Eulogy given by
Michael McKenery, FSC
“We know that when it comes to light we shall be like Him, for we shall see him as he is, face to face.” That quote from the first letter of John expresses that fullness of joy that Brother Gerard is now enjoying because now he sees him face to face and lives in his light and grace. This is the foundation of our faith – this is what we believe. This is what Brother Gerard believed and lived!
I first met Brother Gerard many more years ago than I would care to admit when I was 17, first entering the novitiate, and he was 18, just ending his novitiate and preparing to take his first vows, the first commitment of many commitments that he would make and live in his 55 years as a Brother of the Christian Schools. During the ensuing years our paths crossed many times, our friendship deepened and grew out of a sense of deep personal respect and an easy ability to talk about just anything, and even to communicate our thoughts by our facial expressions and body language. He was the master of saying much more through those facial expressions and body language than anyone I have ever known. Inevitably, whenever I thought that something had run amok, I would glance over at him and know immediately that we were on the same page. Whenever I spoke to the faculty and staff in a public setting, I somehow always managed to look in his direction to get a sense if I was about to strike out, explode, implode, or just maybe hit a homerun. He was my dear friend, and a dear friend to so many others as evidenced yesterday and this morning. Indeed, all of us shall miss him much more than I could possibly express this day. First and foremost for me, and all the Brothers in our community at La Salle Academy, and for so many Brothers in our District – he was our Brother. He was our Brother in his many strengths and accomplishments, his many roles and assignments, in his positions of leadership at an amazingly young age, he was our Brother in his recent frailty, he was our Brother in his determination to live his life to the fullest and to the final moment – he was our Brother. How proud and grateful we are to be able to say that. And most admirably and certainly, he was our Brother in his proudest and most fulfilling moments, employing his unique ability to touch the minds and hearts of the young men and women whom he cherished and loved more than I could possibly define. Yesterday I was deeply moved and touched by a young woman, a graduate of La Salle Academy 2001, who spoke briefly to me as she was leaving the wake. She obviously had been crying and was emotional as I accepted her condolences, and she spoke of her deep respect for Brother by saying that he was “the first person who ever believed in me”. That resonated with me for hours – it was the classic expression of a life touched, transformed, by the power and presence of one person, one person, Brother Gerard, touching the mind and heart of a student entrusted to his care.
Our Brother Gerard believed and lived these often repeated words of Saint John Baptist de La Salle.
- “You are engaged in a ministry where you are obliged to touch hearts.”
- “To touch the hearts of your pupils and to inspire them with the Christian spirit is the greatest miracle you can perform and one God expects of you.”
- “Pray frequently for the miracle of touching the minds and hearts of the children entrusted to your care.”
Brother Gerard lived by these words – they were imprinted in his heart and he lived them through his ministry of teaching, and guiding the lives of countless young men and women.
Brother Gerard was a special presence at La Salle Academy for thirty years. Yesterday hundreds and hundreds of present and past students and families streamed through the Alumni Center at La Salle in tribute and gratitude to Brother Gerard for his care and deep esteem for them. They were there because Brother Gerard was real – he was the real thing in their lives – that special someone who quietly makes a difference and whose only personal satisfaction is from the success and goodness of the lives he touched. He was the real thing and again perhaps John Baptist de La Salle, our beloved and saintly father, said it simply and best.
- “…your zeal for the children under your guidance would be very imperfect if you expressed it only in teaching them; it will only become perfect if you practice yourself what you are teaching them.”
Brother Gerard practiced and lived what he taught – he was the real thing.
Brother Gerard spent his last afternoon preparing for the opening of school; preparing those first lessons, seating plans, getting his books in order. All of us in the community sensed when he returned from Sangre de Cristo, a special place and special part of his life, that he was a step or two slower than when he left us in June. No matter what his body was telling him, both his heart and soul were in that classroom, at that smartboard doing all he could to meet his students once again, and begin anew. He had the unique ability to engage the disengaged much like a description I love to use about teaching that defines all of us as much like bus drivers helping students to get where they need to be. He had that special charisma to meet his students where they are and take them to where they need to be with understanding and compassion. He accepted and loved each student as the unique and special individual that God intended him or her to be. Students recognized that and responded accordingly.
