Brother Urban (Andrew) McKeon, C.S.C. (1835-1912)
“Brother Urban, one of the oldest educators of the Holy Cross order, died at Notre Dame university Friday morning at 4 o’clock. He was porter at the university for several years and during that time had many friends” (South Bend Tribune). When Brother Urban died in 1912, he was a much-revered member of the Congregation as described in 1908 in this Scholastic article. “There is probably no city or important town in the United States which does not hold warm friends of the devoted Brother whose courtesy has committed him to the respect of all who have met him. Not in vain was he named Urban, for urbanity was his characteristic. No hour too late, and no hour too early for him to serve the chance visitor or to dispense to the public the hospitality of the famous University” (42:26). In another Scholastic article he is described as “…refined and gentle [of] manner, the reflection of a beautiful soul” (42:319. 1908). In 1912, Brother Gilbert (James) Horton is quoted in the Notre Dame Alumnus. “No man ever met Brother Urban who could ever forget him. Nature and grace combined to create in him a subtle and unusual charm. Invested with a natural dignity of attractive personal appearance, he went his way through the world, offending none, serving all, and leaving golden memories in the hearts of those who met him.” Brother Urban was born in Ireland and entered the Brothers of Holy Cross when he was 26. He taught in schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana and Illinois. He was appointed the first principal of St. Columbkille school in Chicago in 1886 when Edward Hoban, future Archbishop of Cleveland, enrolled in the 4th grade. Brother Urban was considered to be a fine teacher and a very organized and dedicated school administrator.
Father James J. French, C.S.C. (1859-1941)
Father French was the vice-president of the University of Notre Dame from 1893-1905. And he was assistant superior general of the Congregation of Holy Cross for 20 years until 1926. He came to Notre Dame from Cincinnati, Ohio and entered the novitiate in 1878. In 1879 he witnessed the disastrous fire which completely destroyed the young University, and many hours he devoted to clearing bricks for the reconstruction of the new Main Building. He spent his first years in the Congregation at St. Joseph College in Cincinnati where he taught all day and studied theology with Father Peter J. Hurth – who would become an archbishop – at night. Ordained in 1883, he was appointed superior of St. Joseph College for the next five years. He was then appointed the superior of the preparatory seminary at Notre Dame. In 1893, he was appointed the Vice-President and Director of Studies at the University of Notre Dame and became known as a fine orator. In 1905, he returned to St. Joseph College as its President for one year. In 1906, he was appointed assistant superior general and, for the second time, the superior at the preparatory seminary. It is during this time that he became known as a champion of the foreign mission apostolate. It was the General Chapter that appointed him Mission Promoter. The earliest predecessor of The Bengalese, under the name of the Bengal Witness, was published by him. In 1912, the Mission Band of Holy Cross was reorganized to preach missions and retreats throughout the United States. Father French was selected to establish, develop and direct the new effort. He tirelessly labored in this ministry for the next 18 years. Because of failing health, he left the Mission Band and served as chaplain of St. Joseph Hospital in South Bend from 1931-1939 where he was beloved by thousands of the city’s sick because of his ministrations at all hours of the day and night. Prior to his death, he resided at the community house on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. (Complied from information in “The Golden Jubilee of a Friend” The Bengalese, June 1933 [no author] and an obituary in the South Bend Tribune, March 1941)