offering daily prayers for the Church and the world.

In late February 2022, Br. Martin came down with a case of pneumonia and was hospitalized for a short time. He overcame the initial onset and returned to Conception in a few days. But it appears that this illness initiated a more general decline; his condition began to grow worse, and in the middle of March he was placed on hospice care. On Holy Saturday, only a day after the passing of his confrere Fr. Kevin Murphy, Br. Martin followed his example by anticipating the Lord’s Resurrection, which would be commemorated at the great Vigil Mass of Easter the following morning.

Br. Martin was senior in profession of the Benet Lake monks who were integrated into the monastic community here at Conception. Having entered the community at Benet Lake shortly after its inauguration, he witnessed and participated in nearly all of its history. Yet he maintained a good and cheerful spirit in his transition into life at a new place. Practical, honest, and patient, he was an icon of the lay brothers of yesteryear.

Br. Martin is survived by his brother, David Haberman of Bellingham WA; by his sister Mary Haberman of Milwaukee, WI; and by his monastic confreres.

The reception of the body of Br. Martin took place at St. Stephen’s Infirmary Chapel at Conception Abbey at 4:15 p.m. on Monday 18 April 2022. The Office of the Faithful Departed commenced at Vigils of Tuesday 19 April, and a Funeral Mass was celebrated at 11:00 a.m. that morning at Conception. Br. Martin’s body was conveyed to Benet Lake, where a Visitation was held at St. Benedict’s Abbey from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Thursday 21 April 2022, followed by a Funeral Mass, burial, and luncheon.

We beseech your prayers for the repose of the soul of our beloved confrere. May he rest in eternal peace!

Abbot Benedict and Community

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