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

Superior General 1943-1955

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

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

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

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

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

February 13, 2021

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

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

The Landscaper

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

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

February 6, 2021

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

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

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

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

My dear Brother Columba,

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

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

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

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

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

January 30, 2021

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

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

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

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

January 23, 2021

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

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

The Proponent of the New Theology

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

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

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

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

January 16, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

January 9, 2021

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

Father Daniel Spillard, CSC (1839-1926)

He Responded to Whatever He Was Called to Do

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

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

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

January 2, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 25, 2020

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

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

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

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

December 19, 2020

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

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

The Least Likely to Become a Nun

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

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

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

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

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

December 12, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once more I missed Him on the accustomed hill,

Along the heath and near his favorite tree;

Another came, nor yet beside the rill,

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


December 5, 2020

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

Sister María Luisa Güereña, CSC (1928-2020)

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

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

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

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

November 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

November 21, 2020

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


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

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

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

November 14, 2020

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

Sister Mary Aloysius (Hanora) Mulcaire (1845-1916)

Hanora Mulcaire was born in Ireland, in 1845, the daughter of Michael Mulcaire and Mary Stokes.  She entered the Congregation, February 6, 1873, from Ireland.  She received the habit, August 26, 1873, and made Final Profession, August 15, 1875, at Notre Dame du Lac, Notre Dame, Indiana.  She died at Holy Cross Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana, January 12, 1916, and is interred in Our Lady of Peace Cemetery, Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana.  Eight hundred cadets from the Notre Dame battalion marched in the funeral procession.  The funeral oration was delivered by the Very Rev. Dr. Cavanaugh, president of the university. Sister Aloysius was a teacher.  With the exception of one year at Saint Bernard’s, Watertown, Wisconsin, she taught at Saint Edward’s Hall, Notre Dame, Indiana.  “She came to the Notre Dame of the seventies (1870’s) as a simple Irish girl with a sweet brogue and blue eyes.”  A “resourceful woman, meeting every difficulty with some wise settlement, every trouble with unobtrusive sympathy.” (Scholastic, January 15, 1916) Sister Aloysius was the head of the Minim department for so long that even she, blunt and direct as she was, might have objected to an exact computation of the period of years. Certainly, it was in the early 1870’s that she assumed the guidance of Father Sorin’s “Princes.” “[A]s she knelt before him [Father Sorin]: ‘Honora Mulcaire, hereafter you shall be called Sister Aloysius;’ and in thought added ‘You shall take care of my Minims — my Princes — down the years’. . . for the past forty-odd years, she made young boys from six to twelve . . . gentle and thoughtful, strong, studious and resourceful. How she did this was her secret. . .” Perhaps when one says Sister Aloysius’ system was her personality one arrives nearest the truth. Of her ability and tact, there is no doubt. She was a lovable sort of tyrant who knew well how to get along with both parents and children. Hers was a motherly soul that went directly to the heart of these children in whom Father Sorin placed the “future of the Church in America.” One might say that she was a political saint. She knew how to make peace between all parties. Very seldom was her word contradicted. She found herself almost always a “final board of appeal between disputants.” I [Father Arthur Hope] have seen a letter written by a disturbed parent, in which he made some complaint concerning his son who was a Minim. The letter was sent originally to Father Cavanaugh who turned it over to Brother Paul the Hermit [Macintyre], who, on account of his acerbity, was called “The Hornet.” Paul made an annotation on the letter remarking that the woman (Sister Aloysius) was an “old tartar;” the letter found its way to Sister Aloysius, who added, under the Brother’s remark, “And he calls me an old tartar!” After her death, one who knew her well wrote: “One more well-known figure passed out of the complex, busy life of Notre Dame University when Sister Aloysius died at the convent infirmary last Wednesday. After the great Father Sorin himself, Sister Aloysius ranks next in years of service at the University.” (Hope, CSC, Father Arthur, Notre Dame—100 Years) Below is a poem penned in her honor by an unknown admirer:

AND is this death, to take Life’s very Bread,

And with her High-Priest Christ go hand in hand

Into that—shall we call it—shadow-land,

Where day’s dominion is forever spread?

And should we mourn that lights about her head,

Stand as four great archangels there might stand.

That now she lies as deathless vows had planned?

If this is death, then she indeed is dead.

For she had need no more of word or sign.

