April 10, 2021

Butterflies blossom forth from the soul that is close to the living God.  This act of worship – the essence of our eternal life – nevertheless can only ever be the result of a slow and long process of dying to self where that ugly caterpillar spins its own deathbed.  Enveloping its entire being, the cocoon indeed is a self-emptying project which demands the worm’s entire energy, effort and focus.  Only when all things have been consumed in this single-minded undertaking, is the death final enough for some new and unexpected life to begin.  Though we are built for a butterflied way of being, how easy it is to not complete the cocooning process!  There are relationships we simply care not to examine, certain habits we never allow ourselves to be conscious of, and attachments that we cannot bear the thought of relinquishing.  Yet, the message is unambiguous, the tomb that lets in even the slightest amount of light will spoil the brilliant colors and the glorious emergence of the new creature.  Let’s therefore not be afraid to go all the way and ensure that everything is covered in silk.  Then, out of this dark and narrow place, that same everything shall taste life for the first time.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

BROTHER THEODORE (DAVID) KAPES, C.S.C. (1901-1995)

P.O.W. WORLD WAR II

Brother Theodore was born in Pennsylvania and at the age of 16 convinced his family that he wanted to join the Holy Cross Brothers.  He entered the Congregation in 1924 and taught one year in the States after which he was assigned to Bengal where he taught at St. Gregory High School in Dhaka (Dacca) for ten years.  He was a missionary’s missionary: master of all things Bengali.  In 1945 he wrote “Memories of Bengal – 1930-1940” and in the Preface he states that “The following collection of incidents, experiences, letters and articles was written in Bengal, India, and they were originally published in The Bengalese.  The Diocese embraces a vast territory, including diverse races, tribes, languages and dialects.”  The Table of Contents includes 51 entries with articles on everything from jungle trails, monsoon days, “Missionaries are Human,” snakes, Indian music, Bengal’s pagan noises and “The Missionary with His Camera.” 

In 1940 he came back to the States for a year of study, and then while heading back to Bengal in 1941 was one of the nineteen CSCs who were interred for four years by the Japanese in Manila.  Brother Rex Hennel, one of the missionaries, recalled that in December of 1941, just a month before the formal internment, “Brother Theodore was going along his merry way, making history for all of us. Teddy had obtained a movie camera before we had left on our journey, and he wanted pictures of everything.  It so happened that while we were in Manila, he decided to take some pictures of the boat on which we were traveling.  That would have been fine, except that the spot he chose to take the pictures was just below a large sign reading Taking pictures in this area is absolutely forbidden. Teddy got the pictures, but the police got him.  How Teddy got away with keeping his camera, we do not know.  He would not talk about the matter.  But he was arrested and did lose the precious pictures he was taking.”

After a year of recuperation upon returning to the States, he went back to Bengal (Bangladesh) for another eight years, and then back to the States for a 34-year assignment at the Ave Maria Press.  In 1990 he retired to Columba Hall where he was noted for his continuous work ethic.  Not being able to work disturbed him.  Gardening was his favorite pastime. He would shuffle around the house or grounds singing to himself or whistling.  Although he was very hard of hearing, he always managed to know exactly what was going on. This inveterate missionary was always soliciting money for the missions, collecting stamps to be sold for mission funds, and gathering many things (some not his to give away) to send to the missions.  Toward the end of his 94-years he looked very frail as he pushed a wheeled cart around the grounds picking up twigs, but he had the strength of heart to outlast a man 50 years younger.

April 4, 2021

Hallelujah!  O death, where is thy sting?  Hallelujah!  Why do you seek the living among the dead?  Hallelujah!  I have seen the Lord!  Hallelujah!  Horse and chariot he has cast into the sea!  Hallelujah!  Their eyes were opened at the breaking of the bread!  Hallelujah!  Now have salvation and power come!  Hallelujah!  My Lord and my God!  Hallelujah!  I have been crucified with Christ!  Hallelujah!  Even if I walk in the dark valley, I shall not fear!  Hallelujah!  The wedding feast of the lamb has begun!  Hallelujah!  The Lord is my light and my salvation!  Hallelujah!  This is the night!  Hallelujah!  Peace be with you!  Hallelujah!  Do not be afraid!  Hallelujah!  He is not here!  Hallelujah!  He has risen just as he said he would!  Hallelujah!  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever!  Hallelujah!  In the twinkling of an eye!  Hallelujah!  Who can separate us from the love of God!  Hallelujah!  Every knee shall bend and every tongue confess!  Hallelujah!  He has been raised from the dead!  Hallelujah!  Jesus, remember me!  Hallelujah!  Love is patient!  Hallelujah!  The Lord is my shepherd!  Hallelujah!  I am the resurrection and the life!  Hallelujah!  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!  Hallelujah!

SISTER CAECILIUS (FLORENCE) ROTH, C.S.C. (1916-1990)

P.O.W. WORLD II

She was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1916 and entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1934.  In 1937 Sister Caecilius was assigned to Mount Carmel Hospital in Columbus, OH as a student nurse.  Upon completing her nursing program in 1940, she was assigned with Sister Olivette (Whalen) to missionary work in India.  On their way to India in 1941, they were arrested by the Japanese in Manila and held as prisoners of war with 17 other Holy Cross religious.  In Sister Olivette’s account of the imprisonment, “Round Trip to the Philippines” (1945), she recalled,  “Our first warning of disaster came on Christmas Day.  After a three-hour aid raid, the captain of the U.S. Medical Corps called the entire staff into his office to inform us that General MacArthur had declared Manila an open city.  We were informed that the Japanese were approaching in force from both the north and south. Within two hours there was a second air raid.  In order to prevent a panic, the Sisters gathered the Filipino nurses in the chapel and kept walking up and down the aisles reciting the rosary out load. Sister Caecilius was the first to catch sight of the flag of the Rising Sun, carried by a truck-load of Japanese soldiers…as we waited in anxious suspense for the first contact with the enemy. It came at two o’clock in the morning when we heard shouting in Japanese outside the front gate. We were well aware that we were now prisoners.”  

Once Sister Caecilius returned to the States and spent some time in recuperation, she became a full-time student at Saint Mary’s, completing her academic work in 1947.  That year, she returned to the missions, but this time to Jaguare and Sao Paulo, Brazil where she worked in elementary education, catechetics and social work.  Returning to the States in 1964, her nursing career was spent in various supervisory or directorship positions at St. Mary’s Convent.  She was Administrative Assistant of Nursing Services when she died in 1990.

March 27, 2021

Prayer is the time when our lives are most authentically human.  Through our fidelity to this spiritual discipline, The Greatest Commandment (Lk 10:25-28) is awakened in us:  love of God, that deep interior truth, really and truly comes into contact with love of neighbor, that complex network of attachments, memories and emotions that constantly swirls through mind and heart.  This privileged place of encounter is not only the edge of our existence, but it is our very vocation, where we serve, with Christ, as priests who mediate earthly and spiritual realities.  It is significant that the very next lines of scripture are the telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:29-37) which ironically describes how the ‘holy’ ones, on their way to ‘pray,’ fail to make the link between commitment to others and true worship. What a tragic misunderstanding of religion! Let’s therefore not be afraid to be people of prayer, who each night, in samaritan-like anonymity, kneel down and minister to our sisters and brothers who have been beaten up and abandoned on the side of the road.  Let’s “go forth and do likewise.”  Let’s be human.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica.

FATHER ROBERT McKEE, C.S.C. (1912-1990)

P.O.W. WORLD WAR II

Robert McKee was born in New York and entered Holy Cross in 1927 and was ordained in 1940.  His first assignment was in 1941 to serve as a missionary in India.  While he and 18 other Holy Cross priests, sisters and brothers were en route, their ship was detained by the Japanese in Manila. They were interred in concentration camps until American troops took the Philippines in 1945. 

In a 1985 History Conference paper, “Holy Cross P.O.W.’s in the Philippines – 1941-1945,” that Father McKee delivered at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA, he said about the CSC internment in Manila that “At a meeting in the morning [January 3, 1942] between officers of the Japanese Army and the Jesuit superiors, it was decided that all of us would move to Santo Tomas University, the designated concentration camp for all Americans and Europeans. All other Americans, with the exception of the Sisters [whose convents would serve as their concentration camps], were to go to Santo Tomas.” 

