June 19, 2021

Underneath the interactions, psychological exchanges, split-second decisions and general drama that plays out over the course of a lifetime are these things called assumptions.  Assumptions are deep, invisible realities that dwell in our souls and dictate how we act.  They end up there through our experiences in a given household, culture, religious tradition, race, economic background, etc.  Because there is a period of time when we have not yet developed a reasoning capacity to filter what gets transmitted into us, we just end up accepting it all and carry all of that baggage around with us.  Thus, when we talk to another person, hardly is it two human beings who are communing, but rather two containers of assumptions ego-dueling, as we try to figure out what is inside the other person and strive to protect our own “stuff.”  What a pathetic vision for life!  The life of Jesus, especially crucified, is nevertheless an invitation to “put out into the deep” (Lk 5:4) and go through the long process of emptying ourselves of these assumptions (cf. Phil 2:7). Indeed, through a life of prayer, discipline and obedience to the Father, we shall instead come face to face with the millstones that have been around our necks through the years (cf. Mt 18:6).  We shall learn to assume good will and begin to enjoy positive relationships. We shall have life. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.

Sister Ann Therese McAndrew, CSC (1925-2020)

(Sister M. Florinda)

A Faithful Friend of St. Joseph 

Sister Ann Therese McAndrew left clear instructions on the details of her funeral. She had been a faithful member of the Sisters of the Holy Cross for 77 years when she died at Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana, at age 95. She asked that there be no memento for her, thinking it would be an imposition to have another sister in her entrance group, or band, feel compelled to extol her virtues as a fellow woman religious. As it happened, she alone was the surviving member of her band who entered in September 1943. As for the memento, she insisted, “Just speak about the goodness of St. Joseph. I consider him my good friend.” St. Joseph was an appropriate friend to accompany Anna McAndrew throughout her life. In traditional Catholic spirituality, St. Joseph is the saint of a hidden life, who fosters and protects the child and the family. The Sisters of the Holy Cross taught her in elementary school at St. Theodore, describing Anna as a very good young lady coming from a fine Catholic family.  Anna applied to the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1943. She received the habit in 1944 receiving the name Mary Florinda, with her older sister by four years, Mary Catherine, entering the Congregation only the month before. Since 1967, Sister has been known as Ann Therese McAndrew, and reclaiming the McAndrew surname was apparently important to her since she left instructions to give all her “Irish possessions” to her family upon her death. Everyone attests to Sister’s devotion to her family. At her Mass of Resurrection on January 4, 2021, the hymns selected by Sister included ones from her brother’s and sister’s funerals. Within five days of her sister’s death, Sister Ann Therese wrote asking permission that she be buried next to her sister’s grave in Our Lady of Peace Cemetery at the motherhouse. 

Sister Ann Therese emulated St. Joseph, whom tradition calls a worker, provider and guardian. She was known for being dedicated and conscientious in all her duties, rarely taking a sick day. She was an accomplished seamstress and cook who shared her domestic talents with others. Her material needs were minimal, being content with what she had. Sister credited her friend St. Joseph as significant in her life of service. “My first ministry was at St. Joseph Grade School in South Bend, Indiana, and my last ministry was at St. Joseph High School in South Bend.” Sister had attended Lindholm Technical High School in Chicago, taking four years of commercial courses but later pursued educational ministry instead. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in education at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1963 and a master’s in education at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1968.

From 1946 to 1970 Sister Ann Therese spent 24 years as a teacher in elementary education. In 1970 she transitioned to serving as a receptionist or office assistant in schools, 10 years at Holy Cross School and 33 years at St. Joseph High School, both in South Bend. Whether in the classroom or the school office, she was known for her keen understanding of children and adolescents. Students and staff loved her. Sister was shy, some say timid, but she bore herself with dignity and grace, a lady from head to toe. Her bright eyes and open smile made her approachable. A parent wrote, “In her simplicity she was a role model for religious life, particularly for the teenage kids in the high school she loved.” In all her 68 years of ministry, she served only in Indiana and Illinois. In July 2014, she retired to a full-time ministry of prayer at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. Hers had been truly a hidden life. She had lived her life quietly as a consecrated woman religious following Jesus Christ. Sister Ann Therese loved God with all her heart, soul and mind. And she did her best to love her neighbor as herself. (Adapted from the obituary by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC)

