Eulogy given by
Br. John T. Patzwall, FSC

Today is a very difficult, tragic and grief-filled day for me and I am certain for most of you. Our brother, James, gave up his life far too soon and for reasons not yet explained or understood. He was a young seventy-three years old and had a lot left to contribute: especially to his sister Nancy and her family, his religious family [De La Salle Christian Brothers] and his beloved students and colleagues at La Salle College High School, his alma mater. That latter relationship really began at 20th & Olney after he graduated from St. Helena’s, and continues until this very evening.

He loved his family more than anything in life. Nancy and Joe, Joe, Jr. and Chris, Courtney, Katie and Ryan and all of you in his extended family, know that for a fact. You have many wonderful memories of Jim to cherish going forward. And you know he will always be there for you and with you helping repair your broken hearts, being the protective Brother, Uncle and Great Uncle you’ve always loved. Our own heartfelt prayers go out to sustain and support you at this difficult time.

The family and the Christian Brothers would like to thank everyone for their concern and support during this past somewhat bizarre and unsettling week, with thanks for all the prayers, messages and visits as well. The letters from the students on the recent Kairos Retreats were most welcome, heartfelt and moving, and all were read to Brother. The local first responders, Janice Ciccimaro, Kathleen Smith, Wally Muehlbronner, David Crowe and Gerry Evans did everything they could to help Brother before the ambulance arrived. Thinking about what I just said should let the truth shine through: What you have always been told is true: La Salle is undoubtedly a family not just a school. And, it is a significant part of a world-wide Lasallian Family.

We are deeply appreciative of the work of the Trauma team and all the doctors and nurses at Abington Hospital who tried to move heaven and earth to save Brother Jim. The caregivers at the Abington Hospice Center were outstanding in their gentle and compassionate care. Most of all we are very grateful to Sister Mary Ann Burgoyne, RSM, Head Nurse for the Brothers District of Eastern North America, who spent countless hours beside the family and the Brothers this past week making certain that Jim’s care was proper, appropriate and well delivered. In her own quiet, professional and tender way she made certain that Jim was treated with love and dignity. Her compassion and support and just her presence meant so much to us all. Jim, being older than I by five years, was from the day I joined the Brothers my religious Brother, a Brother bound to me by vows such as Association. Many of you know the story of how he became more than that, a real brother as close as any brothers could be save for sharing a blood line. Briefly, Jim’s professional career began explosively at Bishop O’Connell in Arlington, Virginia where he met my brother Bob, fellow faculty member and head varsity football coach, before he ever met me. I was in the Scholasticate at Elkins Park at the time.

In a tragic way and for His own reasons, in 1966 God called home my brother and best friend whose name was also Jim. It wasn’t long after that very difficult time when he replaced one brother and friend Jim with another. God is good! He sent me Jim Rieck and I learned another lesson of Trust, of trusting in the goodness and love of God and His presence in our lives. Jim and I bonded quickly at another place dear to his heart and my own, Ocean Rest, where he later served as Director.

It is hard to think about or even contemplate, but for forty-six years the love of God flowed through Jim to me repairing all wounds, temporarily quieting a troubled soul and bringing sage advice and considerable joy. As the psalmist said: Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare fratres in unum (“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity”). Jim and I never had the opportunity to share a ministry or live in the same community, but we took every opportunity we could to build and share our relationship. With his camera and my million and more frequent flyer miles, “Brother Kodak” and I were able to see, for Christian Brothers at least, an extraordinary amount of God’s wonderful creation: mountains, glaciers and wildlife (and oh, flowers; lots and lots of flowers). The trips to the National Parks such as Denali, Kenai Fjords, Glacier and the Grand Tetons along with our several journeys to our ancestral roots in Ireland, to Rome and the Norwegian fjords were especially memorable. Did you know he, the late Brother Joe Woods and I swam across the Arctic Circle? And, it is all recorded and captured for posterity on approximately a quarter million photos, slides and digital images.

Occasionally, we took along a confrere such as Gerry Frendreis, Barry Bartkowiak or Joseph Woods. For the most part though they couldn’t adapt to Jim’s style of travel which was pre-planned to the nth degree and included a pretty swift pace as well as lightning quick stops with no notice for a “photo opportunity”. It didn’t matter if there was traffic speeding behind us or not. I didn’t wish to be rear-ended on the “loose chippings” of an Irish country road. These matters were sometimes irritating, and so I don’t believe we ever took a trip without having a “fight” at some point in the middle of it. We’d be in the middle of the Kenai Peninsula with a week to go wondering if the cold silence would ever be broken. It always was and generally pretty quickly. A bottle of iced tea, a box of Jujyfruits or Mike & Ike’s, a Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar or a Rita’s water ice, if I could find it, usually did the trick.