On July 8, 1944, Fathers McKee and Jerome Lawyer and other male religious were loaded into a covered truck under the cover of darkness and taken to Los Banos, an internment camp 40 miles south of Manila, because the Japanese had discovered that the foreign missionaries were at the root of the guerrilla activities in the Philippines.  They were stationed in a barrack with 96 other persons.  He recalled that fending off starvation was a daily grind.  “We received two cups of watery boiled rice per day, one at 7:30 AM, the other at 5:30 PM.  In our cubicle we augmented this with so-called cheese made of fermented shredded coconut and garlic or with deep-fried banana skins, at times with grass said to have vitamin value.  One morning I found one of the Canadian brothers frying something.  He told me it was grub worms found beneath the plants.  Several times he invited me to a plate of these gritty but deliciously fatty worms.”  

As the time of this final internment was coming to an end, McKee continues, “Many persons died of starvation.  Our little cemetery was gradually filling up.  All told, at least 150 persons were buried there—victims of starvation and malnutrition [and two by execution].”  On February 23, 1945 he writes, “Suddenly our lives were completely changed.  [Nine planes of the 11th Airborne Division were coming from the north] …on the fuselage of one of the planes was the word RESCUE in big white letters shown against the dark green background.”


After returning to the States to regain his strength, he was appointed the assistant editor of the mission publication The Bengalese. In 1946 he retuned to Dhaka and was the first full-time language student for the study of Bengali.  He then joined the faculty of Little Flower Seminary, just outside Dhaka.  In 1948 he became rector of the seminary and was appointed Holy Cross superior of the Dhaka District in 1958.  During the twelve years he held this position, he built Notre Dame College in Dhaka. After his term as superior, he remained in Bangladesh until 1983 serving in the business office of Notre Dame College as the chief organizer and director of the Renewal Program for priests in East Pakistan, and later in Manila as manager of business affairs of the Asian Pastoral Institute. When he returned to the States, he briefly served as chaplain to the brothers at Flushing, NY and a few years later as the spiritual director for the Sisters of the Holy Cross at St. Mary’s in South Bend, IN. 

March 20, 2021

“You can either die now or die on your deathbed” is an existentialist’s approach to the human condition, but is it really possible to die before the literal parting that must take place on our last day?  Clinging to material objects, memories, emotions, ideas or any number of things constantly leaves us dry and empty. When, however, we start to see these attachments and our identification with them – my boyfriend, my career, my house, etc. – as antithetical to the life that our hearts deeply desire, we become willing to undertake that interior work of separation that is in fact a spiritual death.  Indeed, we slowly learn to purify our motives and detach from each and every thing that comes across our radar screen. Through this process, we discover a secret and sacred place within ourselves where our hearts experience deep peace akin to the “rest in peace” we wish upon our loved ones who have passed on. This state of ‘dying to self’ gives off Eucharist in all that we say, think and do, and, as such, nourishes others as they face their own need for death and journey into new life. Let us, therefore, answer this call to be true existentialists, prophets of the Cross, who call the world to encounter its glorious end not at some ambiguous future time, but right here and now in these very circumstances of our lives.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

BROTHER REX (CHARLES) HENNEL, C.S.C. (1918-2008)

PRISONER OF WWII

Brother Rex was born in Evansville, IN and graduated from Reitz Memorial High School.  He joined the Congregation of Holy Cross as a Brother in 1938 and graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BA in 1941.

He was selected to join a group of 20 Holy Cross missionaries to work in India (East Bengal).  They all sailed from San Francisco and arrived in the Philippines.  But World War II had broken out, and the Japanese invaded the Philippines and all Holy Cross Missionaries were placed in an internment camp for the next four years.  In his memoire of that time, “Our Expedition to Manila,” written in 1951, he states that “I had my first experience of eating trees at this time. To supplement our diet, we began the practice of cutting down papaya trees, skinning them, and boiling them.  The pulp was rather soft, and three hours of boiling made it possible to chew the pulp sufficiently to swallow.  While the results were neither tasty or nourishing, they did at least fill up the empty space in our stomachs.” Upon his return to the States he writes that “It seemed strange to be home. No lines to stand in.  Parents of boys who were serving in the Philippines came for news of their boys.  Most of them I could not help.  One mother called to ask about arranging for having the grave of her son cared for.  He was killed in India and buried near Dacca.  As the time passed, I realized more and more what had brought us back. It was the prayers of our community, our families and our friends.  God had heeded their pleas: we could truly say, ‘Blessed be God’.”

Until 1957 Brother Rex worked in high schools in Chicago and Biloxi, Mississippi.  When Holy Cross returned to Africa, Rex was the first superior and headmaster of the new school in Sekondi, Ghana, St. John’s.  In 1963 he was appointed the headmaster of Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, OH, and in 1967 was appointed the assistant provincial of the Midwest Province of Brothers.  He returned to Ghana in 1975 to serve as the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Cape Coast.  When he returned to Notre Dame, he spent fifteen years working for the Holy Cross Mission Center and serving on the provincial office staff.  He was a mentor to all he met—the “definition of compassion.”  His former students at Biloxi honored him saying, “Because of you, many of us are different—more Christian, more human.”

March 13, 2021

The famous Dr. Freud, in a very insightful analysis of the human psyche, described the psyche as a composite of the ego, the superego and the id.  While there are all sorts of theories out there about the dynamics of these three distinct elements of our personalities, our faith tradition offers us a clear, exciting and coherent understanding of how they actually do work together:  The superego is like the Father who constantly calls us, in love and mercy, unto himself through the oftentimes confusing and altogether short-sighted circumstances of our human journeys; the id is like the Spirit, who, from the beginning, is our truest and deepest self and cannot but rejoice in the presence of the Father; and the ego is like the Son who becomes flesh because of how desperately he wants to share with others the joy of being a child of God.  We all know that this psychological system can get jammed up and distorted for all sorts of reasons and in all sorts of ways, but we can take solace in the fact that Jesus, a thinking and feeling being just like us, revealed this glorious triune balance throughout his earthly life.  Let us therefore not be afraid to go to the divine psychologist whose methods of spiritual alignment are guaranteed to lead us to peace of mind and fullness of life.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Sister Mary Olivette (Charlotte) Whalen, C.S.C. (1907-2001)

She was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas to John and Ellen (Hogan) Whalen, one of five children.  After moving to Missouri, she attended grade school and high school, and for three years took classes at Fontbonne College, Missouri University and the St. Louis School of the Fine Arts.  Upon reading through a copy of the Bengalese, a Holy Cross publication on the missions in India, she decided to enter Holy Cross and work in India. She entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1933 and her wish to serve in India was granted in 1937 when she was sent to Mount Carmel School of Nursing to prepare for mission health care work.  

In the fall of 1941, Sisters Olivette and Caecilius (Roth), along with Brothers Rex Hennel and Theodore Kapes and Fathers Robert McKeen and James Lawyer, sailed from San Francisco for India.  Her nursing was put to use not in India but in the Philippines because the 20 CSC religious on the ship were captured by the Japanese and interred in a prisoner of war camp in Manila. They were not liberated until February 23, 1945 and were back in the States on May 3.  Sister Olivette told her story to Pauline Peyton who then wrote an extensive account “Round Trip to the Philippines.” After recuperation from the privations of prison camp life, she finally got to India in October of 1945 with her superior general for the visit.  She stayed but a month, never to return. 

Back in the States, she earned an MA in Sacred Studies from Saint Mary’s College. Along with another Holy Cross Sister, she worked unsuccessfully to establish the Federation of Holy Cross Women.  She was sent to Brazil in 1947 to work in health education, but found a greater need for elementary and secondary schools. She loved her work in Brazil, but in 1961 she was called back to Saint Mary’s to serve on the general council as missionary procurator and director of vocations.  While serving on the council, she personally opened the first Sisters’ school in Uganda, and in 1967 she was elected superior general. One sister commented: “So the Sister elected to lead the community in serious renewal had experience as teacher, nurse, graduate student, administrator and foreign missionary.”  She was neither a “rabid liberal” nor a “foot-dragging conservative,” yet there were members of the Congregation who saw her as one or the other.  Another of her sisters commented: “She seemed to be the perfect choice for those years of renewal.  In retrospect we realize that not even Christ himself would have been considered the perfect choice.  He suffered contradictions and so did she.”

