By Joel Hamago – Canberra, Australia
Acknowledging a wonderful man, an influential Marist Brother and educator who recently passed away after giving almost 40 years of his life to Papua New Guinea. I first met Br. Brian Bertrand Webster over ten years ago and we immediately connected. His gentle sensitive nature allowed me to open up. I felt he understood me. He became a spiritual guide and along with many young men, he instilled not only spiritual growth but also confidence in ourselves. He loved PNG and its people.
Br Bert had a special way of praying. I asked him once what was the best way of prayer and he answered me, “There are many ways to talk to God. You can sometimes sit before the altar and say nothing. Just bask in the glory of God,” he said.
Bertie would visit my mother when she was very sick and would sit and talk with her in an encouraging and healing manner. He himself at that time suffered from a bad fall, but that did not stop him from visiting other sick people. I am sure mum would welcome Bertie home.
When I was in Bougainville, I noticed that the name Bertrand was quite popular. I later learnt that Bertie’s former students have named their sons after him. Br. Bertrand spent 38 of the last 45 years in various locations in PNG and Solomon Islands. The prime of his missionary journey was in Bougainville at St. Joseph’s Rigu where he taught and was the headmaster from 1970s and 1980s. He clearly remembered his former students in Bougainville and would speak of them with fondness if any memory of Bougainville came to him.
I describe Bertrand as a very simple Brother who would put the welfare of others before himself. He was always sensitive in his choice of words as he did not want others to be offended with what he said. He wasn’t very adept with new technological devices such as mobile phones, internet and laptops. Once I offered to buy him a mobile phone when I visited him in Port Moresby on one of my duty travels. He declined to accept the gift, nor the money, despite strong work of persuasion. Br. Bertrand remained very loyal as a Brother, loyal to his religious vows and sharing his Brotherhood among friends and those who came to know him in his ministry.
Br. Bertrand entered the Marist Teaching Brothers’ novitiate in Mittagong, Sydney in 1956; took first religious vows in July 02, 1957 and made final profession in 1963. He arrived on the shores of PNG in 1969. He loved the people and the country so much that with the country receiving independence, in solidarity with the people he loved, he became a naturalised citizen. He was called back to our Maker on the 18th of September, 2014, in Madang.