For she has passed from darkness into day

Where there is no more fear, or loss, or strife.

Than we she was more wise who did not pine

To leave the body’s broken house of clay.

Who knew the truer name for death is Life.

November 7, 2020

Generosity is an excellent sign that the Cross has been integrated into the fabric of our being.  Generosity not in the sense of giving out of our abundance, but in the sense of giving spontaneously, moved by the spirit, and out of our poverty.  This giving-pattern is an indication that we are no longer enslaved to the feeling of interior attachments and comforts that we think we need to guard and protect, but that our Beloved dwells in our inner room and with nothing to hold onto and nothing to lose, we simply give.  We give and give and give and give and give and give and give!  It makes us happy and healthy and human.  Even nailed to the Cross, Jesus gives – forgiveness (“Forgive them Father…” in Lk 23:34), community (“Mother, here is your son…” in Jn 19:26), vulnerability (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” in Mt 27:46), humility (“I thirst.” in Jn 19:28), and trust, (“Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” in Lk 23:46).  Jesus even gives us the Eucharist, flowing in the form of blood out of the side of his dead body (Jn 19:34), and continues to feed us with the life-giving Spirit from his place at the right hand of the Father (Jn 14:16).  Indeed, when all else fails, and it will, simply give.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Basil (John) Magnus, CSC (1828-1909)

“It was a sorrowful message the Church bells announced to us on Friday, February 12, 1909; another member of Holy Cross has been called to his reward, a member long esteemed and loved by all—Brother Basil—[he] left suddenly, but not unprepared.  His entire life has been an act of preparation for the supreme moment.” (Scholastic, 42:349) “He was a man of extraordinary modesty.  When he joined the Congregation of Holy Cross he came with no blare of trumpets.  It was not known then or afterward until it was accidentally discovered that he was gifted with a genius for music; that in all America there were few who knew the contents of musical literature as he did, and fewer still could interpret them with such exquisite delicacy and feeling.” (Father John Cavanaugh, funeral oration) “Genius seldom hides and when it does, someone uncovers it.  For some months after Brother Basil joined the Congregation…in 1852, he revealed nothing of his musical background he had acquired in Bavaria, Germany.  The fact was that he was something of a child prodigy, playing viola when he was eight years old and learning the violin previous to that age.…Professor Maximilian E. Girac, a music teacher at Notre Dame…discovered Brother Basil. No longer could the modest religious hide the fact that he excelled at piano and organ and proficiently played on many instruments, among them oboe and flute. Professor Girac is believed to be the founder of the music department at Notre Dame, and the list of the faculty members in 1852 contains just one musician, Brother Basil.” (Schmidt, CSC, Br. Evan, “One Man’s Music”, N.D.) He was the organist at Sacred Heart Church for fifty-six years; his only assignment for the entirety of his religious life.  Perhaps he was best memorialized by renowned Holy Cross poet Father Charles L. O’Donnell, C.S.C. (d. 1934) who wrote the ode “The Dead Musician” on the day of Brother Basil’s death. Below is the first verse:

He was the player and the played upon,

He was the actor and the acted upon,

Artist, and yet himself a substance wrought;

God played on him as he upon the key,

Moving his soul to mightiest melodies

Of lowly serving, his austerities,

And holy thought that our high dream outtops, —

He was an organ where God kept the stops.

                        Naught, naught

Of all he gave us came so wondrous clear

As that he sounded to the Master’s ear.

October 31, 2020

Here is something to consider the next time we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis situation – that the Cross only makes sense once it has been passed through.  In the moment, it is confusing, disruptive, dark and painful.  Like our Lord, we too cry out from this place of high vulnerability, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Yet, from deep within us, powerful, albeit unspoken, words call us to keep taking steps forward.  And, like Christ, our feet are in fact led to that safe harbor, through the sheer grace of providence, where we can stand, look back and have perspective – “Oh, now I get it!”  It is like Moses experiencing the call to lead his people across the desert to the sea.  Even though it did not make sense at the time and it was stressful to be on a path that seemed like it would simply dead-end and result in a massacre, Moses trusted.  But once the trial was over, it all made so much sense!  Horse and chariot were cast into the sea!  Maybe our current crisis is really the slow work of God being worked out in ways that we cannot possibly understand in the moment.  Maybe ours is simply to trust and walk.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Father Joseph Carrier, CSC (1833-1904)