Didn’t you ever fight with your own siblings, yet would still move heaven and earth for them? Jim and I were like that.

He was a wonderful man who lived his life to the fullest and who would not want us to focus on the sadness caused because in reality, except in spirit, he isn’t here with us. It is not a day for grief. His journey is completed, he has reached the other shore and he has been born to new life. Jesus said, “In My Father’s House there are Many Mansions.” (The house which God has prepared for Jim is most likely a beach house.) It is a day for each of you to celebrate Jim’s life and accomplishments especially those he shared with you personally.

In over 30 years I have only personally heard one Brother verbalize anything close to critical about our Brother James. And, you really don’t know how significant that is!

I am pretty certain that if I went all the way back to his school days at St. Helena’s and La Salle High, or to the realms of higher education at La Salle and Villanova where he earned two Master’s Degrees, my research would produce the same results: nothing but bon mots and well deserved accolades.

Don’t you, like me, have the greatest respect and admiration for those, who like Brother James, have worked in school ministry all their lives? Besides Bishop O’Connell, he spent his professional years building a record of success predominantly on the Main Line at Archbishop Carroll High School where he held important administrative positions including Principal, and at La Salle College High School on Cheltenham Avenue. Your enduring relationship and friendship most likely began at one of these locations, and you have your own story or anecdote to tell. And, I hope you will!

After his family, his heart belonged to La Salle High. As “Brother Kodak” he has been capturing photographic memories there especially since his return in 1993. More importantly, whether in classroom, main office, guidance office, admissions office or on the sidelines of some activity he has been zealously teaching young men, and all of us as well, the true meaning of what it means to be a Brother.

Legions of “Little Explorers” have witnessed his Lasallian zeal, fidelity and compassion as he “touched hearts” especially at the Kairos retreats.

Jim’s sister, Nancy, has described her brother as loving and compassionate. To that we all say: Amen.

There was a much deserved dedication to Brother James in La Salle’s Blue & Gold yearbook a few years ago. He was described as chronicling the lives of the students “with the affection of a parent”. The dedication reminded us that he was “renowned…for his kindness and friendship”. I noted in my contribution that Brother James “possesses a sincere kindness of the quiet type. Sometimes, an act of kindness will go without anyone even knowing that he is behind it.”

I have been the beneficiary of many of his acts of kindness. I am certain most all of you have as well.

This is God’s world, not ours. Life is a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions, all part of God’s plan. Ordinarily there is no understanding that plan. We should try as best we can to take the good and bad, the joys and heartaches, in faith, and then try to live life like Jim did, forward not backward.

So, let’s use the balance of this day in a special way to celebrate Brother James and thank him, not only for his life-long kindness, goodness, friendship and brotherhood, but also for his marvelous witness to fidelity which his life as a Christian Brother represented.

I have a last request for him and a promise. I ask that when it is my turn, he meet me on Kodiak Island. And, I promise to send Dinky over at Christmas time to make certain the Brothers put the tinsel on the tree correctly.

Rest in peace, my Brother!
Live Jesus in our Hearts! Forever!

Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of
Br. James Rieck, FSC

Born James Francis Rieck in Philadelphia, PA on June 6, 1939

Entered the Ammendale, MD Novitiate on June 15, 1957

Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother James Leo, on September 7, 1957

Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Elkins Park, PA, on August 29, 1964

Brother James died at Abington Hospice, Warminster, PA, on November 17, 2012


Friday, November 23, 2012

Viewing from 1:00 – 6:30 pm [Auditorium]
Mass of Christian Burial at 7:00 pm [Gymnasium]

La Salle College High School
8605 Cheltenham Avenue
Wyndmoor, PA 19038-7199

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Burial in Brothers’ Cemetery at 12:00 pm (Noon)

Beltsville, (Ammendale), MD

Lunch to follow


District: 50 masses
La Salle College H.S. community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass

Brother James suffered a severe head trauma in a fall last Sunday. He died peacefully late Saturday evening after several days in hospice care. May he rest in peace.

Tour of Duty

Elkins Park, PA

Arlington, VA
Bishop Denis J. O’Connell H S

Radnor, PA
Archbishop Carroll H S

Radnor, PA
Archbishop Carroll H S

Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College H S

teacher, director of admissions
Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College H S

Radnor, PA
Archbishop Carroll H S

teacher, director of admissions
Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College H S

Lasallian animator
Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College H S

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