June 12, 2021

I have this friend who had been in an alcoholic marriage and went through a very difficult divorce.  She once told me that she landed in that mess because her “picker” was broken and that she needed to get it fixed before she could make any other major life decisions.  This was very unusual language, but I understood her meaning immediately.  Her “picker” as she called it – the capacity to discern and make decisions – had been damaged by some traumatic experience and had atrophied as a result of a lack of use over the years, rendering her incapable of choosing the good and thriving as a human being.  We too have “pickers” that, like hers, affect everything we do in life, but in order to think clearly and choose well, it is vitally important that we look to Jesus, the “picker” par excellence, who made the definitive decision to enter into Jerusalem (Mt 21:20-11), to accept the heavy burden of the Cross (Mt 26:42), and to hand over his earthly life to his heavenly Father (Lk 23:46).  Indeed, by meditating upon and adopting the patterns of the life and journey of Jesus, we too shall reclaim that core part of our souls that is responsible for thinking and choosing and in so doing adopt a constant habit of picking that leads to eternal life.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Father William Evans, CSC (1919-1971)

Missionary and Martyr

The following was written by Father Robert McKee, CSC. 

In the cemetery at the side of St. Francis Xavier Church in Golla parish in the Diocese of Dhaka [Dacca] in Bangladesh there is a very well kept grave. The cement marker gives the name of Father William Evans, CSC, noting that he died on Nov. 13, 1971.  He was just 52 years old then.  He died at the village of Noabganj about five miles from his parish in Golla.  His death occurred toward the end of the nine-month civil war between East and West Pakistan.

On Saturday, November 13th Father Bill boarded his boat with a friendly Golla man at the paddle.  As they approached Noabganj, a soldier beckoned the boat to shore.  A freedom fighter, secure in the jungle across the river, gave us his story of what followed. The soldier escorted Fr. Bill to the headquarters of the army post, near a school a short distance from the river.  About twenty minutes later, two soldiers escorted Fr. Bill back to his boat.  His luggage was examined – Mass equipment, a change of clothing, a few books.  These items were thrown into the river.  The solders ordered Fr. Bill and his boatman into a trench, dug by the army for security for post guards. Suddenly, the boatman broke into flight, running around a bend in the river bank.  The soldiers firing but missing the boatman, quickly turned to Fr. Bill, striking him with their bayonets. A soldier fired twice at Fr. Bill, one bullet entering his back and exiting near his neck.  The soldiers immediately threw Fr. Bill’s body into the river.  The next morning, about four miles down the stream from Noabganj, a boy examining his fish traps discovered Fr. Bill’s body.  The body was carried on a litter by a path a good distance from the army post of Noabganj, and by noon of November 15 Fr. Bill’s body was delivered to Archbishop Ganguly and the others at Golla. That afternoon Fr. Bill was buried in the presence of many Moslems, Hindus and Christians who knew and loved him. 

Why do so many remember Fr. Bill Evans?  [Because] he was fully at the service of other persons, sharing his concern, his personal interest and love.  In every mission where he served his twenty-six years of priesthood, Christians, Moslems and Hindus will never forget the priest who was personally involved in their lives.  He carried his nearness to God into his life as a preacher.  He never missed an opportunity to preach.  And he developed a real talent in bringing the Lord to life for his people by his words and his understanding of the life of his people.

Today, at Stonehill College, North Easton, MA, there is a house named EVANS HOUSE that stands as a memorial for Father William Evans, CSC.

