Brother Mario Ibison

Community: Saint Meinrad

Date of Birth:8/5/1938

First Profession: 11/12/1961

Date of Death: 01/19/2022


On behalf of Fr. Archabbot Kurt and all the members of the community, we extend our condolences to Br. Mario’s two surviving sisters, Donna Leonard and Jackie Kilkenny, and all his nieces and nephews. You are always welcome here. As Br. Mario was part of our family, so too are you – always.

A few days ago, Father Abbot asked me to do this remembrance. I told him that the honor would be mine.

I am Br. Benjamin. I have had the privilege to have lived, prayed and worked with Br. Mario over the past 50 years.

Mario’s nickname was Sandy, but we do not normally use nicknames in the monastery. I presume this was a carryover from his days at home.

I first met Br. Mario when I came to the novitiate in 1971. At that time, Mario had thinning hair. He was very careful to comb one side all the way over to the opposite side. It rarely stayed there, however. The wind had other ideas. Over the years, Mario’s hair continued to thin to almost nothing.

A couple of years ago, he had to have a skin melanoma about an inch in diameter removed from the top of his head. The doctors took a piece of skin from under his arm to graft on his head. Everyone was wondering if he would again have hair growing on his head. Alas, that was not to be.

When I was a novice, Fr. Meinrad was our socius in the juniorate. He was given the task of assigning work for the nine junior monks and 10 novices to keep us busy and out of trouble. Br. David was in charge of the grounds and vineyard. He was overjoyed to have so many willful hands assigned to him.

Br. Mario was also working on the grounds crew then. One day Mario was charged with finding enough leaf rakers. I vividly remember Mario standing in the shade under a tree smoking a cigarette pointing out any leaf we may have missed. He also wanted to be sure that we did not work too hard.

Mario’s mom never knew Mario smoked. At least that was Mario’s intention. I was told once that Br. Mario took Br. Flavian home with him to Chicago for a visit with his mom. Mario carefully hid his cigarettes in Flavian’s suitcase. Everyone – including Flavian – was surprised when Flavian opened his suitcase in front of Mom. There was the carton of cigarettes. Mom was shocked to see that Flavian smoked! Flavian covered for Mario, however, and professed that he smoked – occasionally.

Years ago, Br. David was sent to New York to study the art of winemaking. Br. Jerome was left in charge of the grounds crew. Mario had been driving vehicles both here on the grounds as well as down the highway to get to Monte Cassino and the vineyard. Br. Jerome decided if Mario was to continue driving, he must get his license.

Mario was already 30-something and was somewhat fearful of the driving tests. He feared Br. Jerome more, however, and got his license. Mario may have had some close calls, but I do not remember any accidents. At 83, he was still driving himself up and down the hill to work every day. He drove slowly and carefully.

Mario was an avid chess player. Years ago, someone gave him a computer-driven chess game. Mario enjoyed it at first, but he tired of it when he had played all the games and would normally beat the computer. Mario preferred playing chess with Brs. Maurus and Andrew. They were more unpredictable. If one asked Mario if he won the game that night, he responded with a smile or the comment that “It’s none of your business!”

Mario was stubborn. Once Mario had you pegged, it was hard to remove that peg! He reminded me many times of the fact that he remembered when I first came to the monastery driving a fancy sports car. The fact that I never drove a sports car – much less owned one – had no bearing to his memory, and I could never convince him otherwise.

Mario enjoyed working in the vineyard pruning vines. He also liked his wine. Once last year when I was butler at table, knowing Mario’s preference, before the meal I filled Mario’s wine glass with Malbec red wine and his water glass with ice cubes. Later I noticed him dumping out the ice cubes and getting more ice cubes. He did not know who filled his glasses, but I overheard him tell someone else that he did not want to be waited on. Later, I assured him that I would never fill his glasses again. I noticed that he did not dump the wine, however!

It seems that often Br. Mario had a knack for being just a little bit off in his speech. While he was glad to have us exercising our biceps while raking, it sounded more like “bi-sex.” Likewise, when he was rushing off to play a game of chess before Compline, at times it sounded more like he was going to play “chest.” Luckily, we knew what he meant.

Mario had many friends both inside and outside the monastery. He had a good memory when it came to names and faces. He had a great smile with bright blue eyes that made you feel like he was really glad to see you. He got along well with everyone. He added a lot to the conversations at break times. He was especially appreciated at Physical Facilities, where he regaled the workers about life in the monastery. I’m not sure if this was good or bad, but it was entertaining. Mario always had his way of seeing things – right or wrong. If anyone was hearing a story from Mario, most learned to consider the source.

Mario was 83 – yet he was still working! Rich Boehm, the lead painter, said Mario was his best worker! (I believe Mario was also his only worker.) Mario may not have been working a 40-hour week, but he was faithful and doing work that needed to be done. It was difficult to see what color Mario was painting from day to day. His clothes had so many paint splotches on them. His forte seemed to be painting Abbey Red or White, however – the two most common colors here on the hill and on his clothes. When painting at the Press or in the schools, Mario always had time to talk and visit with passersby. This was part of his friendly nature.

Mario was not just work and fun, however. He was also very faithful to our common prayer in church. It was rare that he missed. He regularly attended all community functions. He was also very dependable when he was assigned to other duties in the house. The day we were preparing him to go to the hospital after his stoke, he was concerned that we get someone to cover his breakfast attendant duties the next day.

