Following his Australian tour in 1992 at the invitation of our pro-life group, ACPLA, Fr Paul Marx OSB, once again invited us to become the Australian branch of Human Life International. He sent Fr Matthew Habiger OSB on a speaking tour first, followed by a staff member, Michele Le Palm, to give us advice on setting up an HLI office in Sydney. Michele told us that, to begin with, we would need an office manager and a researcher/writer and of course, an office from which to work. She also told us to get ourselves a computer and a photocopier.
Up until that time, our Australian Catholics’ Pro-Life Association (ACPLA) had operated on a shoestring, working from our homes with the help of a supportive parish priest who allowed us the use of his hall for the by-monthly collating, folding and addressing of our newsletter in preparation for postage.
The problem of finding an office was solved with the assistance of Brian Burgess, then running the Servants of Mary Help of Christians, and Fr Terence Purcell, then parish priest of St Benedict’s Church in Broadway, who offered us space in the old St Benedict’s school building. We moved in with ACPLA’s meagre possessions in January 1994. Bede Mcdougall, our first president, had retired so he and I were available to man the office. What to do, what to do? Neither Bede nor I knew one end of a computer from the other and we knew we would have to begin serious fund-raising to cover such a gadget plus a photocopier plus rent etc etc.
To the rescue, like a knight in shining armour rode Bern Sadler, who said, “I have some computer skills and I’ve taken early retirement because of poor health, so I will help with the computer work” or words to that effect. You can imagine how relieved we were! I had met Bern about ten years earlier when he was the founding president of the Sydney branch of Catholics’ United for the Faith, CUF. ( In fact, it was that use of “Catholics'” as a plural noun, rather than as an adjective, that we copied in Australian Catholics’ Pro-Life Association.)
Bern worked like a beaver in that office, trying to organise Bern and me into office workers. My only claim to fame was that I had learned to type at school. Bern did the layout for our new formatted newsletter and even suggested the name, “Life Lines”. He was the one in the early years who slaved over advertising leaflets, promotional flyers for visiting speakers, vigils, etc and it was Bern who designed our letterhead. We all shared the nail-biting that came with constant efforts to raise funds to do all the pro-life things that had to be done. It was Bern who worked through all the details involved in officially changing our name from ACPLA to our new HLI Australia Inc and preparing our constitution.
One of his most trying jobs that took a real toll on him was all the behind the scenes work in organising our first HLI Brisbane Conference in September 1994. He flew to Brisbane with me first to Banyo Seminary to settle all the details about rooms, accommodation and meals for our prospective attendees. It was stressful for all of us, but especially so for Bern. It’s a wonder we didn’t give him a heart attack then. He was absolutely indispensable in those early years. He worked tirelessly on subsequent speakers’ tours, processions, vigils and our second national conference in Sydney in 1996. He also did most of the nail-biting when we had to fight the Catholic Weekly to print our first advertisements urging Catholics and all people of good will to avoid voting for the ALP as long as their deadly abortion policy with its cynical conscience clause were still in use. We were having trouble with the Weekly’s lawyers and we had to counter with possibly holding up their printing for a day or so to sort out the argument. Fortunately, the danger was averted and the weekly agreed to publish our ad provided we removed the bold print, which asked Catholics to think before they voted. Bern sat in the office and held his breath – and prayed his knees off – until I got back with the good news.
He was with us through all those difficult and trying years until some time in 1998 when ill health forced him to vacate his desk, which was the only tidy desk in the office. I told Bern about the sign Fr Marx had on his own messy desk saying “A tidy desk is the sign of a sick mind” but he ignored me and continued being organised and scrupulously tidy.
His generous, faithful heart finally gave up on the glorious feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, 15th August. He had told people he always wanted to die on that particular feast day and Our Lady heard his prayer. Bern is survived by his lovely wife Anne and their seven adult children and their grandchildren. Rest in peace Bern. Please pray for the repose of his soul and for his family who mourn him.