June 5, 2021

Awareness is a very popular topic in modern psycho-spirituality.  When we become aware, that is, when we see the phenomena of cause and effect clearly and accurately in our lives, we are empowered to live in the truth and to act justly.  The challenge of course is that, insofar as the scientist is always part of the experiment, our efforts to become totally detached and have a totally objective view of things will always be compromised.  This is why we must look to the Cross!  The Cross is a boundary marker, a placeholder and a point of reference.  The Cross exists independently of my particular psychological landscape and will always be there – etched in my very soul – to serve as the line of distinction that allows me to freely step outside of the drama of the self and stand in some new place.  The primary fruit of this act of awareness is the gift of being with the Father, the fulfillment of the fundamental desire that motivates our whole lives.  Let’s not get deluded into thinking that we need some fancy method of meditation or the wisdom of some new age guru on this spiritual path.  Let’s instead become everyday mystics by digging deep and humbly accepting the gift of the Cross as it already exists in our lives.  In this way, we shall invite others into this same act of awareness that makes us free to be children of God together. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

May 29 , 2021

Alcoholics Anonymous, and other twelve-step recovery groups, work because they point people to Christ. While the life of addiction is spent in a chaotic and endless bipolar pattern of clinging to some thing and then falling into the ugly waters of shame and despair, the program invites people to live from one pole, a middle place of integrity and stability.  This pole is ultimately the Cross which links deep trust in God – as the first eleven steps call for an accounting of what dwells in our souls and thus directs our lives – with a willingness to spend ourselves reaching out in service to others that they may also share in the peace that only God can bring – the twelfth step.  The famous Serenity Prayer, fundamental to the entire recovery tradition and offered at every single meeting, says as much:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” (the love that God has for me), “the courage to change the things I can” (the way that I relate to other people), “and the wisdom to know the difference” (Christ, who, especially crucified, is the very “wisdom of God,” cf. 1 Cor 1:24).  May we each adopt Christ as the captain of our ship on this lifelong recovery journey and thus move from the anonymity of suffering to the uniqueness of being a child of God.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica.

Brother Theophane (John) Schmitt, CSC (1911-1963)

First Headmaster of St. Patrick’s H.S., Monrovia, Liberia

A tragic accident ended a life of thirty years of outstanding service in Holy Cross.  On the morning of July 9, 1963, Brother Theophane drove from St. Patrick’s High School to the Firestone Plantation Hospital in Monrovia.  On returning, his car was hit by a speeding car that struck him broadside on the driver’s side. A German doctor stopped and administered first aid, and then took him back to the hospital with broken ribs as well as head and face lacerations.  

Upon receiving a telegram, Bishop Carroll and Brother Donald Allen drove to the hospital.  During the next few days, and the week that followed, Theophane seemed greatly improved as he was making plans to return to St. Patrick’s.  During the next week, however, his condition deteriorated, and his health became so alarming that the bishop administered the last rites. He died on July 15 with Brothers Donald and Austin Maley by his bedside. After a Requiem Mass in Monrovia, the body was returned to Notre Dame where he was interred in the community cemetery.

John Schmitt entered the Congregation of Holy Cross as a Brother in 1930.  In 1936, he received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Notre Dame.  He began as a teacher at Sacred Heart Juniorate in Watertown, WI in 1936, and in 1938, he was appointed to be the vocation recruiter.  During the next seven years he demonstrated that he could use his outgoing and dynamic personality and his kindness to aptly describe the life of a brother to numerous young men—many of whom entered the Brothers.

In 1945, Brother Theophane was selected to establish a prep school, Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, OH.  The new school opened in 1946 and, very soon, proved to be a high school with a reputation for high standards with excellent academic and athletic programs.  

Because of his organizational and administrative ability, his name came to the attention of the General Administration in Rome, Italy. Plans were in the making to move the general administration from Rome to New York City while a new Generalate and seminary were being constructed.  Brother Theophane was selected to oversee this massive undertaking in a language he did not speak, and where the attitudes and methods of doing things were very different than in the States.  Nonetheless, the new buildings were ready for occupation in 1954, and Theophane remained in Rome through 1956 as the General Steward and a member of the General Council.  In 1957, he was assigned to Monrovia. (Adapted from the writings of Brother Edward Sniatecki, CSC, January 1984)