We are blessed with excellent medical care here. The infirmary staff do a wonderful – often thankless – job. However, years ago Mario made the comment that he had no desire to live in our infirmary. He preferred to die with his boots on. He basically got his wish. He had worked that Monday. He had his stroke at table that night. Monks were there to witness it and get him to the infirmary immediately. There he was quickly assessed, and an ambulance was called.

Mario was sent to Deaconess Gateway Hospital – the closest neurological unit where his stoke could be evaluated. Alas, Mario had a major bleed in his brain. There was nothing the doctors could do for that type of stroke, that massive in that area of the brain. While Mario was conversing with us in the infirmary before transport to Evansville, he was no longer able to talk or focus when he arrived at the hospital. His systems were slowly shutting down. He was laboring to breath. He was no longer able to chew or swallow. He was admitted for observation. The handwriting was on the wall. His clock was running down.

The next day Kristen – our medical director – and Father Abbot decided to bring Mario home to be with us as his death approached. As I said before, Mario did not want to live in the infirmary. Instead, he came home to die in the infirmary. Here his confreres kept 24-hour vigil with him and prayed during his last hours. After about a day, Mario breathed his last. It was just over 48 hours since his stroke.

The Gospel tells us the story of the talents that were handed out to the workers. The important message there is it is not how many talents we are given, but what we do with those talents. Mario used his talents well. We all have benefited from them.

Mario had many friends who loved him dearly. He will be missed but not forgotten. Every night at supper in the monastery before food is served, all the monks sit and listen to three readings: the First is from the Holy Rule of St. Benedict. After that, the Martyrology is read commemorating the saints whose feasts we will celebrate the next day. Our last reading is a remembrance of all the monks who have gone before us. Starting next year – January 19, 2023, and every year thereafter, we will fondly remember our Br. Mario Ibison – his life, work and prayer among us. He will never be forgotten. We are all grateful for the life Br. Mario shared with us.

On Wednesday night last week about 6.45, Br. Mario heard the words we all long to hear some time – but not too soon: “Welcome into my Kingdom, good and faithful servant.”

Br. Benjamin Brown, OSB

Eulogy for Br. Mario Ibison, OSB


Brother Mario Ibison entered the community at Saint Meinrad with experience in printing and wanted to use that skill here at the Abbey Press. He was never assigned to that work. His initial attraction to our common life was never fulfilled. But after a few short-term work assignments, he landed in one and then another – groundskeeping and painting – that lasted him a lifetime. Like St. Benedict, Brother Mario didn’t seem to care too much what the work was, just that there was work that engaged his hands throughout the day.

Brother Mario became a part of the life of my novitiate class on the day of our investiture, his 50th birthday, August 5, 1988. Soon, he’d be supervising us in the sun-soaked, snake-riddled, blistering-hot vineyard. With a keen sense of smell, I could tell every time Brother Mario would light a cigarette. I’d yell out, “Smoke break,” and our work would be happily punctuated by a lesson from the wise one between drags on his smoke. He taught us far more about the joy of community than how to harvest grapes!

Brother Mario seemingly put forth great effort to be unremarkable. He didn’t like the limelight. Except in chess, he was humble. He was hardworking, prayerful, steady, faithful, and jovial. If he had enemies, that was not obvious. He was funny, engaging, friendly, and afraid of no one, except his mother, fearful of her finding out about his one vice.

Brother Mario spent so many years fostering a love for this place and its people – his vow of stability. He worked steadily and willingly for decades in assignments he might have never requested – his vow of obedience. He gave himself to the challenging work of conversion, of prayer, of service – his vow of fidelity to the monastic way of life.

While his commitment to our vows sat at the center of his life, two other monastic virtues proved his character. Brother Mario was humble. He seemed altogether willing to accept life as it actually was. While there could occasionally be some fire in his words, he was also willing to learn from the wisdom of a superior, a confrere, or the book that he was reading.

But above all, Brother Mario was a man of unfailing cheerful hospitality. He welcomed all sorts of people, as Christ Himself. And while we can rest assured that Christ said to him last Wednesday evening, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” we will also rightly be amazed and inspired by the thousands of times Brother Mario lived those words for a co-worker, a confrere, a retreatant, a student, or a stranger.

The humble simple fearlessness of this faithful monk allowed him to introduce people with far more education to the sublime truth of welcome, especially welcome into the arms of the Savior. Could it be that his hospitable good cheer stemmed from a simple, but profound belief that his Redeemer lived and that he would see with his own eyes the glory of his salvation?

What else would lead a disciple of Jesus to open his heart and his community – but never the Chicago Christmas chocolates his mother sent – to so many? Maybe Brother Mario pondered these wonderful thoughts in his heart, no matter his initial hopes, and all he wanted to do was share that bountiful grace – literally with everyone.

Drinking deeply of the glory of the resurrection and welcoming the burdened to the refreshment of friendliness, Brother Mario knew the light burden of Jesus. He no doubt recognized the face of Jesus millions of times before last week when he recognized Him for all eternity.

May we too welcome Christ today and always. May we gather the burdened for rest. May we strive to see the eternal life of our Vindicator. And may we live our lives according to our promises, humbly and hospitably, to the glory and honor of God. Amen.

Funeral homily for Brother Mario Ibison, OSB

January 24, 2022

Fr. Godfrey Mullen, OSB