Brother Michael J. Greyerbiehl, MM
Born: July 22, 1963
Oath: May 10, 1995
Died: October 9, 2001
Brother Michael Greyerbiehl died on the afternoon of October 9, 2001 in Kitakaruizawa, Japan. He was 38 years old and a Maryknoll Brother for six years.
Michael Joseph Greyerbiehl was born in Saginaw, Michigan on July 22, 1963 to Richard and Mary Anne MacEachin Greyerbiehl. He was the second youngest of seven children. He attended Hemlock High School and after graduation entered Maryknoll’s college program at St. Louis University for two years, until the program was discontinued. Michael wrote in his autobiography on March 12, 1982 for entrance to the college program: “About a year and a half ago I began to wonder about something that was missing in my life. One evening while with friends, in the middle of the conversation my thoughts wandered away from the group back to the idea that has been in my head for a long time, the idea was Christ in my life. It was the first deep spiritual feeling I was able to identify. About six months later, after much spiritual soul searching, I felt a need to pursue a missionary vocation.”
In 1984, Michael transferred to the University of Michigan and earned a B.A. in Psychology. During his time at the University, he worked with chronically mentally ill adults in a group home. Michael moved to San Francisco where he took courses at San Francisco State University and worked at a family homeless shelter in Haight/Ashbury. Later he moved to Chicago to pursue further studies at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.
After studies in Chicago, Michael reapplied to Maryknoll’s formation program and was accepted as a seminarian in August 1992. He took his first oath to the Society on May 10, 1995 and began his Overseas Training Program in Japan. While in Japan, he transferred to the Brother’s Program.
After returning to the United States, Brother Michael earned a Masters in Pastoral Studies from Catholic Theological Union in June 1998 and took his Permanent Oath on December 19, 1998. At the time of his petition for Final Oath he wrote: “I believe that my call to Brotherhood in mission is a call to pure witness through the faith journey. This journey implies a trusted presence, patience, commitment, and openness to the unexpected, hope, mutuality in relationships, an ability to sacrifice self-seeking and self-interest for a common good, a willingness to support and encourage others, charity, the faith to take risks, a willingness to work hard, endurance and discipline, the ability to surrender, to move on at the appropriate time, and to love.”
Brother Michael found expression for his missionary ideals both through pursuit of Zen meditation and engagement with Interreligious Dialogue. He wrote: “Mission for me is a dialogue of life. Throughout my life I have experienced the greatness of presence and prayer and the tremendous importance of being able to express my experience of God to other faith traditions, to listen, and to try to understand other peoples’ faith experiences.” He practiced meditation under several Zen masters throughout his time in Japan, gaining recognition afforded to few practitioners, and deepening this spirituality with the study of Japanese wind instruments, poetry and calligraphy. Brother Michael also joined with the World Conference on Religion and Peace to make preparations for a large interfaith religious gathering in one of the world’s most troubled areas, the Middle East. It was his contributions to that conference that brought him to the attention and acclaim of fellow religionists throughout Japan and East Asia.Brother Michael was re-assigned to the Japan Region in January 1999, and was recently elected Third Assistant Regional Superior of the Region.
News of Brother Michael’s death was felt deeply by Maryknollers around the world. Classmates, fellow missioners and friends spoke of Brother Michael as a contemplative and reflective person as well as a missioner with great energy and hope for the future.
A Wake was held in Japan on Friday evening, October 12, 2001, shortly after Brother Michael’s parents arrived. On Saturday evening, October 13, 2001, Cardinal Shiriyanagi was the principal celebrant at Brother Michael’s Funeral Mass and ‘kokubetsushiki’ (send-off ceremony).
A Wake and Funeral Mass were also held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hemlock, Michigan on Wednesday, October 17, 2001. Brother Michael’s body was then flown to Maryknoll, New York.
Wake services were held at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 18, 2001 at St. Teresa’s where Brother Harold Home officiated and at 8:00 p.m. at Our Lady Queen of Apostles Chapel at Maryknoll Center where Father Alfonso Kim officiated and Brother Harold Home read the biography. Mass of Christian Burial was concelebrated at Our Lady Queen of Apostles Chapel on Friday, October 19, 2001 at 11:00 a.m. Father J. Edward Szendrey was Principal Celebrant and Father Emile Dumas homilist. Burial followed at Maryknoll Center Cemetery with Brother Wayne Fitzpatrick conducting the graveside service.