May 22, 2021

St. Paul uses the psychological “I” a lot in his writings.  He has classic lines like, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:20) and “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim 4:7) and “I can do all things through Christ” (Phil 4:13).  In an age when people generally recognize the problem of having a “big ego” (literally “I”), but don’t seem to know what to do about it, or simply try to annihilate it or avoid it, it is refreshing to hear how Paul strives to align his “I” with Christ.  Indeed, Paul spent three years in Arabia (Gal 3:17-18) after his powerful encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9:3-6) so that he could be purged of all of his negative emotions, false perceptions and sensory attachments, with a new “I” emerging out of this milieu as a more authentic expression of his humanity.  Paul invites us to undertake this same kind of psychological journey of conversion that puts a positive spin on the “I,” so that with David we might proclaim, “O God, you are my God, for you I long” (Ps 63:1); with Mary, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord” (Lk 1:38); with Magdalene, “I have seen the LORD!” (Jn 20:18); with Christ, “I thirst” (Jn 19:28); and with the Church, “I believe.”  Ave Crux, Spes Unica.

BROTHER BERNARD (EUGENE) GERVAIS, C.S.C. (1881-1963)

CONGREGATIONAL HISTORIAN AND MULTITASKER

Born in Momence, IL, Francis Gervais entered Holy Cross in 1896 and professed firsts vows in 1899 at Notre Dame.  He enjoyed telling the story of his first assignment as a candidate in 1896.  Two days after entering, he was asked to dig the grave for Brother Francis Xavier Patois, the last of the six brothers who came from France with Father Sorin in 1842.  He recalled that this was his initiation into the rich history of the Brothers of Holy Cross in America.  Almost to his last day, he collected and wrote articles on the history of the Congregation.

At the completion of his novitiate, now Brother Bernard was assigned to St. Vincent Scholasticate until receiving a Master of Accounts from the University of Notre Dame. In September 1901, he was assigned to teach in the Cathedral School in Fort Wayne, and at the end of the year, he was reassigned to Holy Cross College in New Orleans.  Because of his background in commercial subjects, in 1906, he was transferred to St. Joseph College in Cincinnati, OH.  In 1909, he returned to Cathedral High School as a member of the school’s first high school faculty under the leadership of principal Brother Marcellinus Kinsella.  

When the University of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Watertown, WI phased out its academic program in 1912, Brother Bernard was assigned as the first superior and director of the new candidate program, Sacred Heart Juniorate, through 1918.  One of his first candidates was his own brother, Felix, later Brother Benedict.

From 1918 onward, Brother Bernard was given assignments that allowed his leadership and financial skills to be fully utilized: 1918-1924, principal of Cathedral High School; 1925-1931, director of the scholasticate, Dujarié Hall; and 1926-1950, holding several roles on the General Administration—councilor, steward, treasurer either at Notre Dame, Washington, DC or in New York City.  During those 24 years, he would also direct other activities too: 1925-31 as superior at Dujarié; another one-year assignment at Cathedral High School; and superior of St. Joseph Farm, Granger, IN from 1931-1934.  A true multi-tasker!

Perhaps, from the view of any of the congregation’s many archivists, his greatest accomplishment was bringing the General Matricule, a membership register, up to date, beginning in 1820 and ending in 1944.  Bernard spent eight years researching and compiling the data.  Beginning with Father Jacque Dujarié as number one and ending with number 5,700, Brother Gabriel Rondel, he compiled the chronological list.  He then built an index where each member is cross referenced by religious name, e.g. Ildephonsus, and surname: a monumental effort because all of it was typed with very few errors. 

From 1950 until Brother Bernard’s untimely death in 1963—he died visiting his family in Seattle, WA—he enjoyed working in the Midwest province archives and gardening.  Brother Bernard Gervais was one of the many early twentieth century titans who worked to move the Brothers into the “modern” age of secondary education.

Adapted from the writings of Brother Edward (Hyacinth) Sniatecki, CSC, January 1984.