The youngest of ten children in a respected and wealthy French family, he received his early education under the care of a private tutor before attending Belley College where he excelled in science and mathematics.  In his early teens he was appointed professor of natural science (physics) in a small college in Geneva, Switzerland.  In 1855, he came to America and joined Holy Cross being ordained in 1861.  In 1863 while teaching Latin and Greek at Notre Dame and serving as pastor of a South Bend Church, Father Sorin told him to be ready at a moment’s notice to join Ulysses S. Grant as a chaplain. Days later he was commissioned to the 6th Missouri Infantry Regiment and became chaplain of Grant’s entire army.  (Schmidt, James M. Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory, 2010, pp. 35-37)

Father Carrier organized courses in botany and established two botanical gardens, the first to the west of the old Church in 1867, and a second, much larger and more permanent, at the southeast end of St. Joseph’s Lake. During his relatively short period in charge of the museum — he was made President of St. Mary’s College, Galveston, Texas in 1874 — he added several thousand specimens to the collection of minerals and of zoological and botanical specimens. In 1869 Doctor Boyd’s large collection of skeletons was acquired, and the minerals, fossils, fauna collected by J. W. Veasey in Colorado, valued at six thousand dollars, were purchased by Notre Dame in 1878. About the same time a collection of New Zealand plants, particularly ferns, was given to the museum by a missionary in that far-off island, Father S. Barthos. When Father Carrier took up his new position in Texas, the museum was transferred to the care of Father John A. Zahm. But like the early collection of Edwards, all of these precious treasures of science were lost in the conflagration of 1879, except for a small collection of specimens which were not in the building at the time. The destruction of the herbarium, containing over eight thousand distinct species of plants, which Carrier called one of the most precious and complete to be found in America, was surely the most important loss to the museum. And Zahm, like Edwards and Sorin, immediately set to work to build up again an even greater collection than that which had been lost. Carrier himself, who passed his last years at St. Laurent College, near Montreal, and who never lost his enthusiasm for collecting, gave his second collection, composed of Canadian plants, to Notre Dame after presenting it, on exposition, at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. A substantial gain was likewise made when the University procured the collection of four thousand specimens of W. E. Calkins, of Chicago, in 1887. He died in Montreal in 1904.” (Hope, CSC Father Arthur, Notre Dame – 100 Years, 1942)

October 24, 2020

At first look, the intense focus and insistence on circumcision in the story of salvation may seem odd or even troubling given how good and loving our heavenly Father really is.  St. Paul, however, invites us to see the spiritual meaning of this practice when he writes, “For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart” (Rom 2:28-29).  Indeed, the act of cutting off the excesses in our life, which make our hearts “fat and gross” (Ps 119:70), frees us to be more in touch with the One whom our hearts have loved all along (Song 3:1), and it is the Cross that emerges as the proper instrument of this spiritual circumcision.  Like the angel with the fiery sword posted at the entrance to the garden (Gen 3:30), the Cross stands at the door of our hearts confronting the world and bringing to an end (Jn 3:30) all those emotions, memories, attachments and desires that prevent the spiritual bird within us from taking off in flight (Ps 11:1). Let us therefore not be afraid to be marked with this ancient sign, for we will only share in Christ’s resurrection insofar as we are willing to accept, like him, these scars of the journey.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Sister Miriam Joseph Rauh, CSC (December 17, 1898-November 11, 1982)

She was born in Glandorf, Ohio, the daughter of Henry Francis Rauh and Mary Ann Priesdendorfer.  She entered the Congregation on September 21, 1919, received the Habit, August 15, 1920, and made Final Profession August 15, 1925.  She died at Saint Mary’s Convent, and is interred in Our Lady of Peace Cemetery, Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Miriam Joseph served as Chair of the English Department at Saint Mary’s College from 1947-1969 and was the author of Trivium, a textbook developed for her interdisciplinary course on literature, logic, and rhetoric. President William Hickey of St. Mary’s (1986-1997) described her “as perhaps the most distinguished scholar to be identified with the College in this century.” She wrote a text combining into one contemporary course the three arts of the trivium, by means of their interrelationship. Faculty opinion was divided on the questions of integrating the three subjects and of the way in which the term rhetoric was interpreted. Despite some turmoil (and supposed protests), the course was taught with both its values and limitations from 1935-1959. Alumnae still say that whatever else they have forgotten of their education, they will never forget the trivium.