In 1973, Sister Olivette was liberated from the generalship. She then spent eleven years in the Holy Land along the Sea of Galilee where she was instrumental in opening a center for ongoing formation for African and Asian religious.  These were the highlight of her days as a Sister of the Holy Cross. Failing health brought her back to the States in 1985.  Once recuperated, she travelled to the Far East ending up in Brazil for the golden jubilee of that mission.  While she spent several months in Brazil, she assisted in the organization of an archive.  Her final years were spent assisting in the Congregational archives at Saint Mary’s until she no longer had the strength nor eyesight for the job.  She died on May 16, 2001 and is buried in Our Lady of Peace Cemetery, Saint Mary’s.  (Shortened from a biography written by Sister Campion Kuhn, C.S.C. May 18, 2001.)

March 6, 2021

Codependence is such a common trap for us human beings. Unlike substances such as alcohol or drugs that have taboo connotations in our society, this addiction appears to be absolutely normal, all the while the person inside is drowning in feelings of inadequacy and desperation. This fear-based orientation, inherited from our first parents (cf. Gen 3:5), is rooted in the core belief that we are not good enough, that we are incomplete, that we need and absolutely must have this other person in our life in order for us to be ourselves. And while society balks at such behavior and such interior attitudes, all of its own versions of “healthy relationships” either mask the neurosis with euphemistic language or propose styles of relating that simply do not offer real commitment. Let us therefore look to Jesus who perfectly images for us the posture of right relationships. Fully secure in the awareness that he is a beloved Son with whom the Father is well pleased (Mt 3:17), Jesus does not cling to or grasp at other people. Rather, grounded in trusting faith, he invites others into that same security, forming a partnership where old habits die (cf. Jn 19:30) and the truth about healthy relationships sounds forth: “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 Jn 4:18). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Neil (Francis Xavier) Müller/Miller, C.S.C. (1835-1919)

The Regulator and Lamplighter

In the Midwest Province, Brothers of Holy Cross, archives, in a file half hidden in the back of a cabinet is the information about this brother who led a “hidden life.”  Francis Xavier Müller, now and then, referred to as Miller, was misfiled for nearly 100 years. The file is rich in photos but sparse in information about his life.

He was born in Salzstatten, Wertemberg, Germany in 1835.  There is no record of when he came to the States, yet he entered the juniorate at Notre Dame in 1856 and took final vows of obedience and poverty in 1861.  Until his death in 1919 he had but three jobs: he was the ‘regulator’ who rang a bell to call the religious to wake in the morning, go to chapel or meals, or be called to a “special” convocation by some superior. Secondly, he mended old clothing; and third, he was the campus lamplighter.  There are no other records in his file save a short obituary in an unnamed newspaper.

“A man whom St. Francis would have loved on account of his simplicity, unworldliness and spirit of poverty was the venerable Brother Neil, of the Congregation of Holy Cross, who after receiving the last aids and blessings of the Church, departed for heaven last week at Notre Dame.  For more than half a century he was the community’s bell ringer and mender of old clothes.  Only that! But how wondrously well he performed his humble service—ringing his bell with unfailing regularity, and plying the needle until the end of his life! A more guileless soul, or one more meek, we have never known.  By some special grace, he seemed to be protected from all the world’s sordidness and exempted from all fret.  Never to lose the presence of God, to do His will in all things, to keep himself unspotted from the world, and to be ever ready for the summons to depart from it—this was his only solicitude.  In the Ages of Faith there were many Christians like Brother Neil; but “truths have diminished” since then, and the “fine gold has become dim.”

February 27, 2021

Depression is a problem that plagues so many of us throughout the course of our lives.  There are certainly scientific explanations for this emotional phenomenon, but let us consider a theological perspective on the malady:  As physical bodies paired with rational souls, we human persons have the constant task of holding our sensory experiences in tension with our spiritual being – a full time job!  Two problems, however, can arise:  that we close the border between senses and spirit in a way that causes us to lose the natural symbiosis that makes a human person thrive, or we simply don’t bother to mediate the relationship between the senses and spirit allowing them to blend together in a way that causes us to feel like a blob that lacks definition and meaning.  The reason why Jesus, especially crucified, is the solution to this conundrum is because he is the true Mediator (1 Tim 2:5) and Great High Priest (Hebrews 8:6,9:15,12:24,6:17) who is capable of standing at that line where senses and spirit meet, confronting all of those things that want to pass through the sheepgate of our souls (Jn 10:11), keeping us both totally connected and absolutely safe.  Let’s overcome the depression cycle by inviting Jesus to be the captain of our ships as we try to navigate the choppy waters of being human.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Peter Fitzpatrick (1807-1881)

The Engineer

John Fitzpatrick joined Holy Cross when he was 45 years old. He was born in Ireland and settled in Goshen, Indiana where he became a very prominent and successful business man.  When his entire family died—there is no indication of what happened—he disposed of his business and entered the Brothers of Holy Cross.  Brother Peter was a master of many arts: a merchant in his younger days; a gardener who laid out the quadrangle in front of the main building; an architect; a teacher of civil engineering and astronomy at Notre Dame; and an author of a series of articles on the stars and the planets that ran in newspapers through the nation. 

Brother Peter persuaded the university administration to remove the Manual Labor School to another site so he could plate out a formal garden in front of the administration building and the church.  The Scholastic reported in 1868 that “Brother Peter could be seen daily by his transit, calling out his orders to the men, who all believed in his good taste, and seemed very anxious to execute his directions as if their very happiness depended on making that little garden the ‘dearest spot on earth.’” Brother Peter and his surveying class laid out this garden in an attempt to transplant a bit of the French Renaissance tradition to northern Indiana.

Archival records detail the variety and extent of the activities, and the success that came with them, that were Brother Peter’s over 25 years at Notre Dame.  He was the postmaster and the storekeeper selling books to students and community members.  He laid out the avenues with mathematical precision that would wind through the newly constructed park.  He designed many plans for new buildings on the campus and for St. Joseph Church in South Bend.  He also designed and built many vertical sun-dials that where placed around Notre Dame’s campus. One of the eleven he built stood for many years in front of the science hall at St. Mary’s and in 1955 was considered the oldest piece of scientific equipment at the college.  He was also the guest master who led many tours through his marvelous gardens. By December of 1880, Brother Peter was dangerously ill and died in January of 1881.  The South Bend Tribune wrote about him: “There are only a few people who have visited Notre Dame within the past quarter century that had not seen the cheerful face of the venerable Brother Peter, who took such pleasure in chaperoning visitors.  He was a great favorite, not only with the faculty and students at the university, but also with those who frequently visited Notre Dame.  No one knew better how to conduct visitors about the extensive grounds and buildings, and his suave manners charmed everyone, while his earnest interest in the affairs of Notre Dame impressed all.”

February 20, 2021

We human beings really are designed to be Temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 6:19), but because the evil one is cunning, baffling and powerful, we collapse, cave into ourselves, and self-destruct.  Indeed, just like the tragic events of 587 B.C., our temples become desecrated as we permit the profane to infect the sacred, that deepest part of ourselves, the innermost center of the temple, reserved for our one true Beloved.  This is when we ought to recall that the Temple in Jerusalem was set up in such a way that one had to pass through the Altar of Sacrifice in order to get to that intimate place, the Holy of Holies. We must simply learn to insist that all of the sensory experiences, ideas, relationships, etc. that want access to our deep selves be purified by Christ crucified who dwells within us and makes us safe by the constant sacrifice he offers on our behalf.  When will we finally believe that we are in fact Temples of the Holy Spirit?  When will we finally remember that we are made for intimacy with the Beloved?  When will we finally trust that the Cross is the sacrificial key to the door of our inner room (cf. Mt 6:6)?  When will we finally start living an authentic human life? Ave Crux, Spes Unica.

Mother Rose Elizabeth (Elizabeth Rose) Havican, C.S.C. (1893-1964)

Superior General 1943-1955

Earning an M.A. from the University of Notre Dame in 1924, she did additional graduate work at the University of Wisconsin and Johns Hopkins University.  After serving on the faculty of Saint Mary’s College for eleven years, in 1931 she was appointed superior and principal of Saint Paul’s Academy in Washington, DC.  And in 1935 she became superior of the Academy of Holy Cross also in Washington. Aware of the need for a liberal arts college for women in Washington, D.C., Sister Rose Elizabeth founded Dunbarton College of Holy Cross in 1935 on the property of the Academy of Holy Cross and became its first president.  

In 1939 Mother Rose Elizabeth was elected provincial superior of the Eastern Province of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.  During her term she built Moreau Hall on the campus of Dunbarton College, and she purchased the property for St. Angela Hall at Rockville, MD which would serve as the provincialate.  At the General Chapter of 1943, Mother Rose was elected superior general and held the position for two terms.  During her administration, she visited some 200 schools, colleges and hospitals conducted by the sisters in the United States and East Pakistan (Bangladesh).  In 1947 she established the Holy Cross mission in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with an elementary and a secondary school and a catechetical center. She was also very supportive of Holy Cross College, the only women’s college in East Pakistan.