May 15, 2021

The Bible is filled with tree imagery:  the Tree of Life (Gen 2 and Rev 22), the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 3), the tree planted by running waters (Ps 1), the fig tree (Mt 21), the wild olive tree (Rom 11), and the list goes on.  Trees are important symbols in the spiritual life for several reasons: they are stable points of reference that are firmly rooted in the earth; they defy the heavy burden of gravity as they soar heavenward; and in the pairing of a single trunk with a vast array of branches, they remind us that our fundamental vocation is to love the one true God and our many sisters and brothers at one and the same time.  Let’s go for a walk today and marvel at all of the trees in our communities, our neighborhoods and in our very back yards.  What is more, let’s have the courage to go inside, to look within, and realize that there is a great tree within ourselves just waiting to burst forth in splendor and truth.  May the one who was hung on a tree (Acts 5:30) help us to remember that we too are called to be planted deeply in the Spirit, to be opened wide to the living God and to bear the kind of fruit that lasts. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.

Father Paul Gillen, CSC (1810-1882)

Civil War Chaplain: “The Damndest Clergyman I Even Saw”

Rev. Paul Gillen, C.S.C. (170th New York Infantry Regiment, October 1856—July 1862)

The following is quoted and adapted from Schmidt, James M. Notre Dame and the Civil War, Marching Onward to Victory, The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2010.

“The first of Notre Dame’s priests to go to war as a chaplain was Father Paul E. Gillen.  A native of County Donegal, Ireland, Gillen came to the United States in 1840, probably in his later teens. Shortly before the Civil War, he became a priest and entered the Holy Cross community at Notre Dame.

“When the war broke out, Father Gillen was on university business in the Northeast.  Impressed with the number of Catholic men joining the ranks—and concerned with their spiritual well-being—he appealed for permission to offer his services, and Father Sorin granted the request. [He] arrived in Washington, D.C., on July 20, 1861, on the eve of the First Battle of Bull Run, and immediately began his ministry among the soldiers. Although in his late fifties, Gillen – “a tall, thin, spared old gentleman of clerical appearance”—had seemingly endless energy and did not leave the service until after the surrender of Appomattox.

“Gillen preferred to roam from unit to unit as needed.  Because of the large compass of his ‘parish’, he needed a horse.  Appealing to Father Sorin and Major General George McClellan, he succeeded in not only getting the horse but an ambulance too.  He was able to put a bed and a portable altar in the ‘new and unique’ conveyance.  Setting the altar ‘within the frame of the bed, [he could] set up the buggy with candles, candlesticks and all requisites for the Mission.’ One solder commented that ‘No matter whether we were on the march or a scout, Mass was always offered every morning at Father Paul’s establishment.’

“Father Gillen’s good standing with the soldiers and officers was marred in 1861 over rumors of drunkenness.  The Archbishop of Baltimore and the Bishop of Philadelphia had heard that Gillen was seen ‘in a state of brutal intoxication.’  These prelates requested that Sorin call the chaplain back to Notre Dame.  Eventually, the rumors were proven to be false and both prelates apologized for becoming prey for rumor-mongering. Actually, the chaplain acquitted himself with courage on the battlefield.  ‘He would frequently expose himself to great danger in order to administer the rites of the Church to the dying men.’  A soldier was impressed that Gillen was not afraid of walking alone behind enemy lines after a battle, and exclaimed that he was ‘one of the damndest venturesome old clergyman I ever saw.'” 

May 8, 2021

The word ascesis literally means “exercise.”  This may sound funny to us as we try to imagine how many calories are being burned by the ascetic person who takes lukewarm showers, prays regularly, rises promptly in the morning, or makes any number of small sacrifices throughout a given day, but these are truly disciplines that make one healthy.  Indeed, the hours spent jumping rope or lifting weights or running on a treadmill – by which our muscles are challenged and we are physically strengthened – are symbolic of the soul’s deeper need for spiritual sculpting, that is, the revelation of a good and beautiful soul within.  And because there are no ankles to sprain or knees to blow out, spiritual exercise – needing only intellect and will and the courage to dig deep! – is a long-term game plan for our lives.  Let’s therefore look to the ascesis of Jesus who kept vigil (Lk 6:12), who fasted (Lk 4:2), who went to Church (cf. Lk 4:15), and who prayed on his knees (Lk 22:41) in a way that enabled him to hand over his very body to his heavenly father (Lk 23:46) and thus sound forth the lasting health of resurrected life (Lk 24:31).  Ave Crux, Spes Unica.

