Brother Oscar Echeverría Criollo, OSB
A few minutes before two o’clock in the afternoon on Thursday, 17 December 2020, Bro. Oscar Echeverría Criollo died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 90. Very early that morning, accompanied by two of our brothers, he went to the Senamet Clinic in the city of Valencia to have a cystoscopy recommended by his doctors. On his way back to the monastery, he began to feel a little ill, so when he arrived, just before noon, he was immediately taken to his room in a wheelchair. He seemed to recover a little and even, lucid as he was at that moment, he made the beautiful gesture of congratulating Fr. Prior Marco Antonio on the anniversary of his priestly ordination. But soon after he lost consciousness and seemed to faint, so we transferred him to the Santa Paula Clinic in Güigüe around 1:30 p.m. Although he apparently arrived with some faint signs of life, the doctors who attended to him shortly afterwards could do nothing but confirm and certify his death due to respiratory failure. May rest in peace!
Brother Oscar was born in Maracaibo, Zulia State, Venezuela on 30 June 1930 into a large family of ten brothers and sisters with deep Christian roots. His parents were Jesús Echeverría and María Luisa Criollo. Oscar was baptized on 30August 1930. He attended primary and secondary school and then went on to study accounting, working with his father for a time in the field of commerce, as well as in sales and administration. When he was in his thirties, he entered the seminary of Caracas and studied philosophy and theology. He was ordained a priest on 29 June 1966 in the cathedral of Caracas by the then archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Quintero. He exercised his priestly ministry in the seminary and in the Caracas parishes assigned to him. Many years later, after a process of clarification and discernment, he decided to ask the Holy See to reduce him to the lay state and to dispense him from the obligations and duties inherent in the priesthood. This was granted by Pope Paul VI on the 26 April 1974. Having left the priestly ministry, Brother Oscar continued to lead a life in accordance with his Christian principles and convictions. He studied at the Universidad Metropolitana de Caracas, graduating with a degree in modern languages, specifically English. From then on he served as an English language teacher at the American-Venezuelan Institute in Caracas.
Brother Oscar’s first contacts with our Benedictine community date back to 1990. For some time he had given thought to monastic life and wondered if God was not calling him to become a monk. Previously he had an initial experience with the Trappist monks in Chile. In July and August 1990 he repeated this experience, this time with us here in our monastery in Güigüe. A few years passed and finally, on 22 May 1993, Brother Oscar joined our community. On 27 November of that same year he began his canonical novitiate, at the end of which, on 3 June 1995, he himself chose to make his oblation as a regular oblate of our monastery. From that date until his death, Brother Oscar was part of our Benedictine community in Güigüe, always giving a beautiful testimony of fidelity, joy and availability. His service within the monastery was mainly in the area of hospitality and the reception area, caring for and attending to guests and visitors, answering the telephone, etc. He always had a smile on his face, radiating kindness and closeness, but also discretion and respect. Many people who dealt with him commented that Brother Oscar transmitted peace, serenity and joy to them. A man of innate goodness and a great heart, he was one of those people who seemed to have no malice and who was always animated by noble and clear feelings. “I shared the closeness of a kind and good man,” said someone who knew him when he received the news of his death. To this kindness and affability of Brother Oscar, we should add his availability: he was very helpful and always ready to do a favor to anyone who asked him. And to do so willingly. He integrated very well into his Benedictine family and participated with joy and fidelity in the regular life, in the liturgy and the daily celebration of the Eucharist, in community meetings, in recreation and leisure activities, etc. Yes, besides being a wonderful person, Brother Oscar was a good monk.
The funeral Mass for Br. Oscar was celebrated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, 19 December 2020 in the abbey church of San José Abbey and was presided over by Fr. Prior Marco Antonio. Afterwards, the mortal remains of Br. Oscar were buried in the monastery cemetery.
Güigüe, 19 December 2020
P. Prior Marco Antonio González and the community of San José Abbey