October 17, 2020

There is no one among us who enjoys being labeled.  Maybe while we were growing up we were called “the class clown” or “the middle child” or “the rebel” or “the loaner.”  The folks who laid these judgments on us, our souls, our human dignity, likely did not mean to hurt us.  They simply succumbed to the temptation of taking the small part for the whole.  We should nevertheless not be too worried about how another person chooses to see us.  Each and every one of us has the profound dignity of being this child of God.  This kind of deep security is our bulwark and protection against the enemy who is always searching out instruments to disrupt the kingdom, the reality of peace and love within each of us.  Let us therefore turn to the Cross and look upon the crucified one with that bold, unapologetic label hanging over his poor, naked body – “King of the Jews.”  How his trust in his loving father destroys the power of that mockery!  How his unwavering awareness and acceptance of his Abba, in the face of such psychological and physical brutality, prevails!  Each of us should be very sensitive to the way that labels hurt our sisters and brothers, and each of us should not be afraid to enter more deeply into the depths of his love when we encounter such adversity along the way.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother John Chrysostom (Mark) Will, C.S.C. (April 25, 1839-May 16, 1919)

In a June 5, 1887 letter to Father Sorin, Brother John Chrysostom Will writes: “…on this day 24 years ago I was in the line of battle awaiting the charge.  We were being shelled at the time, and I heard in a clear, distinct voice, ‘You will die today’.  I knew it was no human voice, and I was perfectly conscious of the certainty of death.  I prayed fervently as I had never prayed before to our sweet mother that if she would intercede for me and get me safely out that I would surely delay no longer in responding to the call that was continually urging me to apply to some religious community for admission. I had hardly concluded my prayer, when the same voice said, ‘You will only be hurt today’.  And so it happened.  I delayed three years after the war in fulfilling my promise when I enlisted under the banner of Holy Cross.” 

Mark Will was born in 1839 in Chess Springs, PA and entered Holy Cross in 1867 taking final vows in 1869.  He served throughout the Civil War in the 54th Pennsylvania Regiment, taking part in many of the fiercest battles.  Soon after fire destroyed the Main Building at the University of Notre Dame, Brother John Chrysostom wrote to Father Sorin from Galveston, TX where he was superior: “I could hardly realize at first that my dear Alma Mater was a heap of unsightly ruins.  My regret for the loss and my sympathy for you were so great that I felt it would be mockery on my part to attempt to give expression to my feelings unless I would send you something to repair the loss. …You must not think for a moment that the enclosed draft for $500 is to be the measure of that sympathy and my regret for the loss of those fine buildings.”

Upon his death in 1919, this short obituary was posted in Scholastic (52:494): “There passed away at Notre Dame on Friday, May 6th, at the age of 80, Brother John Chrysostom, former assistant Master of Novices at St. Joseph Novitiate and for many years commander of the Notre Dame Post of the G.A.R.  As a young man the deceased did valiant services throughout the Civil War, at Gettysburg and many other fields, in behalf of the Union.  At the end of the War he joined the Congregation of Holy Cross at Notre Dame, and since that time has been intimately associated with the furtherance of the works of the Community.” He had two hobbies—bee keeping and researching the life and ministry of Russian prince Father Gallitzin who renounced his heritage and became a missionary in Pennsylvania.  As bee-keeper, the novitiate was never without honey, and he contributed frequently to magazines about bee-culture.  “By the many priests and Brothers who as novices under his direction knew him intimately he will long be remembered as an example of genuine spirituality and fervent loyalty to the interests of the Congregation.” (Scholastic, 1919)