BROTHER ANSELM (ARTHUR) TATRO, C.S.C. (1891-1989)

Brother Anselm was born in St. Anne, Illinois in 1891.  He helped out on the farm and worked at a manufacturing company before he entered Holy Cross in January of 1917.  He served on the staff of the Notre Dame Post Office for eight years before going to the Ave Maria Press where he worked as a Linotype operator until 1980.  He was so accurate at his work that he was given much of the Notre Dame scientific writing to set into print. He lived in the same room on the second floor of Columba Hall from 1919 until 1981 when failing health forced his true retirement in 1981 at Dujarié House.

Anselm had three hobbies—he loved to hike, collect songs and solve word puzzles.  He was the “father” of exercise enthusiasts in Holy Cross. His legendary hikes were not short—they were 20 to 30 miles long, seldom more than a 15-mile radius around the University of Notre Dame. He enjoyed hikes on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays keeping him lean and trim.  Often, he would return with a pocket full of change and other items he had found along his various trails.  All his booty was dutifully turned in to whoever was the superior that day.  

He was in constant good spirits and became known as the smiling-brother of Columba Hall noted for gentleness, kindness and Trappistine simplicity. He would often stop some brother in the hallway asking them if they could name the tune; he then would either hum or la-la-la. The story was also told that when it was time for him to move from Columba Hall to Dujarié retirement house, it was nearly impossible to get into his room.  He had stacks upon stacks of South Bend Tribunes and Scholastics in his room—one brother estimated he had not tossed away any paper from as early as 1919!

Upon his death, his directory of prayers was filled with countless cards and slips of paper.  One read: “Lord, as I grow older, keep me from getting talkative, give me wings to get to the point, grace to listen to others, keep me sweet, make me helpful since I want a few friends at the end.”  He had far more than just a “few” friends.  Someone said, “If you seek creative ideas, go for a walk.  Angels whisper to a [person] when [they] go for a walk.” Angels must then have been in constant conversation with this good and gentle Holy Cross Brother.

May 1, 2021

Good biblical interpretation always begins at the literal level.  While we know that the veracity of the literal level is a matter of genre – think of how epic poetry differs from history in this regard – the meaning of all texts at that deeper spiritual level is always true. Indeed, the exterior drama simply serves as an invitation to the reader to take the risk of entering into the spiritual depths, and how could that act of trust ever result in anything but truth?! The Cross is the boundary marker that makes this kind of understanding possible.  When we make that move from the literal to the spiritual – and what courage is required to undertake that journey! – we are dying to self.  In that moment, the certainty, familiarity and comfort of the literal level give way to an openness, vulnerability and receptivity to the Word who is really and truly speaking to us in some distant still point in the soul.  Let’s not be content with a perpetually literal perspective on things or a fearful fundamentalist posture in life.  Let’s instead allow our restless hearts to feel and respond to those deep promptings of the Spirit.  Let’s make the Cross the lens through which we read scripture and thus understand ourselves and our lives.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica

Brother Ambrose (John) McCarthy (1905-1935)

Killed in An Automobile Accident*

From the writings of Brother Ernest Ryan, CSC.

Brother Ambrose died on All Souls Day, November 2, just a few months after being appointed manager of the Association of Saint Joseph. Thirty-one years of age he had pronounced his final vows on August 16 after having given every evidence of a most successful religious life.  He possessed a keen, well-disciplined mind, able to brush away every interference with the business at hand, and he inspired confidence and respect.

