Obituary for Brother James Sommers O.C.S.O

Brother James Sommers, 89, of Holy Cross Abbey in Clarke County, Virginia, died peacefully in the Lord on December 4, 2011, at Carroll Manor Nursing Home in Washington, D.C.  Brother James was born James Joseph Sommers, Jr., on March 25, 1922, in Reading, PA, the son of James Sommers, Sr., and Anna Nangle Sommers, the second of five brothers.  His family moved to Greenbelt, MD, when he was a child.

After high school, James enlisted in the U. S. Army as an Infantryman in 1942 and served in northern France and the Rhineland during the Second World War.  Upon his honorable discharge from the Army, he began work in 1946 in the U. S. Postal Service.  Several years later, he felt a call from God to enter religious life, and in 1952 he asked admittance to Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky as a Trappist Brother.  He wrote at the time, “To devote my whole life to Christ.  I feel the Trappist vocation is the answer.”

When the monastery of Gethsemani made a new foundation in the Sacramento Valley of California in 1956, Brother James was chosen to be a founding member.  He served the community of New Clairvaux Abbey at Vina, CA, for 11 years.  He asked to return to the east coast in 1968 to be closer to his family and transferred to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA.

At Holy Cross Abbey, Brother James serve the community in various roles, for many years in the bakery as the chief mixer of the dough for Monastery Bread, as the head librarian for the monks, and finally as the monastery porter, greeting visitors in the Gift Shop and taking reservations for the thousands of retreatants who came to the Abbey Retreat House.  He made all feel welcome.

Brother James’ health declined after a heart attack and by-pass surgery in 2001 and later a stroke.  Finally, in 2007 he retired to Carroll Manor Nursing Home where he resided for almost five years until his death.

Brother James is mourned by the monks of Holy Cross Abbey and by his numerous family members and friends.  He is survived by his brother Robert Sommers and Robert’s wife Doris, with their three children, Gary Sommers and his wife Kay, Randy Sommers, and Jody Sommers.  Brother James’ brother, Richard, predeceased him, but he is survived by his wife June Sommers, and their four children, Richard, Jr., and his wife Cindy, Deborah Sommers Nicholson and her husband, Thomas, Kathleen Robertson and her husband Tom, and Susan Cornwell and her husband Michael, and many nephews and nieces and cousins.  Uncle Jimmy will be cherished for the deep influence he had in each of their lives.

The Funeral Service for Brother James, the Mass of the Resurrection, will be celebrated at Holy Cross Abbey on Saturday, December 10, 2011, at 2:00 p.m.  There will be a Prayer Vigil kept when Brother James is received in the church at 9:00 a.m. until the beginning of the Mass of the Resurrection.  Burial in the monastery cemetery will follow after the Mass.  There will be refreshments offered in the monks’ dining room after the service is concluded.

Arrangements are being handled by Enders & Shirley Funeral Home, Berryville, VA.

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