0612-richard-grzeskiewiczEulogy given by
Br. Robert Schaefer, FSC

Good afternoon to all of you gathered here this afternoon to celebrate the life of Brother Richard Grzeskiewicz. Bishop Zubik, on behalf of Brother Richard’s family and the Christian Brothers’ community, thank you for honoring Brother Richard’s service to this diocese with your presence. A week or so ago, on a Sunday afternoon, the doorbell at the Brothers’ house rang, and it was Bishop Zubik, who had come to visit Richard and offer him the Sacrament of the Sick. Although quite weak, Richard was very touched by your visit, Bishop. Afterwards he said to me, “Not bad for a boy from Lawrenceville! “ I am sure he’s saying the same thing today.

To Brother Richard’s family – to his beloved sister, Connie Rose, and to his many cousins, nieces and nephews, on behalf of the Brothers, we say thank you for sharing your Brother, cousin, and uncle with us these many years. He was very proud of his Pittsburgh roots and his extended family.

To Brother Dennis Malloy, our provincial superior, and Brother Dennis Lee, our auxiliary provincial, and all the Brothers who traveled to Pittsburgh, we extend our gratitude for your making the trip. Your presence reinforces our connection to the greater Lasallian community to which Richard was so dedicated.

We gather here today to celebrate the life of a man who, fifty years ago, vowed that he would consecrate himself entirely to God, to procure His glory as far as he was able and as God would require of him, through the educational service of young people, in the spirit and tradition of John Baptist de La Salle and the Brothers of the Christian Schools. For 50 years, Brother Richard labored in the Lord’s vineyard, animated by the challenge offered by John Baptist de La Salle over 300 years ago to the first Brothers and which continues to be offered to the Brothers today, “To touch the hearts of your students and inspire them with the Christian spirit – this is the greatest miracle you could perform and the one that God requires of you, for this is the purpose of your work.” Today as we prepare for the final commendation of Richard back to God, we can confidently say, “Job well done, good and faithful servant.” Brother Richard truly exemplified the vocation of a De La Salle Christian Brother. He accepted every assignment he was ever given willingly and with great zeal. From La Salle High School in Miami, with a brief stop in Cumberland, MD, to Seton La Salle and Central Catholic here in Pittsburgh, his sharing of his life, his gifts, and his talents for the mission of Catholic education is an inspiration to all of us who knew him.

One of Brother Richard’s former students, from his first assignment at La Salle High School in Miami, Florida, wrote to us and said, “After college, I became a high school teacher, and after 37 years, I am still at it. It was in no small part due to the role Brother Richard played in my life. After my parents, there is no other group of adults who had a greater impact in the formation of my character, my values, and my ethics, than the Brothers who taught me, particularly Brother Richard. Beyond academics, Brother Richard made us, his students, better men. I start and end every day with the words Brother Richard first taught us – Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God. What a wonderful gift we’ve been given through Brother Richard. Not only were a bunch of boys educated (sometimes against our will) to succeed in life, but ultimately were guided to become good Christian men.” Another letter came in earlier this week, and I was able to read it to Richard just the other day. It brought a smile to his face and a thumbs up from his bedside, “Today I had the joy of watching my son walk across the stage at Soldiers and Sailors as he graduated from Central Catholic. Our years at Central have gone by so quickly. I felt I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t drop you a note to let you know how I will never forget what you did for my older son. Brother Richard, you are a kind and gracious man who truly sets the best example for all of the young men who come through the halls of your school. Your giving my son that second (and third) chance to stay at Central Catholic is appreciated more than this letter could ever convey. I know graduating from Central meant the world to him. He is currently serving in Afghanistan and on his right hand is his Central Catholic class ring. He is never without it. As a mom, it warms my heart to know that my boys will always be a part of the Central Catholic family. Thank you, Brother Richard.” These two book end observations – one from the start of his career and one at the close – demonstrate Brother Richard’s life-long dedication to serving young people.

