Religious brothers shape the Christian community | Faith matters

Last year I wrote a column about the new East Coast Province of the Society of Jesus and never once mentioned that in addition to priests there were Jesuit brothers. They make the same vows, live in community but are not ordained, that is to say, they cannot say Mass or perform the sacraments.

Shortly after the chronicle appeared, Salesian Brother Thomas Sweeney took me to task by e-mail: “The Jesuits also have brothers in the order and they were not mentioned. As a Salesian Brother, it also happens in my order that we are sometimes left behind and you feel it a little. I just mention him as a concerned reader, especially when he’s on the internet.

It made me think of the many Jesuit brothers I knew. While I was a student at Prep, I saw Brother Daniel Hoey enter very calmly into the now closed St. Peter’s Church where he was the sacristan. After my time there was Brother Joseph Wuss, a talkative Pole, who was the Deputy Prefect of Discipline and who was ordained a deacon in the church. At then-St. Peter’s College was a former student of Brother Jerome Menkhaus, who is a civil engineer; he now lives in Fordham. Brother Lou Mauro was the commercial director of Resurrection Parish Downtown, now dissolved. And, of course, the famous puppeteer, Brother Edwin Sheehy, of Downtown, who started out as a baker in their seminars; he also now resides in Fordham. But the most eccentric was brother Paul Harrison, who looked like James Cagney after too many boxing matches.

Today there are 25 Jesuit Brothers in the Eastern Province and two are in formation, that is to say they have not yet made their perpetual vows. The brothers used to take on support roles like cooks, facility staff, accountants, but could also teach and hold academic positions.

My most intimate contact with the brothers was as a four-year-old teacher at the now closed Marist lycée in Bayonne, which was run by the order, only brothers. There is a community of Marist priests independent of them.

Brother William Maske was there in 1974 and when it closed last year.

“I think the title means being a brother to others,” said Maske, who now lives in Mt. St. Michael’s in the Bronx in a community of 15 brothers. “Community life means you are not alone, depressed.”

A sign of recognition for the Catholic fraternity came last August when Christian brother Kevin Griffith of Elizabeth became president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men in the United States, which involves about 229 religious orders or communities with about 11,000 religious priests and 4,500 brothers. .

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve the church at this very difficult time,” said Griffith, noting that he was not the first brother to assume this position.

Like the Marists, the Christian Brothers are known as educators and a branch used for staff at Hudson Catholic High School in Jersey City.

“A priority would be to help the conference stay true to its mission of serving religious men in the United States while collaborating with men and women religious and the Church at large,” Griffith said. “Also, to continue to be a voice for male religious on issues that affect society regarding social justice. “

It was the calling of the Franciscan of the Poor of Cincinnati, Brother Robert Reinke, who founded FAITH Services for People with AIDS at St. Mary’s Hospital, Hoboken. A religious for 62 years and retired, Reinke still lives in Hoboken where the program continues under the auspices of Hoboken University Medical Center. His work with FAITH Services earned him a Jersey Journal Everyday Hero Award in 1989.

“Our goal was to contact people with AIDS and work together and not isolate those infected,” Reinke said. “I love my life and the care given to the poor, neglected and marginalized. “

Sweeney now resides in Ramsey and works at Don Bosco Prep.

“To be a brother,” he said, “means to develop a close relationship with God and to serve him.

In Bosco there are seven Salesian priests, four brothers and two men in formation.

Teaching young people, which Sweeney has done most of his religious life, “helps him grow in his relationship to serve others,” he said.

Religious brothers fulfill many key roles in the ministries of their orders and in the church at large in parishes, chanceries, hospitals, institutions and social service agencies.

But Maske summed it up well: “You always hear about priests and sisters, but never about brothers. “

This column greets the brothers.

Reverend Alexander Santora is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph, 400 Willow Ave., Hoboken, NJ 07030. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @padrehoboken.

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