In 1947 she was awarded a Doctor of Letters, HONORIS CAUSA, from the University of Notre Dame, and in 1949 served as a witness to the sanctity of Blessed Basil Moreau when his cause was introduced in Rome.

Upon completion of her second term as superior general until her death in 1964, Mother Rose Elizabeth continued to serve in a variety of ministries: teaching in the department of education at Dunbarton; serving on the provincial council of the Eastern Province; as an advisor to the foundation of the Sister Formation Conference, being elected in 1955 as the first chairperson of the Eastern Region of the Conference. In 1956 she organized the first symposium of the Conference “Holiness is Wholeness” in Washington, and in 1958 she was elected National Vice Chairperson of the Conference.  Throughout her ten years with the conference she spoke at and delivered many significant papers.  During the August prior to her death, she delivered two important papers at the annual meeting for local superiors at Stonehill College in North Easton, MA.  

A truly remarkable woman, Mother Rose Elizabeth is emblematic of the many Sisters of the Holy Cross who have labored in the United States from the late 1840s as collaborators with the priests and brothers of Holy Cross to cement the educational vision of Blessed Basil Moreau first at Notre Dame and then throughout the world. 

February 13, 2021

It is funny how so much of our human experience is based on concepts.  The world that we see is mediated by certain ideas that have been introduced to us and planted in our minds since we were born.  We don’t just see a cell phone, a car, or a fellow human being, we see an iPhone, a Lexus, and a CEO.  And because all of that stuff and all of those labels obscure what actually is, it is as if we are constantly walking around with scales over our eyes (Acts 9:18) never really seeing the truth of things.  The Cross, upon which hangs the eternal Word, however, is literally a concept-ending machine (cf. Jn 19:30) which has the power to strip away the non-essentials and thus cure us of our pharisaic blindness (Mt 23:16,17,19,24,26). When the interior mechanism of the Cross indeed becomes the singular lens through which we encounter the world around us, purifying fires stream forth from our minds and objects begin appear to us in their naked beauty. We shall thus come to know things as they are as we look forward to spending our eternity exclaiming “Now I see!” (Jn 9:25) with all the saints forever.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Philip Neri (Robert) Kunze, C.S.C. (1844-1926)

The Landscaper

Brother Philip Neri was born in Silesia, Germany and came to the United States when he was 16 and, the following year, he received the habit of a Brother of Holy Cross.  As a young brother he was the professor of penmanship and German in the Commercial course of the Preparatory Department at Notre Dame.  He wrote a beautiful hand fully deserving the name calligraphy.  His copy books on German and English script were bought and published by Fred Puster of New York and Cincinnati.  In these copy books he introduced a system peculiarly his own, and in the case of his eight German penmanship books, critics regarded them as the finest and most complete of any others then in existence in German.

His entire 65 years in the congregation were spent at Notre Dame giving him ample time to plan and expand the University grounds.  The beautifying of the main quadrangle was Brother Philip’s fancy. He lived to see the trees which he had “blessed” and planted as saplings grow to towering giants.  In his latter years he walked the shaded avenues of Notre Dame, stopping now and then to admire his harvest of years in spreading boughs and flowering shrubs. They were his protégés, carefully nurtured over a lifetime.  Many of his trees are still growing on the campus. Rarely, perhaps, was so much accomplished with a budget necessarily so meager.  In his arboretum he introduced fifty-three species of trees because he believed that man does not plant trees for himself but for posterity.  Along with his friend, Brother Peter Fitzpatrick the engineer, they wanted to bring a bit of renaissance France to the banks of the Saint Joseph River. Together they more than accomplished their goal.

February 6, 2021

A quick review of Christian anthropology reminds us that a human person is the marriage of intellect and will within a physical body.  Our intellects process sensory experiences through our bodiliness, while our wills take our bodies to the next right place.  The goal of the Christian life, thus, is to at last present our bodies, fully and unreservedly, to our Father in heaven, exclaiming with the Son, “This is my body!” (Mt 26:26).  Nevertheless, we know all too well how, when the reality of sin enters into the picture and gums up the works, our intellects and wills break down and our bodies do not end up where they are supposed to be, and instead we either become stuck or get into trouble.  Let us therefore be people who make the commitment to live like Jesus, people who spend time in prayer with the Father, who aren’t afraid to be led into the desert, who speak the truth, who see others through the eyes of compassion, who suffer for what is just, who accept the many trials and crosses that the Lord offers to us.  In this way, indeed, our thinking and choosing will function as a finely-tuned machine, and our bodies will arrive at last in the heavenly Jerusalem where we will make an offering of our whole selves to the Father forever.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Basil Kruse, C.S.C. (1893-1951)

Joseph Kruse (von Zelewski) was born in Berlin, Germany and came to the United States in 1907 and entered Holy Cross in September of that year.  He took final vows in 1918.  In 1919 he taught music and singing at Notre Dame and then was sent to Holy Cross School, New Orleans where he was a teacher of all grades and a dormitory prefect.  Returning to Notre Dame for one year, he was sent to Bengal in 1927.  He was an expert photographer and took and developed many of the photos that appeared in the mission’s magazine The Bengalese.  After 11 years as a missionary, he returned to New Orleans in 1934 where he lived and worked until his death in 1951.  

Perhaps Brother Basil’s life as a teacher and missionary is not as remarkable as many priests, brothers and sister of Holy Cross, but there was a memorable year for him.  Sometime during his years at Holy Cross School, he wrote on Holy Cross School letterhead an undated letter to Brother Columba O’Neil, the hailed healer and miracle man of Notre Dame. 

My dear Brother Columba,

I wish to thank you for your devoted efforts in asking the help of the Sacred Heart for my mother.  She has fully recovered [from Spanish Flu], although her case was very serious and her physicians gave her up.  May the Sacred Heart increase still more favors upon you.

Through your kindness I owe you also the cure of my father, who was pronounced incurable [from Spanish Flu] by several physicians.  The only acknowledgement I can show you for your kindness is to pray for you often.

I have spoken about you to some of my boys up here and you must probably have received some letters from them asking you for your help.

Another request I wish to make to you is that you remember Brother Augustine [Alderidge] who is very badly paralyzed.  He suffers intensely and I hope Almighty God may come to his help. Also, Brother Alfred [?] is not in a favorable condition.  His heart is weak and it is making him almost unfit for work.

Thanking you again for your good will.  I am yours devotedly in Jesus Christ.

January 30, 2021

Did you know that a shark can smell blood in the water up to a third of a mile away?  Perhaps you have seen these maritime beasts attack when they finally come to their wounded prey – it is not a pretty sight!  Nevertheless, this natural phenomenon does offer an excellent warning for us, as we should not be naïve about the sharks in our lives who smell the blood of our emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds.  There are those, who, plagued by insecurity, desperately seek the consolation of another’s inner room (Mt 6:6) and intimacy with the Father (Jn 10:30).  Wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing (Mt 7:15) looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8), they will win our trust, get us to expose our vulnerabilities, then go for the kill.  You and I must both take ownership of our relationship with the Father by inviting the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11) to stand guard and protect that sacred place.  In an unexpected twist, his blood not only repels the sharks, but nourishes them and invites them into intimacy with the Father in the peace and security of their own inner rooms.  As such, no one’s vocation in life is to be a shark or a victim, but, through Christ, all are destined to, together, become children of the Father forever. Ave Crux, Spes Unica

Brother Conrad Heiser, C.S.C. (1860-1936)

John Heiser was born in Sterling, Illinois and entered Holy Cross in 1876 when he was sixteen.  Young though he was, his intellectual ability was soon recognized.  He professed his final vows in Austin, Texas in 1887.  After teaching for five years in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Indiana doctors declared that his case was hopeless and told him to prepare for death.   His superior was not about to let this young and enthusiastic religious die and sent him to Austin, Texas where, with hard work and plenty of exercise, he managed to teach for another forty years.  Brother Conrad had an old broken-down shot gun in his room at St. Edward’s College [now University] and told many students that “that gun helped me to regain and keep my health.” He became an avid hunter with a dead eye. He frequently regaled students with the story of bagging 250 doves on a single day’s hunt, which was enough food for 200 students and faculty for dinner.  He also never failed to mention “that slaughter” was done long before the state legislature began to have regulations for the protection of wildlife. 

