Christ shone into the darkness of Benedictine Brother Patrick Harris
March 10, 2021
Brother Patrick Harris of the Benedictines of Mount Michael knew deeply the depths of sin.
Forty-five years ago, after a failed marriage, he killed his 3-year-old daughter during a custody battle and tried to take his own life as well.
“He spent most of his life trying to repair what he had done,” said Abbott Michael Liebl, of Mount Michael Abbey in Elkhorn.
At times that was especially difficult. Brother Patrick again attempted suicide in 2007, while serving at Mount Michael.
Throughout those ups and downs, “he tried to do the best he could,” Abbott Michael said.
Brother Patrick died March 1 after a sudden illness. He was 77.
Brother Patrick was born Dallas Dale Harris in New Orleans. He grew up in Iowa and graduated from Drake University in Des Moines before serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. There he helped write letters to parents of fallen soldiers, Abbott Michael said.
After his military service, he attended the University of Madrid, becoming fluent in Spanish.
He met his wife in Spain, but the relationship didn’t last, and he returned to the United States. He was in Minnesota when he murdered his child, and he served his prison time there.
Following his release and conversion to Catholicism, he professed first vows in 2001 and final vows in 2004 in Des Moines.
His life included failings and sufferings, but also hope and healing, his superior said in a homily at a funeral Mass March 6 at the abbey.
“The life of Brother Patrick reflected our human condition and the redemptive love of Christ which enveloped him along the way,” Abbott Michael said. “In his failures, Christ never abandoned Brother Patrick, just as he never abandons any one of us. In his suffering, Christ accompanied Brother Patrick, always present and visible to us on the cross.”
In Brother Patrick’s successes, Christ touched the lives of others, Abbott Michael said. He volunteered to serve Hispanic people in Des Moines and in Omaha at the Siena Francis homeless shelter and Catholic Charities’ Juan Diego Center.
“Christ allowed Brother Patrick to be his own face, reaching out, reassuring and healing,” Abbott Michael said in his homily. “In his love for others, Christ’s face shone through that of Brother Patrick.”
He was preceded in death by his father, Dr. Dale Harris; brother, Nick Harris; and sister, Holly Kruger.
Survivors include his religious community; mother, Jeane Knapp; brother-in-law, Dennis Kruger and extended family.