Eulogy given by
Br. John Patzwall, FSC
Romans 8:16-17 – The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Now that Joseph’s suffering is complete, may he indeed be glorified!
As we prepare to bring our friend and Brother, Joseph, to his final earthly resting place, let us give thanks to God for sharing him with us. In many ways, even in sickness, he was bigger than life. He was indeed one of a kind and you will never forget him. As my nephew Jeff said in an e-mail to me earlier in the week: “He was a great man with such a tender heart. There are only a few people that I’ve met in this world that enjoyed life as much as he did. He was a true character that will be sorely missed”.
68 years and 196 days after bursting onto the world scene in the Monumental City, now unfortunately known as Charm City, in this the Free State and “Land of Pleasant Living”; 53 years and 100 days after entering the Junior Novitiate at La Salle Hall, Ammendale; 50 years and 22 days after receiving the religious habit of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and the religious name of Brother Bonaventure Sean; and more than 150 days after leaving La Salle Hall for the last time as he entered Laurel Regional Hospital and began his longest ordeal, Joe Woods had had enough and decided he had reached the end of the trail and of his personal journey of faith, and thus humbly and quietly, and (I am certain) prayerfully accepted his birth into new life.
He was the “Dean” of his Juniorate Class and consequently Dean of the 1962 Novitiate class of Our Lady of the Star. He carried both inconsequential titles with such a bearing and such pride that during the years of formation he earned the nickname, “Cardinal Woods”. It seems to me, perhaps the person who knew him best, that the Cardinal simply decided, unilaterally as was his want, that his Golden Anniversary deserved to be celebrated at the penultimate banquet table with his parents, Dot and Joe, on either side, with Pat there too allhosted by none other than the God to whom he devoted his life and ministry. Absent any other plausible reason, who is going to challenge that assumption? Of one thing you can be certain: there was no salmon on the banquet menu. My sources tell me a lot of bacon was consumed though.
If you knew Brother Joseph, you knew a religious Brother committed to a life of service through multiple ministries who enjoyed being rewarded from time to time by some of that “pleasant living”. Service to others always came first however. Unfortunately, the pleasant living wasn’t always good for him.
When he left the Scholasticate for South Hills Catholic in 1967, I could not have predicted that he would be successful either in the classroom or in the other assignments he handled there or at Calvert Hall College and St. John’s College. His field was Business Management and Accounting, subjects I knew little about then or even now. But he was prepared and licensed to do that work with academic degrees and Teaching Certificates from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of Maryland. His success was affirmed by students, faculty, administrators and parents alike. He was prepared additionally by temperament and experience to lead a Middle School and to be a Dean of Students. After his heart attack, he tried his hand as Administrator of the Spiritual Center at Adamstown before he used everything he learned in graduate school to switch to a somewhat less stressful assignment as Guidance Counselor.
[By the way, if you ever saw Joe perform his pantomime rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas with his Leaping Lords and Geese a Laying, you would have foreseen that heart attack as inevitable. He put everything into everything.]
Open heart surgery forced another change of direction. Desiring to continue being in active service, Joe went back to school and had himself licensed as a Certified Geriatric Aid and devoted his time to helping, first to earn his professional credentials at De La Salle Hall in New Jersey and finally at La Salle Hall. After one of my shoulder operations put me in a position where I couldn’t perform all the activities of daily living, Joe told me that I was about to learn who my true friends were. Yes, it was he who was the one true friend who was there when I needed him. Believe me, I could never do some of the things he did so generously for others. And for nearly a decade he patiently spent untold hours attending to the sick or shepherding them back and forth to hospitals and doctor appointments. He didn’t drive in straight lines though. If a morning appointment caused breakfast to be missed, he was concerned about his patient and all too willing to stop at Einstein Bagels, Denny’s or IHOP on the way home. All this service to our Senior Brothers and more has earned him a high place in heaven, higher perhaps than some Cardinals. Wouldn’t that be “peachy keen”?
There was one thing that Joe was not trained or licensed to do. He was not licensed to practice medicine. In the long run it may have been his undoing. He knew some things, but not everything. A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing. Joe was one of those people who “enjoyed poor health”. He tried to manage his own healthcare and medical treatment as he balanced reports from a slew of doctors. This was his greatest weakness which unfortunately was sometimes accompanied by a lack of will power to avoid those things he knew were not good for him. So, let’s use this one peccadillo as a teachable moment. When you have a physician as excellent as, say, Doctor Christine DeLima and a nurse like Robin Shrader, leave yourself totally in their hands and follow their advice. Let’s everyone try to get our weight, blood sugar and blood pressure down in tribute to and in memory of Joe and to our own benefit.