There are no records of exactly what courses Brother Conrad taught at the college, yet he was esteemed as a teacher.  During his 34 years at St. Edward’s his name became intimately bound up with the beginnings of Catholic education in Texas. When he left the university to return to Notre Dame, the following appeared in the St. Edward’s Echo:  “The example set by Brother Conrad is one that any of us might follow.  His was a life of service, dedicated wholly and entirely to the education of youth.  Although he expected to live but a short time, he refused to remain idle.  Those of us who had the pleasure of knowing him will not soon forget Brother Conrad.  The gentle religious, with his flowing white beard, with his kind manner and his friendly greeting, was sincerely loved by all who knew him.” 

January 23, 2021

I once heard of a man who struggled with drinking too much.  His alcoholic tendencies just kept bringing his lips back to that bottle again and again.  After trying twelve step recovery groups, therapy and “taking the pledge,” he was cured of this problem in an instant when he heard the opening line to the Song of Songs for the first time: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, more delightful than wine is his love” (1:2).  That man never drank again after hearing these words.  Truly, it was as if a light bulb went off in his head, and he finally understood that he did not need that bottle, that taking is a fear-based spiritual posture that leads to death, and that by making the turn to the Beloved, out of whose very side life-giving wine eternally flows (Jn 19:34), we learn to receive and enjoy a life of partnership, trust and love.  Where do we put our lips?  What will it take for us to make that same turn in our lives?  When will we finally come to rest in the Beloved?  O Crux Ave, Spes Unica.

Father Louis Putz, C.S.C. (1909-1998)

The Proponent of the New Theology

Louis Putz was born in Simbach, Bavaria and at the age of nine, he decided to become a priest.  His aunt, a Holy Cross sister stationed in America, arranged for him to enter the Holy Cross minor seminary at Notre Dame.  He was 14 and spoke only German and French when he arrived at Ellis Island displaying a clothing tag which read “Deliver me to South Bend, Indiana.”  He entered the novitiate in 1927 and after graduating from Notre Dame in 1932 was sent to study theology in Paris where he was ordained in 1936.  He remained teaching in France until the outbreak of World War II when he returned to Notre Dame.  From 1940-1961 he was a teacher, a prefect, the director of Catholic Action and the president of Fides Press. Over the remainder of his life he was Superior of Moreau Seminary, Diocesan Director of Family Life Service and Director of Harvest House. For a while he worked with senior citizens at Casa Santa Cruz in Phoenix.  Father Louis retired in 1995 moving to Holy Cross House in 1997.  His list of assignments is typical of a Holy Cross priest, yet Father Putz profoundly influenced American Catholics of his generation.

Father Putz’s years spent in France were “crucially” formative for him.  It was there that “…he was trained in the theology called ‘new’ yet which was thoroughly patristic in character—a theology which would be promulgated to the entire church thirty years later in Vatican II, along with the corresponding practice which emphasized the priesthood of all the faithful.”  His work with Young Christian Students prodded Notre Dame to admit people of color, re-cycle books for student use, open avenues of communication and publicity, and revise the residence hall system—all with the over-riding purpose of forming young men and women as lay apostles, that is, people whose lives radiated the gospel. 

In the sixties this work blossomed into a translation project designed to bring the “new theology” then animating Vatican II into the English-speaking world: Fides Publishers.  Provincial Father Howard Kenna asked Father Putz to guide Moreau Seminary into the church which Vatican II envisaged.  While doing this, he published the ground-breaking Seminary Education in a Time of Change, which proved to be a beacon for many religious congregations and dioceses. 

Father Louis’s life “…was a vision of faith opened up in his family, articulated in the ‘new theology’ he so vividly absorbed, the church: male and female, lay and clerical.”  He envisioned a church in which lay women and lay men—of all ages and with many different gifts and abilities—pool their talents as they work for the coming of God’s kingdom.”  He brought this ecclesiology to all of his many initiatives for over sixty years.  (Adapted from his community obituary 1998)

January 16, 2021

The word resurrection literally means “made standing again.”  In an American society that tells us that we ought pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, the thought of resurrection should attract and excite us.  How is it possible to pull ourselves up when we are worn down and beaten up by the many challenges of life in this world?  What power do we have over the fact of gravity?  And, is the act of pulling oneself up by bootstraps even possible? The conventional American mindset of building up riches for ourselves so that we might have the autonomy and the resources to always help ourselves results in a closed-off system that simply does not lead to life. The pattern of resurrection, however, is the exact opposite:  being poured out completely – as our Lord upon the Cross – and then being brought into new life by another.  Let’s therefore be like the lost son who admits that his life is a mess (Lk 15:17).  Let’s pour out all of our ego-delusion and become prepared to receive the saving power of God in our lives (Lk 15:18).  And from that low place, of stooping down to eat with the swine (Lk 15:16), let’s entrust ourselves to our loving Father who stands at the edge of his property (cf. Lk 15:20) and invites us to be raised up and stand with him forever. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Cajetan (Austin) Gallagher, C.S.C. (1855-1928)

Caj, as he was called, was a simple soul. He was born in Avon, New York, and it was in 1881 when he began to care for Father Sorin’s princes in St. Edward Hall. He had charge of the Minims and was the male counterpart of Sister Aloysius Mulcaire. Brother Caj worked with the minims for 46 years until the school was terminated in 1927.

He marched around the campus of the University of Notre Dame with a sawed-off broom-handle, which he called his wand, and he would gently tap the ankles of his charges to keep them in line when they were out on a walk. Caj was so gentle that he seemed like a shepherd guarding his lambs.  Sister Aloysius was the disciplinarian!

Brother Cajetan was a man of piety and wrestled with God in prayer. Once, when Father Cavanaugh received a letter from a parent of one of the minims complaining that Caj was a man of uncommon profanity, he thought the matter worth investigation. So, he interrogated the minim, who volunteered the information that “Brother Cajetan swears after we go to bed at night.” Father Cavanaugh stationed someone to listen. After the children had retired, sure enough, sighs and groans emanated from the Brother’s chamber in awesome waves through the walls of his tiny cell: “Lord, God! Lord, God! be merciful to me, a sinner! Oh, God Almighty! have pity on me!” Father Cavanaugh expressed himself satisfied with Brother Cajetan’s profanity. He made the remark: “If Brother Cajetan’s prayers are not heard in heaven, they certainly have been heard on earth!” (Adapted from Scholastic 1885; Religious Bulletin 1928; and the South Bend News-Time 1928)

January 9, 2021

What does Jesus mean when he says that he will make his disciples “fishers of men” (Mt 14:9)?  Think about how the world works.  English teachers train young writers to start with a “hook” to get their readers’ attention.  A girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse may refer to their significant other as a great “catch.”  Companies hire marketing departments to “reel in” potential customers. All of that is well and good, simply part of the rhythm of life in the world, but Jesus wants to elevate our vocation to some nobler and more enduring vision of the human person.  Thus, he will take the same image of fishing, but change the rules of the game.  Instead of bait, he will ask us to give our very flesh and blood. Instead of trying to get something, he will invite us to give of ourselves. Instead of pulling others to us, he asks us to take the risk of going out to where they already are. To be a “fisher of men,” indeed, means that no fish will ever be too small, that there will never be one that gets away, that our “big fish story” will always impress, and that we will spend eternity “gone fishing” in the communion of saints.  In this way, we will discover that our salvation is synonymous with the miraculous catch that is constantly unfolding in the cosmos (cf. Jn 21:1-14).  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Father Daniel Spillard, CSC (1839-1926)

He Responded to Whatever He Was Called to Do

During his time as Prefect, Notre Dame took a very firm stance on temperance, and Father Spillard expelled seven students for trying to smuggle whiskey onto the campus. Almost simultaneously, he was appointed pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in South Bend. In 1874 he was appointed pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Austin, Texas, and he also ran offense for Father Sorin as the two priests attempted to sever the congregation from St. Mary’s College in Galveston. 

He returned to Notre Dame to serve as Master of Novices in 1883. In 1886 he was appointed superior of Holy Cross Seminary at Notre Dame, and in 1890 he was reappointed pastor of St. Patrick’s in South Bend.  In 1893, he was named the superior of the Community House at Notre Dame, and he was also appointed as the Vice President of the University of Notre Dame, the Prefect of Religion and as a professor of Ecclesiastical History.

