Bernard Francis Parker was born at Childers, Queensland, on 11 May 1924, the sixth of the eight children of Montague Vincent Parker and Katherine Margaret (nee Tobin). Three of those senior to him died in infancy or childhood, and Laurie and Kathleen were born later. He received part of his education at the Christian Brothers’ school, St Columban’s, Albion Heights, Brisbane. In 1943, he joined the 13th Squadron of the RAAF in Cooktown, serving as an electrical fitter and mechanic. He did his apprenticeship as an electrician with the Brisbane City Council, and after the Second World War, he was with the Department of Civil Aviation at Eagle Farm. In May 1952 he became the State Organiser of the Queensland Electrical Trades Union, travelling widely throughout the State. In 1956 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Union. At the State Council Meeting in May 1958, he resigned from all positions within the Union to enter the Tarrawarra community on 13 June of that year.
Following two years of novitiate, Fr Bernard made his first vows on 24 July 1960, and his final vows on the same date in 1963. He was ordained to the priesthood on 9 November 1966. As well as looking after the monastery’s electrical needs, Bernie filled, at one time or another, the positions of prior, bursar, student master, and chairman of the building committee.
Thomas Merton, the best selling Cistercian author, had been one of the strong influences in his monastic vocation and, as Providence would have it, he was with Merton during the last three days of the latter’s life at a large and important Asian Monastic Conference in Bangkok in December 1968. He spent the academic year 1973-1974 at the Institute of Religious Formation at St Louis, USA, under Fr John Futrell and his colleagues, completing the experience with a thirty day retreat with the group at Manresa in Spain. The next year was given to further studies at the Cistercian student house in Rome before returning to Australia via India and Indonesia. Fr Bernard gave retreats in our guesthouse and to various communities including our Cistercian brethren in New Zealand.
Alzheimer’s Disease slowly cast its shadow over the last decade or more of his life. When the protracted medical tests had been completed, Fr Bernard wrote to his friends from St Louis days in lines which communicate the quality of his acceptance of God’s will in his life: “All say there is nothing to be done. I am quite happy with the decision … and all the community is supporting me … All this is a good reminder, and I think the Lord is giving me plenty of time.” His smile was his gift to us far into his illness.