His body lay in the Postulate Chapel overnight before removal to Notre Dame for burial in the Community Cemetery.  Postulants watched, a group being relieved each hour; and all, perhaps, learning more during their vigil than they will from any other experience of the Postulate days.  Death had struck swiftly; they had seen Brother at Night Prayer and in the morning were told of his death.  “Let us be convinced,” said Father Dever’s (John A), beginning a Mass of the repose of Brother’s soul, “of the absolute certainty of death.”

But the impact of even sudden death is softened in the religious life. Brother Ambrose attended Mass and received Holy Communion every day of the short five years he had as a Brother. Every day, too, he had prayed at least three hours in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament; every week he had made the Way of the Cross and a Holy Hour; every summer he had made an eight-day retreat.  And shortly before his death he had attended the 40 hours at the College.  God gave him five years of preparation; thousands each year do not receive five minutes.  Death to the good religious is the crowning experience of life.

*Brother Ambrose met death in an auto accident on the Milwaukee Highway east of Watertown, Wisconsin.  Before coming to Watertown, he was stationed at Holy Cross College, New Orleans, Louisiana. His religious name was changed in 1934 from Sulpicius to Ambrose.

April 24, 2021

My grandmother was quite possibly the most intuitive person I have ever known: without measuring, she could consistently add the exact right amount of pasta to a pot of boiling water; her refrigerator was a collection of dozens of differently-shaped containers of delicious foods that fit just right among the various shelves and drawers; she always had the right thing to say; she always knew the right time to act.  In a world that is obsessed with an intellectual and technical version of things, she revealed to me that there is a deeper and truer way to live.  Her intuition, however, was not just a personality trait, but rather a faculty of her soul that developed over time through practices like attendance at daily Mass, regular recitation of the rosary, and prayerful reflection.  Indeed, this process of removing all of the specks of dust opens up in us a knowledge that is so pure and so good that we will never rely on our exalted discursive mode of thinking again. We can especially trust this intuition if we, like my grandmother, have taken up the interior cross as the purifying agent that refines our thinking and allows resurrected light to shine forth on the other side. Let us therefore take a risk on these depths and become grandmothers in our own right, as we build up the human family with our love. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Sister M. Claudine (Marie) Lederle, CSC (1882-1918)

First CSC Member to die from Spanish Influenza

Marie Lederle was born in Endignen, Germany. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Germany in 1905, receiving the Holy Habit on January 12 and the religious name of Sister Mary Claudine.  Her first profession was on December 8, 1907 and final profession on August 15, 1911.  All these ceremonies took place at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana.  Sister’s ministry was at Holy Cross Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana from 1906 to 1918.  She served in the laundry and helped with the fluting of the big cap–the headdress of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.   She also helped in the kitchen and in the Student Infirmary.  


In October of 1918 she was nursing a young Minim, Bob Corrigan, who died from pneumonia on October 13.  In a letter printed in The Notre Dame Scholastic, vol. LII, no. 3, October 26, 1918, Notre Dame President Rev. John W. Cavanaugh’s words are preceded by the editorial statement that “The following letter of the President of Notre Dame University ought to check any wild rumors about sickness at the University.”  Father Cavanaugh writes: “Altogether there are now fifty boys ill enough to require any kind of nursing. These are distributed as follows: The University Isolation Hospital (SATC) 25; The College Infirmary 16; The Minims 1; [and in] St. Joseph’s Hospital 8.  At the present time there are just three very sick boys.  They have pneumonia.  All others are in a very satisfactory condition, and there is no cause for special worry.  In general, we have very little of the presence of the so-called Spanish Influenza.  I make this statement so as to prevent ignorant and malicious people from frightening the public needlessly and, also, to clip the wings of sensation mongers.  I believe that the happy conditions existing at Notre Dame are due to the tireless labors and intelligent care of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.”  The following obituary was published in The Notre Dame Scholastic, vol. LII, no. 4, November 2, 1918.  “There was general sorrow and regret at Notre Dame on Sunday October 20, at the news of the death of Sister M. Claudine, the gentle and unselfish nurse who for several years past had ministered to the students in the college infirmary.  Sister Claudine contracted pneumonia which caused her death, in caring for the sick students.  She will be prayerfully remembered by the faculty and students of the University.” Sister Claudine died seven days after Bobby Corrigan. And, finally, in 1919, Father Cavanagh wrote to theologian Francisco Marín-Sola that “we have gone through serious experiences since my last letter to you.  The influenza was almost the death of all human joy.” 