From 1896-1912, Father Spillard began his only long tenure of office as President of Holy Cross College and pastor of Sacred Heart Church both in New Orleans. He returned to Notre Dame in 1912 and acted as assistant chaplain at St. Mary’s through 1923. He then retired to the Community House where he died on February 12, 1926.  (Adapted from Hope, Father Arthur Notre Dame—One Hundred Years)

January 2, 2021

Rejoice!  It is the start of a new year!  How might we consecrate the next three hundred and sixty-five days to the Lord and thus grow as disciples of Jesus?  Here is an idea:  Carry a rosary in your pocket and literally grasp onto the Cross throughout the day.  When we are commuting to work and anxieties fill our mind, reach in and grasp onto the Cross.  When we are waiting in line at the grocery store or the bank, reach in and grasp onto the Cross.  When we are having a difficult phone conversation or are receiving bad news in an email, reach in and grasp onto the Cross.  When we are driving around on a lazy Saturday morning doing errands, reach in and grasp onto the Cross.  We spend our days reaching out and grabbing onto all sorts of things – for good or for bad – as our first parents did (Gen 3:6), but if we learn to get into the habit of reaching for the Cross, there is a guaranteed outcome, namely, we will slowly become conformed to that crucified figure through the course of the year – open, trusting, loving, good.  Let’s therefore not be afraid; let’s not live with sleepy hearts; let’s make the effort; let’s take the risk; let’s make this the decisive year of the Cross.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Sister M. Gabriella Doran, CSC (1922 -2015)

In the 75 years Sister Gabriella served the people of God as a Sister of the Holy Cross, she embraced each one of her assigned ministries with enthusiasm and zeal. Whether it was as a classroom teacher, principal, social worker, advocate for the elderly, health care coordinator or volunteer, she became totally involved in meeting the needs and challenges of each role. It was never enough to do only what was expected. Sister Gabriella extended herself to go beyond the demands of the position and reached out to others with whom she worked. During her 30-plus years as an elementary school teacher in the schools of the Midwest, she used every opportunity to help not only the students but also the parents and others involved with the school and its activities. When she was changed from one mission to the next, she left behind many friends and associates who remained loyal to her for years.

In 1976 Sister Gabriella began a new type of ministry. She assisted Father Louis Putz, CSC, in establishing Harvest House in the South Bend-Mishawaka area. Father Putz had established these groups all across the country, and Sister Gabriella was enthusiastic to help the program get started locally. The program is active today at St. Adalbert Parish in South Bend, Indiana, and its purpose has remained the same: “The seniors in Harvest House are a lively group of Catholics who rejoice in the God-given gift of dear friendship …. If you are looking for a place to belong, as well as a place where God can use your gifts, then Harvest House is the place for you!”

Working with these energetic senior citizens sparked in Sister Gabriella a real desire to continue working as an advocate for the elderly, so it was a natural transition for her to spend the next five years as a caseworker in R.E.A.L. Services (Resources for Enriching Adult Living). Sister Gabriella then moved to related services in health care as nursing home director of pastoral services at St. John’s Medical Center in Anderson, Indiana, before taking that same position at Saint Joseph’s Care Center in South Bend for the next 13 years. Her retirement from that position sparked a farewell that reflected the appreciation and love of her fellow workers. Never to rest on her laurels, Sister Gabriella became an avid member of the congregation’s vocation outreach team, pouring her energy into one of her favorite causes. She contacted numerous local parishes and urged them to form vocation committees that would identify and promote vocations. This zeal, for which Sister Gabriella was valued, was typical of her pursuit of what she considered a worthy cause.

From 2002 until her death, Sister Gabriella worked to gain recognition of the service of the Sisters of the Holy Cross at St. Columba School and Saint Mary’s Hospital in Cairo, Illinois. She was sad to see the sisters withdrawn from the school in 1963 where she had been principal for 13 years. The school initially was established as a mission to serve the African-American children in the area, but the state ordered the school to integrate, removing the aspect of special ministry to the poor. Saint Mary’s Hospital was established in 1867 and remained staffed by Holy Cross until 1973 when it was sold. This lack of recognition became Sister Gabriella’s and numerous parishioners’ burning cause and together they launched a campaign to attempt to gain recognition for the years of work of the Sisters of the Holy Cross among the people of Cairo.

December 25, 2020

The word infant literally means “one who cannot speak.”  How ironic, then, that the eternal Word is born into the world as a helpless infant who utters not a single syllable.  While some will see such a contradiction as absurd, our faith nevertheless invites us to trust that there is a lesson in it all.  What if the Word’s humble acceptance of this particular plan of salvation actually sounds forth more powerfully than all the wavelengths that ever existed?  What if, by this divine risk of incarnation, the Word is modeling for us the meaning of our human existence?  What if instead of “speaking our minds,” “voicing our opinions” and “telling our tales,” we are called to be co-listeners with the Word, to be vulnerable by our openness, and to speak a message of hope to others through the very witness of our lives?  One day that little baby will become a man and the wooden manger will become the Cross, and we will learn that the meaning of our lives, from the feeding trough to that gushing side, is eucharistic.  In the meantime, let us simply enjoy the silence of this most holy night and allow our hearts to be captivated by the mystery and beauty of the Word-made-infant.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica. 

Father Timothy Maher, C.S.C. (1831-1925)

“Timothy Maher was born in Tipperary, Ireland, and he came to Notre Dame in 1846. His first thought was to become a Brother of Holy Cross, and that he did, taking the name of Brother John Chrysostom.  Later on, in 1861, he decided that he would like to become a priest of the Congregation, a change that was permitted in those days. He was ordained in New Orleans, together with two other men, who had likewise been Brothers, on August 15, 1869. Father Cavanaugh writes about Father Maher: ‘. . . Even before profession, Father Maher had been charged with the financial accounts of the University. In a little room opposite the treasurer’s office now, on the ground floor of the (old infirmary), the difficult duties of the Secretary of the University were carried on. . . [He] continued in charge of the University ledgers for many years and was then transferred to a similar work as Postmaster of the University, an office he held not merely for years, but for decades. He had already attained extreme old age, but he remained a charming and cheerful figure on the campus, taking a young man’s delight in every incident of importance, cheering younger men with his light-heartedness, his genial humor and his incomparable courage, and lending his natural gaiety to the Community recreation in a way that created universal happiness and content. Until his strength so far failed him that he had to retire to the gentle shades of the Community House, he remained the inspiration of the younger members of the Community, and indeed it was their love and devotion to him and his rare and beautiful ascendancy over them that won for him, by the common voice and out of the common heart, the title of President of the Young Men’s Club. Academically, Father Maher was not a scholar, but I have hardly ever known a better judge of a good book, a strong magazine article or a substantial and inspiring speech. What other men got by a long scholastic training, he seemed to possess by a sort of natural instinct, as he knew without teaching how to detect shoddy in a coat, a book, or a man’.

“Father Maher was a model religious. He never missed an exercise of piety through neglect. There never was a more charitable tongue in a monk and never was a Soldier of Christ less a pharisee.  When he passed away in the early morning of Friday, May 15, 1925, there disappeared from the life of the campus and the Community one of the rarest figures Notre Dame has known. He slipped out of life as unostentatiously as he had slipped into everything and out of everything for the past sixty years of his abiding here. True, he had been anointed a few days before, but the intervening days had been comfortable and normal and no one dreamed the end was so near. Indeed, the Superior was actually on his way from the chapel to the room of the venerable priest to bring him Holy Communion when Brother Julius hurried out to tell the Sister that Father Maher suddenly seemed to be sinking. Before Sister could reach his bedside, he had gently and almost imperceptibly ceased to breathe”.  Hope, Father Arthur Notre Dame—One Hundred Years.

December 19, 2020

Were you afraid of the dark as a kid?  Waking up in a dark room, walking into the basement, or being outside in the late hours of the night can still make my heart pound and cause my breath to become shallow!  The uncertainty and the powerlessness of our senses during these moments are, nevertheless, an excellent analogy for our spiritual lives.  Indeed, it is when scientific certainty and clarity of intellect give way to that slow process of trust, that we begin to really and truly walk in intimacy and friendship with the Lord who calls us forth from the shadows of the night (cf. Jn 3:2).  Indeed, maybe the darkness really is not that dark after all.  Maybe our minds, which have become the seedbeds for all sorts of expectations and illusions and ideas about life and the way things should be have been dark all along and we just don’t recall what the light is like!  Let us, therefore, learn to not be afraid of the dark (Jn 6:20).  Let us remember that “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12) can only be perceived at the level of the heart (cf. Rom 10:9).  And above all else, let us not forget that Jesus rose from the dead “while it was still dark” (Jn 20:1) .  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Sister M. St. Brigid (Hilda) Bromeling, C. S. C. (1916-2020)

The Least Likely to Become a Nun

When Hilda Bromeling applied to the Sisters of the Holy Cross in May 1941, after graduating from Saint Mary’s College in 1940, her motivation was “to serve God and to remove the obstacles which hinder my perfection.” She was accepted into the Congregation and entered a few months later. Among her college classmates, Hilda was viewed as “the least likely to become a nun.” Yet, she spent over 75 years seeking perfection in charity as a consecrated woman religious as Sister Mary St. Brigid. There were obstacles along the way, whether due to her personal history or restless spirit.