October 10, 2020

If you have ever met someone who is autistic, you know how frustrating it is for him or her to be stuck-in-self (which is the literal meaning of “autism”) – the person is inside observing life but struggling to actually reach out, make contact and interact with others.  There is a distinctly paschal character to this hidden drama:  the feeling of being separated, the deep desire to connect, the spending of one’s self to transcend those inner limits, moments of real relationships, a kind of dying and rising that takes the breath away of those who accompany their autistic loved ones along the way.  What if the Cross was the icon for this journey?  What if the Cross’s definitive and bold ‘no-to-self’ is the antidote for these poor ones who are stuck-in-self?  The Cross stands indeed as a sign of hope that it is possible to find the secret door (Jn 10:9), to pass over into open pastures  (John 10:9) and to finally have life (Jn 14:6).  May we be inspired by our autistic sisters and brothers who truly live the Cross day in and day out, modeling for us, who are all stuck-in-self in one way or another, how to undertake the slow process of transformation that leads to resurrected life.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Stanislaus (John) Clark, C.S.C. (1838-1916)

stanislausBrother Stanislaus (John) Clarke, C.S.C. was born in Ireland and entered Holy Cross when he was 26 years old.  He was a capable student and became a proponent of promoting the use of shorthand.  He taught the system of “sound writing” at Notre Dame for many years and made many personal improvements to the system.  Sir Isaac Pitman, who invented shorthand in 1837, considered Brother Stanislaus both a scholarly colleague and a good friend.  Father Daniel Eldred Hudson, C.S.C., who was appointed the editor of the Ave Maria in 1875, considered Brother Stanislaus to be one of the early founders of the Press and the periodical.  In 1865, Father Sorin proposed to the sisters that they publish a magazine “in honor of Our Blessed Mother.”  The vote was unanimous and Mother Angela Gillespie and her sisters “pledged themselves to assist [Father Sorin] in this great work.”  Father Sorin, the first publisher, was followed by Father Neal Gillespie, Mother Angela’s brother.  In February of 1973, “the actual printing was turned over to the Sisters who received their first lessons from Brother Stanislaus.”  In his 1916 obituary published in the Scholastic, it was said of Brother Stanislaus that “he was a model of every Christian and religious virtue [and] a man of varied talents, all of which he faithfully employed in the service of God for nearly a half century.”

October 3, 2020

A popular new phrase that people have been using to communicate genuineness is “the real deal” – this person is the real deal because he is true to his word, or, that person is the real deal because she never lets you down, etc.  And while it is excellent that there is an expression out there that helps to identify integrity when we see it, we all know that there is one and only one “real deal” whose words and actions are always in harmony.  This Jesus, who is the Word, is real in the sense that to encounter him is to encounter the truth.  His deep meaning as a person is not mediated by an ideology, a persona, a bank account, or a title.  Rather, being stripped down to his core, broken open on the Cross, and presented for all to see – as he is! – makes him the definitive “real deal.”  There is no escape from his fundamental identity, no confusion about what his life means, no possibility of missing the point of his journey.  The best way for us to conform ourselves to “the real deal” par excellence is to spend time with his “real presence” – in scripture, in the liturgy, with the community of believers, and most especially in the eucharist.  By doing so, we too are guaranteed to become trusting children of the Father – the read deal in our own right.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Rev. Robert T. Hesse, C.S.C. (December 15, 1926-February 3, 2007)

Father Hesse was born in Grand Rapids, MI and went to St. Thomas Parish Grade School and Catholic Central High School.  He maintained a close relationship with his many Grand Rapids classmates throughout his life in Uganda. After obtaining an engineering degree from the University of Michigan, he entered Holy Cross in 1951.  Ordained in 1958 he had his trunk packed to ship off to Bangladesh, but because of a last-minute reassignment, he was shifted to Uganda.  He never looked back and spent his entire priestly life in that country dying in Kampala. His first assignment in Uganda was at Hoima Parish in the Bunyoro region where he was the curate in charge of schools.  In 1961 he became secretary to Servant of God Bishop Vincent McCauley, C.S.C. in Fort Portal.  In 1963 he was appointed pastor of Bukwali Parish, Kitagwenda, where he served for the next twenty-three years. He was widely known for his creative work with catechists and lay leadership, and also for his emphasis on education.  In 1990 Fr. Bob generously responded to the community’s request that he move to Jinja as the founding pastor of Holy Cross Parish Bugembe.  When he asked to retire as pastor, he continued to serve the people as an assistant to three succeeding Holy Cross pastors.  Convinced of the importance of education for the development of Uganda’s people, he demonstrated a passion for the development of the facilities and quality of Bugembe’s schools. 

