Sister Frances B (Bernard) O’Connor, C.S.C. (1929—Living)
The fourth of ten children, Sister Frances was born in Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from high school in 1947 and was drawn toward the Sisters of the Holy Cross because of their ministries in the foreign missions. Shortly after making final vows, she went to Bangladesh to begin a twenty-year ministry in teaching and serving as superior for five years. During the General Chapter of 1973 she was elected to the General Council, and in 1984 she was elected Superior General. As Superior General she considered one of her primary responsibilities to ensure, support and embody the charism of Holy Cross in all of the Community’s sponsored institutions. She was well aware that she was serving Holy Cross sisters in a time of transition and change. Her prophetic vision of the changes she foresaw in religious life and the consequences appear in many of her writings and addresses. She acknowledges the consistent movement of the Spirit toward renewal in the Church and that the Congregation advance the critical choice of renewal. In 1989 she accepted a position as Guest Scholar at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame where she began an international research study asking Catholic women their opinions of their place in the Catholic Church. This work has taken her to three continents interviewing women as well as theologians. She has raised the consciousness of women regarding their own oppression in both the Church and society. From 1994-2010 she was a Hesburgh Scholar giving lectures at Notre Dame alumni clubs throughout the country. She continues to teach a seminar at Holy Cross College in South Bend, Indiana for retired adults. Throughout her 70 plus years as a Sister of the Holy Cross, Frances has been a citizen of the international community, engaged in writings and presentations based upon the charism and teachings of Jesus. She is the author of several books, and she is the recipient of many awards including the Women’s Ordination Conference Award for Prophetic Figures in 1993, the YWCA President’s Award for significant contributions to the advancement of women in 1991, the Saint Mary’s College Alumnae Achievement Award in 1992 and in 2000 the Sagamore of Wabash Award for her inspired leadership. In 2005 she was invited to give a major presentation on Religion, Education and the Role of Government in the Oxford Round Table, Oxford University which was published by Oxford University Press.
Father Gerardo Whelan, C.S.C. (1927-2003)
He distinguished himself as an educator in Chile between 1955-2003. During this time he worked as director of discipline, teacher and principal of Saint George School in Santiago. He designed an educational experiment that became widely known. Born in Detroit, Michigan he was the oldest of four brothers whom he had to take care of when both parents died in their 50s. He completed high school at Catholic Central in Detroit, graduating in June 1946. He studied at the University of Notre Dame where he entered Holy Cross and was ordained in 1955. That same year he arrived in Chile and was assigned as director of discipline at Saint George School. In 1967 he obtained a master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago and returned to Chile in August 1969 where he became principal of Saint George until September of 1973 when the military junta led by the dictator Augusto Pinochet overthrew the socialist government of President Salvador Allende establishing a military dictatorship in Chile. The Congregation of Holy Cross was forced to leave St. Geroge. Whelan then worked at the Center for Research and Development of Education until 1990 and, at the same time, was pastor of San Roque parish in Peñalolén . In 1992 he was able to return to Saint George where he served as a teacher of theology and director of studies until 2003 when he died of cancer. Between 1992-2003 he received the Order of Merit for Teaching and was nominated for a national education award. A year after his death, the Gerardo Whelan Development Center located in Peñalolén was born. His educational experiment was designed to be more flexible than the one imposed by the Ministry of Education of Chile. It was based on the truth that students are human beings, Christians and Chileans, who needed to develop as fully integrated persons and so to be later fully integrated into the national and international political reality. According to Whelan the students must feel restless and dissatisfied with the progress of the system which would be a true sign of progress. If people were not happy with what they were doing, it was motivated by a spirit of self-improvement. Whelan was memorialized in the film Machuca by director Andrés Wood. It details the turbulent history of social changes in several Chilean Catholic schools in the early 1970s. The film tells the story of Gonzalo Infante and Pedro Machuca, two 11-year-old children living in Santiago in 1973 in totally different realities. While Gonzalo lives in an upper class neighborhood, Machuca lives among an “illegal population.” They are separated by a line that Father McEnroe, director of the school based on Father Gerardo, wants to tear down so the school can accept poor children. Machuca is based on the ex-student Amante Eledín Parraguez who became an university professor and poet. (Information taken from “The Crusade of the True Machuca”, a testimony of Amante Eledín Parraguez in an article originally published in the blog section of El Mercurio and reproduced on the portal Luis Emilio Recabarren, 04.20.2011; accessed 19/02/2019; and Hidalgo, Patricio. Act of Faith. Testimonies of the life of Gerardo Whelan in Chile, Santiago, 2010)
Bro. Flavian Laplante C.S.C. (1907-1981)
Servant of God Br. Flavian Laplante, C.S.C. was born on July 27, 1907 in Quebec, Canada. After meeting the Holy Cross brothers at school, he entered the Congregation at the age of 16. After working several years in Notre Dame College in Quebec as a teacher and dorm supervisor, Flavian was assigned to the Congregation’s mission in East Bengal in 1932 and arrived in Chittagong in East Bengal on December 1. He remained in Chittagong and in 1943-44 when a severe famine hit the land he helped tend to the hungry and sick. Following the end of World War II, Flavian worked out a program so that many fishermen could receive new boats because theirs had been commandeered during the war. He led them in resistance against pirates and participated in rescue missions. Flavian’s main plan, however, was to organize the fisherman into cooperatives in which they could help each other. At the same time, Flavian began constructing an orphanage at Diang. He dedicated the rest of his life to ministering in Diang and among the fishermen of the nearby region. He renamed the settlement there Miriam Ashram or the “Marian Hermitage”. On December 24, 1976 Flavian retired to the life of a hermit in his personal ashram 1,500 feet from the brothers’ residence in Diang. On October 1, 1978, he had a statue of Our Lady installed on the property, and the following year, on February 11, he organized a day of prayer and feast in honor of Mary. Over 800 pilgrims came that day, and this celebration continues as a major pilgrimage in Bangladesh to this day. After completing 49 years of service to the poor in Bangladesh, he died there on June 19, 1981. Flavian was declared a Servant of God on February 13, 2009.