She was born in Woodlawn (now Aliquippa), Pennsylvania, September 1, 1916. Hilda was the youngest of eight children born to Czechoslovakian immigrants. When the children’s mother died, their father needed help raising the youngest siblings, one boy and two girls, as the rest were older or close to adulthood. Since no one was able to care for all three children as the father insisted, they were placed in a home for adoption. It is known that Merton and Margaret Blacker Bromeling adopted Hilda, “who was a very sweet child,” giving her every advantage, providing for an excellent education and extensive travel. In adulthood she called them her guardians.

Sister St. Brigid developed a very deep faith. At the end of her novitiate formation at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, she seriously considered entering a contemplative order instead of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. After counsel by her spiritual director and the Congregation’s superior general, she accepted God’s will and freely pronounced vows. Two other times she felt called again to enter a monastery and twice more, her discernment led her to remain in Holy Cross. 

Sister earned a master’s in theology in 1952 from Saint Mary’s School of Theology, Notre Dame, the first of its kind for Catholic women. The first 28 years of her ministry were spent mostly in elementary education in Utah, California, Indiana and Michigan.

In her pursuit of perfection, Sister St. Brigid always wanted to be or do something more. Not only had she felt drawn to the sacrifice and silence of the contemplative life, she simultaneously felt compelled to throw herself into being a missionary in the new Holy Cross foundation in São Paulo, Brazil, where she taught at the Colégio Santa Maria from 1956 to 1961. Later, in 1971, having given two previous summers of service in the leper settlement of Kaulapapa on the island of Molokai, Hawaii, she managed to secure an extraordinary permission from the state’s Department of Health to live for one year on the island, lest she develop the infectious Hansen’s disease herself. Her mission was to write for blind and handless lepers, visit them in their cottages, and read them the Bible and other books. Upon advice of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Syracuse, New York, who trained her for this ministry and with whom she lived, Sister St. Brigid returned to Saint Mary’s in 1972 and gave service to the Congregation in various capacities for many more years. She retired to a fully contemplative life of prayer in 2000 at Saint Mary’s Convent. [Adapted from an obituary written by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC]

December 12, 2020

Question: What’s the difference between the mythological figure Atlas, who spent eternity bearing the literal weight of the world on his shoulders, and Jesus, on whose shoulders the heavy wood of the Cross rested?  Answer:  only one of them was going somewhere!  The Cross is indeed a weight but it is not a punishment – as the famous god had to endure.  Rather, the Cross is heavy so as to keep us focused, grounded and on track on the way to transformation.  And while we can sometimes find ourselves in an Atlas-situation during our journeys through life, we must not give into the temptation to simply “shrug” and go on our merry way (as a popular twentieth century author suggests).  No, we must learn to ask for the desire to move forward, the grace to walk in true freedom, and the humility to let go of attachments that simply add to our load without giving us life.  And so, the next time we catch ourselves complaining about how we have the weight of the world on our shoulders, we should look to Jesus whose “yoke was easy and burden light” (Mt 11:30)  and be reminded that we have only truly taken up the Cross when our feet are taking us somewhere in life (cf. Mt 16:24).  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Charles Borromeo Harding, C.S.C. (1838-1922)

Patrick Harding was born in Ireland and entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1862.  A carpenter’s son, he became a self-taught institutional builder and construction manager involved in almost every new addition to Notre Dame’s physical plant between 1868 and 1911. St. Edward’s Hall, Corby Hall, Dujarié Hall (now Carroll Hall), the Institute of Technology (now Crowley Hall of Music), the current Sacred Heart Basilica, and the boat house are all his extent designs.  He also built two wings of Sorin Hall, the Fieldhouse Gymnasium (no longer on the campus), the Manual Labor School, the Ave Maria Offices, the Community House (now Columba Hall), the Portiuncula Chapel (no longer on campus), and the first post office. In 1879 he also served as the supervising architect of the Main Building.  Finally, in the 1880’s he oversaw the building of the dome and a spire each going up simultaneously.  There are no records that indicate that he had taken any courses in construction nor architectural renderings. Tradition has it that Brother Charles used unsawn tree trunks from the Michigan hardwood forests as the inner structural supports around which he fashioned the piers that support Sacred Heart’s vaulted roof.  (Adapted from Schlereth, Thomas J. “A Spire of Faith: The University of Notre Dame’s Sacred Heart Church,” 1991)

The minutes from the meetings of the Notre Dame Council of Administration for 1897-1900 illustrate how greatly Brother Charles’ services were in demand and how extensive his contributions to the growth of Notre Dame:

22 January 1897: Brother Charles Borromeo is authorized to build the two wings at Sorin Hall at an estimate of $12,000.

26 March 1897: Brother Charles is requested to make a plan and an estimate to enlarge the gymnasium.

9 April 1897: Brother Charles is directed to make plans and specifications for the new Manual Labor School to be ready for September.

18 March 1898: The Portiuncula Chapel is to be taken down and the bricks used for the new gymnasium.

22 September 1899: Brother Charles was appointed to draw the plans for the new Community House.  Stones and bricks are to be ordered and the construction begun at once.

23 March 1900: It was directed to erect one more wing to the new Community House at Mount St. Vincent.

His competence extended beyond Notre Dame to the University of Portland where he worked from 1911-1922 and built the sisters’ convent.  Because of his age, he was sent back to Notre Dame, but had to stop in Salt Lake City and seek assistance from the Sisters’ hospital where he died.  He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.  In 1983 archivist Brother Edward Sniatecki wrote, “Brother Charles Borromeo was always quiet and retired in manner: a genuine, gentle and courageous religious.  A man of deep faith and sincere piety which was never showy.  He loved the rule and practiced it with fidelity.” The Columbiad of the University of Portland carried the following obituary notice in October, 1922:

Once more I missed Him on the accustomed hill,

Along the heath and near his favorite tree;

Another came, nor yet beside the rill,

Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he.

(Anonymous)

December 5, 2020

When we were kids, we tried to imagine what the end of outer space looks like.  Is there a fence?  A concrete wall?  A sign posted?  But again and again our minds refused to accept such a ridiculous conclusion, because we all knew that there would be something on the other side of the fence, wall, sign, etc. that would have to be accounted for!  This simple intellectual exercise is a good analogy for our human journeys.  At what point will we finally be discontented with the narrow space of our self-containment?  When will our hearts be restless enough for us to take the risk of living outside the little worlds we have created for ourselves?  How long will it take for us to realize that we were meant for transcendence and not complacency?!  We have only to look to the Cross, that boundary-pressing reality, which invites us to go beyond what we feel to be safe and secure.  Indeed, this Jesus, crucified outside the literal walls of Jerusalem, wants us to discover our true selves in this bold act of trust that puts us in touch with the infinite, where our true identities as children of our heavenly Father are realized.  So, the next time we find ourselves sad and depressed and feeling stuck in life, we should ask ourselves whether we have settled for a fence or a wall, then consider adopting the Cross as the pattern that will lead us to true life.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Sister María Luisa Güereña, CSC (1928-2020)

Amada María Luisa Güereña was born in Los Angeles, California, of parents who had migrated from Mexico. She was the second oldest and first daughter of José María Güereña, a blacksmith, and Magdalena Gómez, a homemaker. As the first girl she must have been “The Beloved,” as her first name in Spanish implies. After graduating in 1946 from a Catholic girls’ high school in Los Angeles, where she was called “Mary Louise,” she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. At the end of her postulancy she received the habit and the name Sister María Dominga. She later wrote that her religious vocation came first from “our home, which was deeply Mexican in its religiosity and in its customs.” Throughout her life she sought to claim an authentic identity and spirituality rooted in her Mexican values and those of the Congregation, which was culturally Euro-American in 1946.

