The Candor

Is This How Deer Came to Benedictine: The Story of Bambi

Original story by Abbot Hugh Anderson OSB and Fr. James Flint OSB

Compiled by Greg Munie

The story that you are about to read is true. I am only acting as an editor who asked the appropriate questions based on my personal experience as a student at St. Procopius College and my experience as a Benedictine Oblate and the Abbey wine maker. The impetus for this written tale is from Professor Isabel Lobo who, hearing this for the first time, suggested I commit it to print.

To begin, I will say that in the 1960s, when I was an aspiring chemistry major, and the land was all agricultural, stretching from Lisle to Naperville, when across College Road from what is now Birck Hall and a bit to the southeast, there stood a cow barn (complete with cows tended by Br. Sebastian and other monks).  But no deer.  There simply were no deer in the area. Not a one. This may seem unusual given the current state of wildlife roundabouts.  But, back then, there were no deer.

Abbot Hugh and I have discussed this fact and, per his experience as a student in the 50s at St. Procopius, he also noted that deer were noticeable by their complete absence.

Now I would expect the average BU student has seen deer on the grounds. My wine class students in their vineyard work routinely encounter such wild creatures as deer, bees, hornets, GIANT spiders haunting their efforts to put grapes in the cooler (That’s another story!), occasional snakes and coyote. (There are also fox, woodchucks, skunk, raccoon and mink in the woods.)

So why no deer on this farm land circa 1950 – 1960?

Photo of Bambi at the Abbey. Photo Credit: St. Procopius Abbey

Here I offer the story of Bambi.

In the north of Wisconsin, the Abbey used to maintain a satellite facility that at one time was thought might become a Benedictine Hermitage.  Fr. Rembert was a force in this effort.  However, nothing developed except that the site became a retreat for the monks and various friends. With the monastic traffic going back and forth from the site it happened that one day, Fr. Clement, returning to the Abbey around the beginning of June, saw a dead deer by the side of the road.  Stopping, he found a fawn by the side of its dead mother.  The poor animal was shaking, from cold or fear, but Fr. Clement, taking a blanket from the car, wrapped up the orphan and brought her home to the monastery.

The little fawn was entrusted to Br. Martin.  Martin, who was a large and rather gruff person at times, took the little waif into his care and bottle-fed her — from a large green plastic 7-Up bottle!  And he named her Bambi.

She spent her first weeks, even months, as a docile inhabitant of the monastery — generally outside, though she would happily, if invited, come into the monastery’s community room to be admired and petted!  Knowing that her food came from Br. Martin kept her close.

As time passed, little Bambi grew until it became obvious that she had gotten a little bit large for domesticity.   She wandered further, including into the woods on the Abbey property.  But not so far as to be unable to hear Br. Martin’s gruff voice shouting out, “Bambi!”  Then she would bound out of the woods and straight into his loving arms.  If, as in the past, she approached the doors of the community room, pressed her nose against the glass, and looked hungry, she was sure to be welcomed and fed.

But with the fall and mating season coming on, Bambi spent more and more time off in the woodland.

Until, one day, no matter how loudly Br. Martin called, Bambi did not come back.

Which brings to mind an interesting fact about deer reproductive biology:  females stake out turf. They stay put.  Male deer are the roamers.

What happened to Bambi?  We don’t know for sure.  But from that time on, deer began to appear on the Abbey and university grounds.

Is there a positive connection?  Again, no one can tell.  But now, when you see deer roaming about on the BU grounds you might ask: “Are they Bambi’s grandchildren?”