Nothing brings more happiness than the birth of a child. It is a blessed event. However, Bob’s arrival October 31, 1939 was cause for concern. Because of conditions that became life-threatening for his wife Regina (neé Smolinsky) Sembrat and his son, Robert, Michael made quick arrangements for the baptism/confirmation of his newly-born son at his church, Sts. Peter & Paul Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church. Although Regina was of the Latin rite, there was no second guessing a caring father’s actions. Sickness determined what decisions would be made and where the infant would find membership in the Catholic community. Days later, the crisis passed as both mother and son were nursed to health.
When Bob was ready for school, it was expected that he attend St. Agnes Parochial School. However, the pastor’s insistence that Bob be “rebaptized” in the Latin rite was deemed unnecessary by his parents. To end the discussion, the family joined St. Hyacinth Parish where Bob enrolled in the Parish Grade School.
During his elementary education, Bob felt drawn to religious life. He remembers Fr. Victor Krzywonos, OFM and Fr. Gordian Strykowski, OFM, members of the ABVM Province, making the rounds as vocational directors. Cooperating with the grace of God, Bob made his way to Pulaski, Wisconsin in 1954.
When Bob began his religious life in Pulaski at St. Joseph Vocational School for Franciscan Brothers, he was fifteen years old. The school had only been open for two years. Academics were taught, although they were not the priority. Vocational traning was emphasized. In his junior year, a number of his classmates decided to leave the school. Bob joined them. However, after two months, he realized he had made a mistake. He wrote and requested readmittance which was readily granted.
Bob completed four years at St. Joseph Vocational School for Franciscan Brothers, and entered a year of postulancy at the ABVM Monastery, Pulaski. During this time, he was assigned to work on the Monastery farm. Working from early morning to early evening didn’t permit Bob to regularly attend religious and community exercises. Not able to reconcile this tension, Bob became discouraged and decided to leave the community again. This separation lasted about four months. During that time he joined the US Navy but was honorably discharged after sixteen days due to poor eyesight. Upon his return to Pulaski, he was assigned to the kitchen. In August 1958, Bob was invested with the tertiary habit and took the name “Bruce.” Shortly before he was to leave for novitiate, Bruce was sent to St. Mary of the Angels Friary, Green Bay, Wisconsin, living amidst a community of jubilarians. While he was only nineteen, he found these friars to be a source of inspiration and encouragement as he continued to discern his vocation.
On August 14, 1961, Bob entered the novitiate at Queen of Peace Monastery, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Following his simple profession of vows on August 15, 1962, he spent the next three years working in the kitchen at St. Bonaventure Minor Seminary, Sturtevant, Wisconsin. He professed solemn vows on August 15, 1965. He returned to St. Bonaventure Minor Seminary working in maintenance. After spending twenty-one years of service at the school, the Province made the decision to close the school. This prompted Bob (returned to his baptismal name) to take a sabbatical. Afterwards, he served at a number of friaries in maintenance. In 1987, Bob was hired by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament at their Motherhouse in Bensalem, Pennsylvania where he served for the next eighteen years while living with the friars at St. Pius X Friary, Philadelphia.
In 2005, Bob was asked to assume the responsibility of Villa Alverna, Wausaukee, Wisconsin. During the next twelve years, he was host to many a friar and friend. But with the aging of the friars and the infrequent use of the property, the Provincial Administration determined that it was time to close the Villa and sell the property.
With Bob’s health needing more attention, he transitioned to the ABVM Friary, Pulaski and eventually to Queen of Peace Friary, Burlington.
It was in the morning of January 3, 2022, Sister Death came to claim Bob and so he fell asleep in the Lord. He died in the 83rd year of life and the 56th year of solemn profession.