September 26, 2020

Since the Cross is the medicine that heals our wounds and offers us a new opportunity for life, it makes sense that Jesus would say, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24).  The Lord invites us to divest ourselves of false cures, neediness, and fear-based attachments that we mistakenly think will bring us health and healing.  He wants us to “deny ourselves,” that is, to reject ego-driven behavior, so that our wound can be made available to the divine physician.  And, when the Cross  is in fact locked in place as the singular source of healing and protection in our lives, our hearts are freed to feel, our minds freed to wonder and our feet freed to walk, walk, walk, walk, walk in the open spaces of the kingdom (cf. Ps 119:45).  Other people are not our cross, jobs are not our cross, politics is not our cross.  These are simply circumstances that challenge us to perceive our wounds more clearly and to welcome the one, true Cross – blazing, glorious and powerful – into those places that we have masked and hidden from the light of day.  Let us, therefore, take up this Cross and follow him.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Vincent Anthony Gross, C.S.C. (1938 -2020)

gross 2Vincent Gross was born in 1938 and entered Holy Cross in 1957 professing final vows in 1962. From 1960-63 he was on the maintenance staff at Archbishop Hoban High School, Akron, Ohio, then working at St. Patrick’s High School in Monrovia, Liberia from 1963-1965.  Returning to the States in 1965, he served for three years as director of maintenance at Holy Cross High School, River Grove, Illinois. In 1968 he was assigned to the staff at St. John’s School, Sekondi, Ghana.  Brother Vincent returned to the States in 1989 for a one-year medical leave, returning to Ghana in 1990 to spend the remaining 30 years serving as a maintenance director at Holy Cross District Center and as Director of the Institute for Continuing Formation from 1999-2013. When Vincent celebrated his 40th jubilee of religious profession, he commented that “Once I joined the Brothers, I never felt a real desire to turn back. It is a very satisfying life because I am in a situation where I am helping others.”  From his earliest days in Holy Cross, his superiors found him to be an industrious, committed and earnest brother.  Not being drawn to the academic life, Vincent demonstrated a natural affinity for using his intellect and his hands for the maintenance and care of all the places where he was assigned.  He could be depended upon to carry out all assigned tasks with exactness. While at Holy Cross High School in the late sixties, he was known as “Brother Fix-It”.  Upon going to Ghana, he knew that the maintenance equipment there would be primitive by US standards, and his goal was to set up a modern maintenance department at St. John’s School in Sekondi.  With the assistance of the Holy Cross High School Mission Club a major manufacturing company gave Vincent $1,000 worth of shop equipment. For most of his remaining years in Ghana he begged and cajoled many Province schools and acquaintances for all manner of industrial and maintenance equipment. He recruited many brothers to bring him all manner of tools and machine parts to assist him in his work. In a homily given in Ghana by Brother Joe Tsiquaye at Vincent’s 40th jubilee celebration, he said, “The talents of Uncle Vince (Ghanaian term of respect) know no bounds.  He was a spare school bus driver and an able mechanic.  Uncle Vince can play too.  He’s a skin diver, fisherman, card player, and keen competitor in chess. [He] came to Ghana in the era of the Holy Cross Giants.  The students believed all Holy Cross Religiousgross 1 are geniuses and Uncle Vince was no exception.  From his workshop in the basement of the old dining hall at St. John’s there was nothing Uncle Vince could not fix.  It can truly be said of Uncle Vince that he was the master of all trades.” St. Paul writes to the Romans: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (12:3). Brother Vincent Gross was the ever-faithful man of sober judgment for all of his 60 years in Holy Cross.

September 19, 2020

We all have wounds in life – those damaged parts of our souls that have been battered through various experiences along the way.  How easy it can be to allow these wounds to fester, as we sit angrily in denial.  Or, how natural it may seem to travel the path of self-medication, that is, to grasp at anything to take away our pain.  Our father, however, loves us dearly, and invites us to the deep place of security, the divine operating table, where those who are weary and worn will always find rest (Mt 11:28).  It is upon this bed that he consummates his love for us by applying life-giving medicine to our wounds (cf. Lk 10:25-37).  The Cross, indeed, fits perfectly and universally in each and every one of our vulnerable places.  The Cross prevents the enemy from entering and spreading infection.  Out of the Cross flows soothing waters and sacrificial blood that nourishes and heals (Jn 19:34).  Indeed, by his wounds are we healed (Is 53:5).  Let us, therefore, not be ashamed to be wounded people!  Let us instead welcome the healing touch of that one who constantly seeks to lay down his life for his beloved (Jn 15:13).  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!