On behalf of the Brothers, let me say a word of sincere thanks to those who devoted themselves to providing their professionally best care to Joe. This includes not only Dr. DeLima, Sister Maryanne Burgoyne and Robin Shrader, but Doctors Sadiq , Sead and Ohinski as well. We are also indebted to all the other caregiver professionals and staff at Laurel Regional Hospital, the Wound Care Center, Patuxent Rehabilitation Center and Adventist Hospital. The community at La Salle Hall was unfailing in their fraternal care for and presence to Joe and especially for their prayers for his welfare and return to good health. Above all I was able to personally witness how lovingly and persistently Rick and Pat Woods, Joe’s brother and sister-in-law, devoted themselves these past long months to doing what was best and advocating for Joe. He was very close to his immediate family: Rick and Pat and John and his late sister Patricia. He was very proud of his extended family of nephews, nieces and their children and of their accomplishments.
I hope you have had or will have the opportunity to see some of the pictures displayed back at La Salle Hall. To see those images of Joe enjoying life so much presents a good balance to the tough straits he had endured for so many months. Those photos graphically reveal how he brought joy into the lives of others, and why he was such a great friend, confidant and traveling companion. We shared many wonderful experiences and laughs. There is a story connected to the sombrero picture in Acapulco and another one to the Viking helmet taken at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. The greatest photo of all may be the candid one of Joe zonked out in a lounge chair during our Panama Canal crossing. [He swore he’d get even with me for that one.] Even some innocent looking pictures have a story. There is one where he was smiling and waving to me from a swimming pool, I think in St. Kitts. Nice picture. With his great smile they all were. What you don’t see is that ten seconds later he is chagrined and mortified to realize he had his wallet in the pocket of his bathing suit. I have so many many stories, but no time now to share them.
We were there for each other in our greatest hours of need and stress most especially when we lost our parents. We Patzwalls twice put a damper on his birthday when we buried my brother and my mother thirty- six years apart on March 11th, his natal day. But he wasn’t concerned about his birthday; he was concerned about me.
The Brothers from La Salle Hall will have noticed that up to this point I haven’t used one of Joe’s nicknames. For some time we have been calling him “Bunky” or “Bunk”. But I don’t believe we should have been. I take the blame for that. It was not right for me to use or for us to appropriate and popularize what was a term of endearment between a father and his son. Let’s return it to them and leave it rest in that special and sacred place in their heavenly hearts and in their family.
A few weeks ago en route to my new assignment in New Mexico my brother and I stopped in the Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. While there we saw a wonderfully moving sculpture by James Earle Fraser called End of the Trail. It sadly depicted the end of an era: the time when the Plains Indians were all finally removed onto reservations. Well, don’t let us be sad that Bonaventure has reached the end of his earthly trail. As hard as it is to lose any one we love it’s consoling to know that in Joe’s new life in the Kingdom he has been restored to a fullness of life that, in faith, he could only imagine. Let’s celebrate a life well lived and be thankful for his sixty-eight years, and be especially thankful for his extraordinary example of generosity and for fidelity for fifty years of religious life as a Brother of the Christian Schools.
Live Jesus in Our Hearts, Forever!
Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of
Br. Joseph Woods, FSC
Born Joseph Francis Woods in Baltimore, MD, on March 11, 1944
Entered the Ammendale Juniorate on June 10, 1959, and Novitiate on June 15, 1962
Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Bonaventure Sean, on September 1, 1962
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Pittsburgh, PA, on September 4, 1971
Brother Joseph died at Laurel Regional Hospital in Laurel, MD, on September 23, 2012
Friday, September 28, 2012
Viewing from 6:30 pm – 7:45 pm
Vigil Service at 7:45 pm
La Salle Hall
6001 Ammendale Road
Beltsville, MD 20705-1202
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Viewing from 12:00 (NOON) – 1:30 PM
La Salle Hall
6001 Ammendale Road
Beltsville, MD 20705-1202
Mass of Christian Burial at 2:00 pm
St. Joseph Church
11007 Montgomery Road
Beltsville, MD 20705
Burial at Christian Brothers’ Cemetery,
Luncheon to follow
SUFFRAGES FOR OUR DECEASED BROTHER JOSEPH
District: 50 masses
La Salle Hall community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass
Brother Joseph passed away in the early morning hours on Sunday at Laurel Hospital after a lengthy illness. May he rest in peace.
Tour of Duty
Anselm Hall – Elkins Park, PA
South Hills Catholic High School
Calvert Hall College
vice-principal, middle school
St. John’s College H S
Christian Brothers Spiritual Center
St. John’s College H S
Bishop Walsh Community
La Salle Hall
Leave A Comment