April 17, 2021

As living beings with hands and feet, our biology informs our anthropology – we are built precisely for journeying to a destination and being of service to others along the way. Human experience nevertheless shows that we are wayward people whose feet sometimes take us to places that are dead-ends or simply cause us to get stuck in life, while our hands can often be tricked into falling into greedy and selfish patterns.  The transparency of the Cross can be a great reminder of our true human identity and motivation for us to change our habits.  The very hands that anointed and healed are spread wide and exposed for all to see.  The same feet that made those daring steps to Jerusalem, the city of destiny, are nailed in place and put on display. Being conformed to Christ means going through that long process of purification whereby we learn to let go of all of those things in our hands which prevent us from reaching out to others, and to discern being on a pilgrimage from mere wanderlust of the feet. We shall indeed one day put out our hands in trust (cf. Jn 21:18) and run the way of the Father’s commands (cf. Ps 119:32).  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Father Jerome Lawyer, C.S.C. (1912-2006)

P.O.W. World War II

Jerry Lawyer was born in 1912 in Dayton, OH and entered Holy Cross in 1930 making perpetual profession in 1934 and being ordained in 1939 following studies at the University of Notre Dame and the Foreign Mission Seminary in Washington, DC.  Following ordination, he pursued Arabic and Islamic studies at Catholic University in Washington in preparation for missionary work in East Pakistan (today Bangladesh).

In 1941 he set sail from San Francisco for East Pakistan with a group of 18 CSC priests, brothers and sisters on board the USS President Grant.  On December 4, the ship arrived in Manila in the Philippines and all passengers were ordered to disembark.  World War II had begun and the ship took off to avoid enemy submarines leaving all the passengers behind. 

Eventually, the Japanese captured Manila and all Americans were marched off to a prison camp in Los Baňos.  Until liberation in 1945, all the American CSCs suffered physical abuse and starvation.  For two years he and Father Bob McKee were kept busy organizing basketball games for young men and boys to keep them off the streets.  When liberated by the US forces in 1945, Lawyer recalled “Soldiers entered our barracks, glanced at our flimsy shelters, threw packages of cigarettes on our beds, told us to grab our valuables, not a lot of books or clothing, and to assemble on an open field near the camp main gate where amtraks were waiting for us. We were told to walk fast as the troops set fire to our barracks.  Brother Rex raced along while Father Julien, a Canadian Holy Cross priest, who had opened a can of hidden corned beef, began feeding it to Brother Theodore who was very thin and weak.  I asked a soldier, ‘Why the rush? You captured the place.’ He told me that there was a battalion of Japanese in a quarry nearby who would reach us quickly. I was being separated from the brothers and Fr. McKee so I told them I would tie a red bandana around my head so I could be identified once we reached our destination.”

Once back in the States and recuperated, Father Lawyer was assigned to assist Father Patrick Peyton in the Family Rosary Office in Albany, NY, and in 1950 he was named the Director of the Family Theater in Hollywood, CA.  During this time, he designed 15 half-hour films on the Mysteries of the Rosary and went to Madrid for eight years to oversee their production. They were exhibited in the World’s Fair in Belgium, and for this project he received the Bene Merenti award from Pope Pius XII.

Back in the States he served as assistant provincial to Father Robert Sullivan from 1964-1969 and then was assigned to Christ the King Parish in the South Bronx where he worked for 17 years in a largely Black and Hispanic community.  These were some of his happiest years as a priest.  In 1986 declining health forced his retirement. He went to Florida for one year and then back to New York until 1998. Returning to Notre Dame, he lived in Holy Cross House until his death.  Prior to his death, in 2003, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Stonehill College in recognition for his contribution to the Church and Holy Cross.

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.