“What is a greater work than to direct the minds and form the character of the young? I hold, with certainty, that no painter, no statuary, nor any other artist does such excellent work as the artist (teacher) who molds the minds of youth.” (Saint John Baptist de La Salle quoting Saint John Chrysostom.)
The Brothers live in community. Our lives are a shared experience of faith. From a distance it may indeed appear to be a strange way to live. However, I assure you that it is both life-giving and meaningful. At the core of that experience are these simple but beautiful words in the RULE of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. “It is together that they seek God and it is together that they find Him.” I find it so important to say that, together with Jerry for close to 55 years, we Brothers sought God and through him, his life and example, we found God – we all came to a deeper and clearer understanding of the Holy Presence of God through him – through his gentle ways, his clear and glistening blue eyes, full of twinkle and inquisitiveness, his compassion and presence. What better thing can I say, or can be said of any man, than “He was loved.”
Jerry, my dear friend, my sometimes mentor and personal barometer, you always made me feel good about me. You always made me feel so important, so special. I know that I am not alone in that regard. I have heard that from so many these past days. I pray, we all pray, that we did the same for you. That I loved you, that we loved you, goes without saying. For how could anyone not love you? Our world was a better place for having experienced your love – it will never be the same without you. I know now that you will always live on in our minds and our hearts.
These beautiful and touching words of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, in his 16th Meditation for the Time of Retreat shared by Brother Frederick Mueller at our prayer service, are special to the Brothers. I hope the Founder will forgive me for inserting Brother Gerard’s name among his words.
“Oh, what a joy Brother Gerard, a Brother of the Christian Schools, will have when he sees a great number of his students in possession of eternal happiness, for which they are indebted to him by the grace of Jesus Christ! What a sharing of joy there will be between the teacher and his students! What a special union with one another there will be in the presence of God! It will be for them a great satisfaction, sharing together the blessings for which the call of God had given them hope, the wealth of the glorious heritage of God in the dwelling of the saints.
Reach such a position in the future by fidelity to your duty, so that at the moment of your death, you will possess such a great happiness and be able to see your students, likewise, after they have ended their days, possess this happiness along with you.”
We have all lived in the presence of something, someone, special. In this day and age of sophistication, technology, and a somewhat jaded, desensitized view of life – we have the profound and simple wisdom of a man, Brother Gerard, who lived his life selflessly in the presence of God and made a significant difference in our lives and most especially in the lives of the young men and women who were privileged to be in his caring and loving presence.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle. Pray for us.
Live Jesus in our Hearts. Forever!
Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of
Br. Gerard Duncanson, FSC
Born Gerald Lloyd Duncanson in Yonkers, NY, on September 14, 1938
Entered the Barrytown, NY Novitiate on July 2, 1956
Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Andrew Gerard on September 7, 1956
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Barrytown, NY, on August 25, 1963.
Brother Gerard died at Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, RI on August 28, 2011
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Viewing from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
La Salle Academy Brothers’ Residence
612 Academy Avenue
Providence, RI 02908-2796
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 am
St. Pius V Roman Catholic Church
55 Elmhurst Avenue
Providence, RI 02908-2803
Burial in Brothers’ cemetery, Narragansett, RI at approximately 11:30 am
Luncheon to follow
SUFFRAGES FOR OUR DECEASED BROTHER GERARD
District: 50 masses
La Salle Academy community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass
Brother Gerard passed away suddenly after apparently suffering a stroke in the community. May he rest in peace.
Tour of Duty
New York, NY
St. Bernard’s School
St. Cecilia’s School
Bishop Loughlin High School
East Elmhurst, NY
St. Gabriel’s School
St. Cecilia’s School
Christian Brothers Center
Christian Brothers Center
Christian Brothers Center
Santa Fe, NM
Sangre de Cristo Center
La Salle Academy
May the soul of Brother Gerard, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.