GREENVILLE — During more than 20 years as pastor of St. Joseph on the Brandywine Parish in Greenville and 61 years as a priest, Msgr. Joseph Rebman accumulated a lot of things. Books – lots of books. Also vestments, hats and other items that he no longer needs or is able to store now that he has retired from active ministry.
Instead of throwing too much of that away or leaving it for the administrator, Father Glenn Evers, to worry about, Msgr. Rebman is giving as much of it away as possible. He invited priests and others to the garage at St. Joe’s on May 27, and on June 13, the items will be available to anyone who wants to stop by between 1 and 3 p.m.
Msgr. Rebman was at the garage as a few priests, seminarian Mark Donahue and a few others rummaged through the goods.
“I’ve been here for 20 and a half years, but this is my collection since I was ordained in 1960,” he said. “This has been cut down before. Every time I moved from one parish to another, I tended to cut down, but this is the longest I’ve been at one parish.”
He kept some hats, but about two dozen were sitting on a ladder hung on one wall of the garage. The vestments, he said, were not all his. Parishes tend to have vestments they keep for priests who are assigned or visit, and they collect over the years. On one table was a box of Roman collars.
“I’m trying to encourage vocations,” Msgr. Rebman joked.
By far, the number of books was far greater than any other item available. Msgr. Rebman said he’s heard that once you read a book, “give that away, and you’ll always have room on your bookshelf.”
Donahue just finished his first year of theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University. He is spending the summer at St. Elizabeth Parish in Wilmington and visited St. Joe’s with the pastor of St. Elizabeth, Father Norman Carroll, who is also the director of vocations for the diocese.
Donahue had no idea what to expect when he walked into the garage.
“I think that’s part of the beauty of it. Msgr. Rebman’s had a beautiful priesthood, and I’m at the beginning of the process of formation. It’s giving me a glimpse of all the things that helped form him along the way,” he said.
The wide array of content got his attention. The collection, he said, “shows the breadth of human personhood.”
One of the journeys of seminary is being able to look back on what has formed you so far, he continued. Keep track of those things that have touched you and share them with people you meet along the way. Donahue said he is certain that Msgr. Rebman has done just that throughout the years.
He wasn’t sure what he would take from the tables, although the book of clean jokes had a certain appeal. He doesn’t need vestments just yet, and headwear isn’t necessarily his thing.
“Hats have never looked good on me, but I could try one,” he said.
Father John Olson, the administrator at St. Paul Parish in Wilmington, spent eight months at St. Joseph on the Brandywine as an associate. The items in the garage reflect Msgr. Rebman’s personality, he said.
“Monsignor was always replete with interesting information, for sure,” he said.
Most of this stuff was in the rectory before being moved to the garage, and Father Olson had seen some of it before. He said Msgr. Rebman was a pleasure to work with and loved by his parishioners.
“They’re very devoted to him. They adore him,” Father Olson said.
Msgr. Rebman has since moved to a senior living facility in Newark, so he’s settling into his new parish.
“It’s right up the street from Holy Angels,” Msgr. Rebman said.