Making her initial profession of vows in February 1949, Sister Maria later earned a Bachelor of Education from the College of Saint Mary of the Wasatch, Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1959. Her schooling prepared her for 28 years as an educator—from the care of orphans at St. Ann Orphanage in Salt Lake City to training teachers in Telêmaco Borba, Brazil.

Over a lifetime, Sister María Luisa spent 59 years in full-time ministries of education and pastoral care, in schools, hospitals, and parishes in California, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas, Indiana, and Brazil. After many years serving the Church and the Congregation so generously, she retired from active ministry in 2008 to live at Saint Catherine by the Sea Convent, Ventura, California, where she served in a ministry of prayer while volunteering in chaplaincy in local hospitals, particularly in neonatal intensive care units, utilizing both her experience and her bilingual skills. As an artist, she had once worked at Franciscan Communications in filmmaking in Los Angeles. In Ventura, she enjoyed making pottery, painting watercolors, and contemplating the garden she tended from the patio outside her bedroom.

Sister María Luisa wrote in a reflection years ago that transitions were difficult and challenging for her, but they opened new vistas and provided “an ongoing pilgrimage of discovery.” After a long illness, Sister María Luisa completed her pilgrimage of discovery dying at Mary Health of the Sick, a skilled nursing facility in Newbury Park, California.  –Written by Sister M. Joseph Cecile (Voelker), CSC

November 28, 2020

Any experienced teacher will tell you that the true sign that learning has taken place in a student is her or his ability to generate a new idea at the end of a given unit, semester or course.  This is the whole essence of doctoral studies and the goal that is articulated in modern educational theories.  Indeed, when the mind has wrestled with, organized, analyzed, weighed and assessed material and then drawn a conclusion, what was originally information is transformed into some new insight, some exciting fruit that just must be shared with others!  It should not surprise us therefore that the Divine Master, the Logos, who is the eternal “word” or “idea” of God, allowed his very self to be examined, wrestled with, beaten up and ultimately concluded, or ended (cf. Jn 19:30), upon the Cross.  And what happens next?  That life-giving, eucharistic blood flows from his side, some new fruit of this drama that is shared with others and as such literally generates new people – saints, disciples and apostles.  If we could just become like Christ and adopt a constantly crucified form interiorly, we would stand to gain much!  We would become people with a deep knowledge of the meaning of life and we would spend our days feeding others the fruits of this contemplation.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Father Alexander Kirsch, C.S.C. (1855-1923)

“As a boy of seventeen he left Luxemburg for America and received the Holy Cross habit in 1873 being ordained in 1880.  For the next two years he studied at the University of Louvain, Belgium, where he prepared to assume the heavy teaching duties [in biological sciences] at our university.  It is almost impossible to form an estimate of the sacrifices which his half-century of educational work involved…. Father Kirsch taught as many as thirteen hours a day; taught subjects ranging from German to zoology.  The work actually left him without sufficient time to get meals, so that only the robust constitution of the man could have resisted the appalling grind of daily labor. As the school grew he got time to devote himself to those branches of science in which he remained most deeply interested—zoology, anatomy and geology.  His name was synonymous with authority in these subjects, and during the years of his prime no teacher enjoyed a greater popularity with his classes or served them more devotedly…. Father Kirsch coveted no honors, sought no applause.  The testimonial of his desire was honest service bearing fruitful results” Scholastic, 1923.

 “The root of biology at the University of Notre Dame is grounded in the work of Rev. Alexander Kirsch.  A successful anatomist, cytologist and bacteriologist, he formally established biology at the University in 1890. A somewhat reclusive person, the large-framed priest was seldom seen on campus except in the classroom or the laboratory, where he would spend as many as 13 hours a day. He established a four-year course in biology in 1890.  The new curriculum was billed as ‘an immediate preparation for the study of medicine or veterinary science or with a view to teaching or otherwise engaging in biological science.’ Kirsch has devised a rigorous curriculum of 19 courses in the department—the majority of which he taught.  The biology department continually expanded during Father Kirsch’s term as head.  Father Kirsch suffered a heart attack on December 28, 1921.  Never totally recovering from the original attack, he died at the age of 67 in 1923.” Jane Kane and John Monczunski, Department of Information Services, University of Notre Dame, nd.

November 21, 2020

The Cross is the way that we come to know and understand things; indeed, it is only by analyzing and assessing some thing (bringing it to its “end,” Jn 19:30) that we become properly disposed to the Truth which the thing points to (cf. Jn 14:6).  And if we do not go through this Cross process, we will simply be stuck in a world of sensory data that never arrives at the Truth.  This is why in every question of his famous Summa Theologica Thomas Aquinas examines all angles of a given problem and even adopts, if only for a moment, the arguments of his opponents.  Once the process has been completed, he can unambiguously present the concluding Truth.  Perhaps this is the meaning of the Prodigal Son’s journey, that he cannot feel at peace in his father’s house until he has taken all of the other possibilities to their proper end.  When he finally crosses the threshold back into the loving embrace of his father’s arms (and it is no coincidence that this happens through the blood of the slaughtered calf, Lk 15:23), his tearful and happy comportment is juxtaposed with his bitter and angry brother who stands in the Truth but who never went through the process of taking ownership of it.  Let us therefore not be afraid to be prodigals and theologians who are led through life by that constant interior process that is the Cross.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

BROTHER FLORIAN FLYNN, C.S.C. (1850-1923)

Brother Flo (James Flynn) was born in Ireland in 1850 and entered Holy Cross in 1876.  After a brief illness he died in 1923.  He was a teacher for most of his years in Holy Cross and spent the last twenty years at the University of Notre Dame as a rector of St. Joseph Hall (now Badin Hall).  In 1916 he became the university guest master.

The following extracts are adapted from a 1923 Scholastic article written in his remembrance. “While the field was ringing with enthusiastic delight in one of the best games Notre Dame has seen, a little bell rang out also to say that Brother Flo had died.  We should have chosen no other setting for this last voyage of his; he must have liked to know that as the hard days were drawing to an everlasting end for him, the boys were back at the old school once more, thronging in to find it the same place that their youth had dreamed it was…. Brother Flo was a man of God, of course, but also a man of the earth.  There was the unflagging question mark in his character which beguiled us. There was the canny calculation of a mind utterly too simple for strategy.  You met Flo, but that wasn’t the end of it.  Every new contact was a revelation that made you not only smile, but also smile affectionately.  He had in himself everything that has run like a stream through generations of education here.  His pockets were crammed with community cigars, which atrocities were bestowed with a condescending grace that somehow perfumed the ensuing smoke with odors of Havana.  The flavor of Flo’s handshake combined something of the dignity of a Presidential greeting with the spice of a recklessly off-side—as if this expression of cordiality on his part were being done against all the rules of the game, for the sheer pleasure of the game.  And to proceed with Flo down the spaces of the art galleries! His were the remarks of a connoisseur who treated every picture with reverence—and originality.  There never was a better Notre Dame man.  Every stone and stick of the place were catalogued in his heart, and he treasured the voices of old boys long after they had been brushed away by the long winds.”

And from Brother Aidan’s Extracts: “The life of Brother Florian was a golden moment of Christian Charity.  As rector for ten years of St. Joseph Hall, this noble man of Christ wound himself inextricably into the lives of the motley throng…. To those who went to him for advice, for a faculty cigar, or merely for the opportunity to enjoy his loveable and unique companionship, he was a real friend…. About him hung a mantle of human feeling which he was ready to share with any disheartened wayfarer. In a world that in places seems more or less ungodly, he pierces the gloom with the homely glow of memory.”

November 14, 2020

The prophet Isaiah gives us a very beautiful image of what it is like to enter the kingdom when he says that we shall be “clothed with the garments of salvation” (61:10).  The embrace of our loving Father is indeed like having our whole being covered with his Spirit as a robe is fitted to a body.  So what then do we make of the unusual detail that Joseph’s robe was “multi-colored” (Gen 37:3)?  This beloved son of Israel received this tunic with great honor, something special that set him apart from his brothers, but the dream-coat quickly became a source of jealousy and thus a burden that caused poor Joseph much suffering throughout the ordeal of being sold into slavery and eventually imprisonment.  Like the patriarch Joseph and eventually Christ, before we can rightly be clothed with that dazzling garment of salvation, we must first accept the uniquely textured and multi-faceted robe that is laid upon us.  At first we may see these beautiful threads, like Joseph, as a source of great pride, but then we discover just how heavy those colors can be!  Fear not, however, because it is precisely through our willingness to take ownership of the drama of this, our cross, that something resurrectional can be woven out of our souls, and that is our salvation.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!