BROTHER EUSTACE KUGLER – Dr Werner Chrobak
On the afternoon of Sunday 4th October 2009, in Regensburg Cathedral, the beatification ceremony for Brother Eustace Kugler took place. Brother Eustace , if he were still alive, would not have sat as the main person in the front row, but somewhere to the side or on one of the rows to the back, for modesty was one of his most outstanding personal characteristics. He never placed himself at the centre, but was always concerned only with serving his neighbour and his Order. There are many instances in the life of Brother Eustace that prove that this claim of absolute personal humility and modesty is well justified. One of the most convincing of these is a photograph in which, at the consecration of the Brothers’ hospital here in Regensburg on 19th June 1929, he did not sit at the centre of the festive table, but rather at the side in a corner of the t-shaped table arrangement. The fact that the Provincial Eustace Kugler was not even mentioned in any of the eulogies on the completion of this magnificent work was something he accepted with cheerful serenity. And yet, the realisation of this double hospital — a block for men and one for women — in the difficult economic times of the Weimar Republic was Brother Eustace’ very own achievement. It was a top managerial performance par excellence. The choice of location in Regensburg was a prudent and future-oriented decision. At the time, Regensburg was the only large city in Bavaria that did not have a modern hospital. Brother Eustace managed to raise the enormous financing sum of 8.3 million Reichsmarks. What this sum actually represents is illustrated in a comparison with the annual budget for the City of Regensburg: the revenue budget of Regensburg at the time - 1927/28 was 8.1 million Reichsmarks. The construction costs for the hospital amounted to 8.3 million. In other words, the City of Regensburg itself could not have afforded to build a modern hospital on this scale at the time.
Eustace Kugler was a successful manager. He, who as Provincial, steered the fate of the Bavarian Province of the Order of Saint John of God from 1925; he, who with the Regensburg hospital executed the biggest construction project of the Brothers of Saint John of God in Bavaria since they settled here in 1622. He did not at all fit the stereotype of a modern-day manager. He had no academic qualification, and did not have the worldly appearance of the successful man. On the contrary - he was the son of a village blacksmith from Regental; the former blacksmith's apprentice with only a primary school certificate, who had a slight limp following an accident on a building site in Munich in the mid-1880s. With his tattered habit. his well-worn brief case, his decrepit shoes and the battered black hat, he was the embodiment of apostolic poverty and humility. The secret of his success was not in a theory-laden manager training, but on quite a different level. When he was addressed by critics inside the Order about the risk of financing the hospital in Regensburg, he responded simply, "I've already arranged that with the Lord. We have everything we need."
And here we touch on a central reason why Brother Eustace Kugler was beatified: Not due to the balance sheet of his achievements, which he could present for the 21 years of his being Provincial from 1925 to 1946:
- the completion of the hospital in Regensburg, one of the most modern hospitals, conceptionally and architecturally, in Germany;
- the increase in the number of members of the Order in the Bavarian Province by 50% from 275 in 1925 to 412 in 1935;
- the increase in the number of beds of the Brothers of Saint John of God in Bavaria by 77% from around 2500 in 1925 to 4400 in 1935..
None of that counts in the beatification process, what counts is the exemplary way that in an Order of mercy and brotherly love - the Order of Saint John of God -he realised Christianity for his time and in his place. Among the many servants of this Order he stood out with a spirit of servitude which was unsurpassed. As Provincial of the Order he was not above carrying the luggage of a candidate seeking to join the Brothers of Saint John of God. As Provincial he helped cleaning the vegetables in the kitchen. He even did night duty in the hospital and emptied the urine bottles. In a period of Fuehrer cult, he never ceased to remind his brothers about their true leader: Christ in the tabernacle. And he had an exemplary relationship with his Fuehrer, with Jesus Christ: He was connected to Him in constant dialogue, in constant prayer. This is where he got his strength in life, also in the last phase, when he fell victim to stomach cancer. Eustace Kugler was an exemplary figure in the love of God and the love of one's neighbour, in life and in death. And this is why the Church did elevate him to the honour of apotheosis!