Eulogy given by
Br. Daniel Gardner, FSC
Good morning. Please allow me to begin by offering sympathy to Br. Michael’s family, to his Religious Brothers, to his friends, and to his former students. We gather here together to remember Br. Michael’s good works and virtues, to celebrate the memories we have of him, and to live out that central Christian belief that we have in Br. Michael’s Resurrection in the Lord.
Who was Br. Michael Corry? For those who spent time working or living with him, we realize what a difficult question that is to answer. Whether that was because of his innate shyness or an integral part of the playful games that he liked to carry on with people, he, himself, delighted in carrying a mystique of mystery around with him like a badge of honor. Sure we can recall the obvious facets of who he was- a Brother of the Christian Schools, an intellectual with a sharp mind and the ability to synthesize complicated issues quickly, the noted principal of several Lasallian schools here and in Belgium, the Director of numerous communities, a devotee of languages, an excellent and creative teacher, a storied traveler around the world, and a kid from the Bronx. Those are the easy answers to the question, “Who was Br. Michael Corry?” But the question of who was the deeper Br. Michael Corry is one that honestly I’ve been trying to answer for the nearly 25 years of our friendship- so here it goes.
Br. Michael had a deep love of the poor. He never wore that on his sleeve, but it was at the core of his being and of his Religious consecration. He never worked in direct service to the poor until recent years in migrant ministry, but in his work as the principal of middle class high schools and as the Provincial of the New York District it was his goal to make Lasallian schools accessible and inclusive for poor and working class young men. Probably the defining moment of his own life was when his elderly aunt died. He was a freshman at LaSalle Military Academy, and she helped out his family by paying for his tuition. He couldn’t remain at LaSalle because his own family didn’t have the resources to pay after her death. He loved LaSalle and the Brothers but had to transfer. He shared with me that he never wanted another young man to suffer and be embarrassed like he was on the day that he had to move out of the dorm at LaSalle. So that life experience motivated him to help the “city kids” as he called us stay with the Brothers “no matter what”.
I remember the day that I went to him as a freshmen at St. Joe’s in Buffalo and told him that my father had been hurt at work and I was trying to pay my tuition with jobs delivering the newspaper, working in a pharmacy, and working at Toys R Us breaking boxes up after the store closed but it just wasn’t enough so I was going to have to transfer. He looked at me and said, “Danny, is that all? I thought you were in some kind of real trouble. You can work for me here in the office. It’ll work out-just concentrate on algebra, and it will work out.” It always seemed to work out. My paycheck always seemed to equal the monthly tuition with a little spending money on the side, no matter how many hours I actually worked. He helped all my friends from the city’s Irish and Italian neighborhoods so that we could graduate from St. Joe’s just like the suburban kids did. It was remarkable how much money he found and how he developed the financial aid program that still exists there today, but he really loved the city kids. He even showed us a little favoritism too because he knew that life wasn’t always easy for the working class kids in the school and understood the struggles it took for us to remain in school.
As the Provincial, his self-admitted most important initiative was to create the Apostolate Endowment fund to help the schools with financial aid and Lasallian training so that the accessibility and inclusivity would live on even when the Brothers weren’t around anymore. It was his legacy.
Br. Michael had one of the strongest senses of compassion that I have ever seen in a Brother. His own impediment of stuttering fueled some of the compassion. When he was principal, I remember when a student got into a fight and Brother asked him, “Wha wha what happened?” the student responded, “I I I I I got mad at him.” Brother Michael was furious that he was being mocked until the school secretary said, “No, Brother. He really does stutter.” Brother Michael worked with him for a long time to prepare what he was going to say ahead of time and to speak slowly and thoughtfully until that student overcame his stuttering so that he wouldn’t have to deal with that in life. As Director he took his job very seriously when it came to being solicitous to Brothers and their families. Br. Joe Radice related that his own mother believed Michael was the best principal and Director ever because he was so welcoming and caring of their family. He was especially caring when it came to taking care of elderly and sick Brothers. Making sure that Brothers like Patrick Gardner ate properly, went to the doctor, and weren’t lonely was part of his routine. As Provincial he listened carefully and without judgment to Brothers dealing with their vocations, addictions or identity issues. He sat at the bedside of his friend Br. Fred Dihlmann for weeks when Fred lay dying in a hospital in Houston waiting for a heart transplant that never came. I saw him cry about Fred when he died; it was the only time I ever saw him outwardly show emotion, but Br. Michael’s friends knew how it was for him on the inside. He had a lot of love for his friends, for his students, and for his Brothers in his quiet, methodical, intellectual way. He knew what it was like to overcome adversity, and he spent his life supporting and accompanying others in doing the same.
Finally, Br. Michael was a master at organization for the purpose of excellence. Some of his former faculty members from Belgium wrote that, “He was a fine and outstanding man and Principal with a remarkable intellect and intelligence, and St. John’s was a safe and orderly place under his leadership.” I also witnessed the organization he demanded in the office in Buffalo and in his office in the Provincialate. Even though we used to laugh with him about his “over-organization” and his color-coded files even though he was color blind, it was all done because he believed so much in the importance of a well-run school and what that meant for the students in the schools. It would be very hard to find someone that worked with Br. Michael that didn’t respect him because of the extreme trust he showed in others through subsidiarity, because of the constant emphasis he placed on educational excellence, and because of his belief that the students would take the Lasallian lessons from school with them into the world. He used to say, “We have to do this right.” He wanted excellence.
I have so many other stories about him- his love for McDonald’s, forcing us to listen continuously to Pachabel’s Canon for three years in the office because it was his favorite song, lending me his car in high school when he went away on trips so I could have “wheels”, instructing me to sit in his office at appointed times when he was on trips and to wait for his three ring calls with orders to only pick up if there was a problem in school, but really they just speak about our friendship. The real answer to “Who was Br. Michael Corry?” for me is that he was a good school man who believed in the values of a Lasallian school and cared for his Brothers and students along the way. He was simply an outstanding Brother of the Christian Schools.
He loved to just get into the car and drive so how fitting it was that he died driving on one of his famous trips. Surely he would have laughed at that one. I know though that his final trip – the one to the Resurrection with the Lord – will be his best one yet.
Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of
Br. Michael Corry, FSC
Born Hugh Michael Corry in New York City, NY, on December 30, 1936
Entered the Barrytown Novitiate on July 5, 1954
Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Agatho Michael, on September 7, 1954
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Barrytown, NY in 1961.
Brother Michael died while traveling in Berks County, PA on March 15, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Viewing from 3:00 – 8:00 pm
Brothers’ Community Chapel
Christian Brothers Academy
854 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ 07738-1698
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 am
De La Salle Hall
810 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ 07738-1698
Burial at St. Gabriel’s Cemetery, Marlboro, NJ
SUFFRAGES FOR OUR DECEASED BROTHER MICHAEL
District: 50 masses
Christian Brothers Academy community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass
Brother Michael suffered a heart attack and died while traveling. He apparently pulled off the road on an interstate, not far from Reading, PA, and was discovered by a passing motorist. May he rest in peace.
Tour of Duty
New York, NY
Holy Name School
Christian Brothers Academy
Paramus Catholic Regional H S
St. John’s International School
St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute
Migrant Ministry Project
Director of Education
Christian Brothers Academy Community