Long associated as a symbol of respite, shelter, and nourishment, an oasis serves as a spiritual metaphor as well as a place of spiritual rejuvenation. With that symbol in mind and energized with the Franciscan spirit, Brother David Buer, OFM, has spent decades working to provide refuge and resources to those in need in the American Southwest.
His path to becoming a Franciscan and living a life of service has roots in a clear understanding of what it means to be an outsider in our society.
Brother David was born in San Antonio, Texas, but raised first in Granite City, Illinois, followed by Ballwin, Missouri. His family’s immigrant past is not as distant as it is for some in our nation.
“All my grandparents were immigrants who came to the United States in the early 20th century, ” he says. “Having grown up in a loving extended family, I learned about the importance of human dignity. “
As a young man, Brother David made a journey that would prove to be pivotal for him. “When I was 21, I made a pilgrimage, hitchhiking across the country, ” he says. “It was the beginning of my ‘return’ to the Catholic Church. Around the same time, I also learned about St. Francis of Assisi and was smitten. ” In 1989, he made the leap to religious life and entered the novi-tiate with the Franciscan Friars of St. Barbara Province.
A friar for over 25 years now, Brother David has engaged in ev-erything from feeding the hungry to protesting the production of nuclear weapons to standing up for immigrants’ rights. Upon witnessing the work of the Poverello House in San Francisco during the early ’90s, Brother David founded two similar ministries in Nevada—the first in Las Vegas in 1997 and the second in the nearby city of Henderson in 2002.
The two houses in Nevada both dedicated their services specifically to homeless men in need of food and shelter. Unfortunately, the Las Vegas Poverello House had to close its doors in 2014, but the Henderson location continues on, and now has services for homeless women as well.
When Brother David was reassigned to Tucson, Arizona, in 2008, one of the first things he did was start a Poverello House there. It’s not always easy to keep operations going, especially since both are completely funded by private donations, with no reliance on government or diocesan assistance. For more about the services these two ministries provide or to make a donation, visit their websites PoverelloHouseNV.com and TucsonPoverello.com.
Brother David has also spent time ministering to and, at times, saving the lives of immigrants along the US-Mexico border. “Seeing how human beings were suffering, exposed to the elements, and even dying in the desert attracted me to assist existing volunteer organizations that place water bottles in remote areas for the people passing through, ” he says.
In 2010, in honor of his many humanitarian efforts, Brother David received the Peace Award from the Secular Franciscan Order USA. “Awards come and go, and so many other people who work quietly—but with heart and commitment—deserve awards, ” he says. “Bless all those with the courage to do their little part to make our nation a compassionate one, who are ready to see human suffering and, through love, do something about it. “