Brother Richard was placed in school leadership roles early in his religious life because the superiors recognized not only his administrative skill but also his deep commitment to Lasallian and Catholic values. Brother Richard was unwavering in his determination to make Central Catholic accessible to all students who desired to attend. His creativity led to a variety of curricular programs that helped a wide range of students succeed. More importantly, he spent much of his time working with alumni, parents, and other benefactors in making the school as financially accessible as possible. I was with him in the hospital when the doctors told him that his cancer had not responded to the last round of treatments, and he would have to move to palliative care. For most of us, this would be news that would take our breath away, but his response was quintessential Richard – he listened to the doctor and nodded his head and then asked when he would be released because he had to work on the budget and the financial aid packages for the students. I remember the day he was diagnosed with cancer just over two years ago. He said to me, “Man makes plans and God laughs. We’ll just take one day at a time. There’s work that has to be done here.” He was passionate about ensuring that Central Catholic was an outstanding 21st century Catholic school that was accessible to students without any regard to socio-economic background. He worked hard right up until his death ensuring that Central Catholic addressed both challenges – accessibility and excellence. He knew he was dying, but like the faithful servant in the Gospel, Richard believed that he was given the stewardship of Central Catholic, and before he left this world for the next, he wanted to make sure all was in good order. With Richard it was never about himself – it was always about others, particularly the students and the mission of Catholic education.

But Brother Richard’s life was so much more than budgets, buildings, and planning. He was a man imbued with the Spirit of faith. In our training as Brothers, we are taught not to look upon anything but with the eyes of faith, not to do anything but in view of God, and to attribute all to God. In his own quiet and unassuming way, that was Richard’s approach to his life, his ministry, and even his illness these past two-and-one-half years. He never took that Lasallian invocation of “Let us remember that we are in the Holy Presence of God” for granted. He truly believed it and lived it. In all my years working with him, I never saw him get rattled or unnerved. He had incredible patience facing the ups and downs associated with high school students, high school teachers, high school parents, and occasionally, diocesan officials. I remember asking him one time after a particularly challenging experience we had to deal with how he remained so calm. He said a phrase he would often repeat to me when I would become agitated or excited, “God provides.” He also said a nice Manhattan in the evening helped!

To his core, Richard Grzeskiewicz was a BROTHER – an older Brother in the way he related to the students entrusted to his care, and a BROTHER to his confreres in community. In his own quiet and humble way, he reflected the best of religious Brotherhood. Throughout the last few weeks, we, his Brothers in community, had the great blessing of caring for and accompanying Richard as he prepared for his passing from this life to the next. He was very much aware of what was happening to him. He never became angry or bitter. He never lost his patience when his health continued to decline and he couldn’t take care of himself. His kindness and great sense of humor never dissipated. On Thursday morning, the hospice nurse told him that death was near and asked him if he was afraid or anxious. Brother Richard responded very clearly that he was not afraid and was ready whenever the Lord came for him. Isn’t the goal of Catholic education to train the mind and form the soul so that each of us, when the time comes, can respond with the same type of faith as Brother Richard – without fear or anxiety, ready for the Lord?

Brother Richard was a teacher right up until he left us in the early hours of the morning this past Friday. All of us will certainly miss Brother Richard. It won’t be the same around here without him. But we are grateful for his life, his generosity, his commitment, and his love. We believe that Richard is enjoying the rewards of a life well-lived reunited with family, his Brothers, and his former students who have gone before him.

Brother Richard, thank you for all you have done and for all you have been. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of
Br. Richard Grzeskiewicz, FSC

Born Richard Ferdinand Grzeskiewicz in Pittsburgh, PA on March 13, 1944

Entered the Ammendale, MD Novitiate on June 15, 1962

Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Richard Garry, on September 1, 1962

Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Miami, FL, on May 15, 1970

Brother Richard died at the Central Catholic High School Brothers’ Community, Pittsburgh, PA, on June 1, 2012


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Viewing from 1:00 – 9:00 pm

Central Catholic High School
Brothers’ Residence
4720 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2952

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mass of Christian Burial at 1:30 pm
Most Reverend David A. Zubik, Bishop, presiding

St. Paul Cathedral
Fifth Avenue at Craig Street (Oakland)
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beltsville, (Ammendale), MD
Burial in Brothers’ Cemetery at 12:00 pm (Noon) Lunch to follow


District: 50 masses
Central Catholic community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass

Brother Richard died gently and peacefully while in hospice care in the Central Catholic Community, after a lengthy bout with lymphoma. Despite his serious illness, he never experienced pain form the disease. May he rest in peace.


Tour of Duty

Elkins Park, PA

Miami, FL
Immaculata-La Salle High School

Pittsburgh, PA
Central Catholic High School

vice-principal, academic affairs
Pittsburgh, PA
Central Catholic High School

Cumberland, MD
Bishop Walsh High School

Pittsburgh, PA
Seton-La Salle High School

director of development / admissions
Pittsburgh, PA
Central Catholic High School

Pittsburgh, PA
Central Catholic High School

Pittsburgh, PA
Central Catholic High School

May the soul of Brother Richard, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.