Br. Raban Bivins, OSB, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, died in the monastery infirmary on Tuesday, September 6, 2022. He was 81 and a jubilarian of monastic profession.
Br. Raban was born in Owensboro, KY, on December 11, 1940, one of eight children of Lester and Sophie (Bittel) Bivins. He was given the name William Joseph at his baptism.
Surviving is a brother, Bob Bivins of Owensboro; and a sister, Jane Payne of Cincinnati, OH.
After completing his elementary education at Saints Joseph and Paul Grade School in Owensboro, he attended Owensboro Catholic High for three years and then entered Saint Meinrad’s St. Placid Hall in 1957 to complete his high school education. Br. Raban was invested as a novice on April 9, 1959. He professed simple vows on May 7, 1960, and perpetual vows on June 9, 1963.
Br. Raban’s first assignments in the monastery included work in the shoe shop, in the Physical Facilities Department, and as assistant house prefect. In 1965 he volunteered for assignment at Saint Meinrad’s mission in Peru, and he spent the next 14 years there, serving variously as procurator, as superintendent of employees, and in general maintenance.
Returning to the monastery in 1979, Br. Raban served for 11 years on the volunteer fire department, six of which he also served as an emergency medical technician on the Rescue Squad. He also worked in the Physical Facilities Department and in 1984 became a certified locksmith.
In 1996 Br. Raban was appointed subprior, the first brother in Saint Meinrad’s history to be appointed to this leadership position. He served in this capacity for 11 years. During this time, he also assisted in the infirmary and health services.
He was appointed Archabbey almoner and director of community outreach in June of 2007, positions he held until failing health necessitated his moving into our infirmary in 2022. It was not unusual that his confreres would encounter individuals and families in our area who spoke gratefully, both of Br. Raban’s discretion and his gentleness in assuring they had food and other necessities throughout the year.
The phrase “Gentle Giant” is a cliché, but one that certainly describes Br. Raban. He was an imposing figure, physically, and he possessed considerable strength. He loved kidding around and especially enjoyed reminding the younger members of the community of the danger they were in should they get in his way.
But all his confreres were confident – and grateful – that his aggressions took the form of playful swipes and good-natured verbal threats, rather than well-aimed and full-fledged punches.
Br. Raban was one who preferred living his monasticism rather than talking about it. He was extremely faithful to the Divine Office. He was also one in whom St. Benedict’s injunction to “keep death daily before your eyes” clearly took root. His long-standing policy – posted on the door of his cell – was that if he suffered a heart attack, no resuscitation was to be attempted but, rather, he would await the resurrection.
The funeral liturgy was celebrated on Saturday, September 10, with burial in the Archabbey Cemetery.