Br. Gerard Molyneaux, FSC
Br. Tom’s Niece, Kara McPhillips De Filippi
Brother Gerard Molyneaux, FSC:
In a few moments we will hear about Tom from those closest to him, his family. But, I did want to take a moment to remember Tom as a Brother and a colleague with whom I lived for almost twenty years. He was my director, my confidant, and my friend.
A look around Tom’s room the other day provided the clues to a life that was extraordinary in its impact, perhaps because that life was so remarkably simple and clear in its focus. On one hanger was Tom’s neatly ironed Brother’s shirt, black with the white collar; beside it was the long white lab coat that he wore to many of his biology classes. Brother Joe Burke found a new black suit, with some pockets not even opened. Yet, inside the jacket pocket was a copy of the program from the La Salle High Band Concert 2013 which I not only attended but did so, sitting on top of the case that held Tom’s trombone. And there we have the whole McP package: Brother, teacher, and passionate lover of music. We also have hints of his achievements (Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, Provost Service Award for Dedication), and hints of good times from the Kimmel Center to the Glenside Pub, and of friendships that all three roles embraced. When asked recently to indicate what he would want his eulogists to focus on, Tom cited what we just saw: Brother with a capital B, caring teacher, and loving friend.
Thanks to the technology around us, especially Facebook, we did not have to wait long for the eulogy to begin, nor did we have to plan the covering of Tom’s three topics. Tom would have roared laughing at the candid slightly inelegant reaction to his death that appeared early on Facebook: “Oh, man! What a bummer!” Yet, who could disagree?
From other alums came tributes to our Brother. Tom Murphy wrote, “You were a big part of my best college memories. St. John Baptist De La Salle, pray for us.” Former student Dan Rakowski said simply what he heard so often from Tom, “Live, Jesus, in our hearts. Forever.”
Greg Allen, who played the trombone right beside Tom for four years in the jazz band, recalled, “He was a fun guy, loved music, and was infuriating when it came to bio tests. You will be missed, Brother Tom.” Former band president, Mike McMonagle, never had Tom in class, but
clearly was impacted by him. Mike said, “The La Salle community lost a good man. He was my friend and mentor. You will be missed, BT.” For Pat Dalton, Tom will always remain, “the Brother with the gregarious laugh that made everyone else join in.” Like many of us, Brother Rob Wilsbach recalled Tom’s years as the director of the Brother’s summer getaway at Ocean Rest. “He was a gracious and generous host.”
One colleague, Bill Price, said, “I worked with him for 28 years, loved the man. He is La Salle.” Clearly, Tom loved back, as Pidge Molyneaux remembers. “He was a great teacher, a wonderful mentor to the students, and kids loved him as the director of the jazz band. I never went to an event where Tom was a guest that I could not count on a big hug.”
Within hours after Tom’s death, an elderly neighbor placed a note in our community’s mailbox. She said simply, “I will miss his smile and warm hello.”
And so, if the mission of the Brothers, and indeed of all Lasallians, is to touch the hearts of students they teach and the people they meet, then the spontaneous eulogies show that Tom has admirably succeeded in that work, and has also met his own clear aspirations. We celebrate then, the life of a caring, capital B, Brother and a loving and capital F friend. May the choirs of angels meet and greet you, Tom, and may they be in tune! And, may God bless you the way you have always blessed us.
Brother Tom’s Niece, Kara McPhillips De Filippi:
Good evening. On behalf of my family, and especially my father, I would like to express our sincerest thanks to the Christian Brothers, LaSalle University, and the many friends, colleagues, and students who are here or have contacted us in the past week. Your words of condolence, and the memories you have shared have been a great comfort to us. While we have always known how much Uncle Tom meant to so many people, the past week has been a powerful reminder of how many lives he touched.
While most of you knew him as Brother Tom, he was Uncle Tom to us. Uncle Tom was one of the most transparent men I know. He was the same generous, caring person with everyone. But to us, he was also integral to our family. Like every family, we learned the most about our father and Uncle Tom’s childhood as we sat around the dinner table and they traded tales. Uncle Tom was the youngest in the family. My dad used to tell us about the day…while Uncle Tom rolled his eyes….that their mother interrupted an intense neighborhood baseball game so that my dad could go home and see the first tooth that Uncle Tom lost. My sister, who was also plagued with a younger sibling, remembers marveling about how their relationship deepened through the years. My dad will tell you that no one could ask for a more loyal and supportive brother than Uncle Tom.
Uncle Tom once gave me a card…you know he never missed a birthday or celebration…he gave me a card when he was my Confirmation sponsor that said, “Your life is a reflection of the spirit of God dwelling within you. May it be a light to guide others to Him.”
I think this card embodies how Uncle Tom lived his life every day. Through his faith, his work, and his spirit, he was a light to all of us.
First, and above all, Uncle Tom was a man of faith. He lived his faith without fanfare. As we grew, he welcomed our conversations and questions about faith. He embraced our whys and quietly answered those questions through deeds rather than words. His commitment to living in Christ’s image was apparent through his interactions and his works. We have heard numerous stories in the past week of his generosity, mostly about his generosity of self and spirit. Uncle Tom had time and a smile for everyone who needed him.
He was also a man of learning. Uncle Tom had a profound curiosity about biology, but he was equally fascinated with the learning process. I am also a teacher, and every time I saw Uncle Tom, he asked about my students. He shared resources with me. He, a college professor, a PhD., thought his resources were appropriate for me, a middle school teacher. And they were, because his focus was always on his students. He would tell me details about what each of you was doing, about how you learned, and what was working and what wasn’t. I think one of his favorite lessons was when he would bring the lawn mower to class. He would get it going, let the noise and gas smell spread throughout the room, and then ask his students how they knew
that the lawn mower was not alive. Inevitably, among all of the responses, one student would say, “The lawn mower can’t reproduce.” I am sure Uncle Tom maintained his demeanor in class, but to me, his eyes would twinkle, his body would shake with laughter as he responded, “My mother can’t reproduce either, but you better not tell her she is not alive!” Our grandmother has not been alive for more than thirty years, but Uncle Tom knew she would enjoy that joke as much as he did.
Finally, Uncle Tom was a man who loved life. He loved to be surrounded by people—on the deck of the shore house, at his Octoberfest, or at Christmas Eve mass, anywhere. He delighted in sharing his favorite restaurant or bottle of wine. And Uncle Tom had many favorite restaurants! He loved music, whether playing or listening. He found as much joy in the intricate pieces, as he did trading instruments in the pep band. He was adventurous. You may remember the time he spent teaching at Bethlehem University in Palestine. My brother remembers Uncle Tom sneaking him into basketball games as a member of the band.
Of all the memoires that have been shared in the past week, the one that has been the most frequent is the sincerity of Uncle Tom’s smiles and hugs. My brother-in-law described it well when he said that Uncle Tom hugged him on the first day they met with the same intensity and love that he did every time after. We were all so incredibly blessed that Uncle Tom never hid how much he loved us. He showed it with every greeting, every smile, and every laugh. And because he was such a vibrant part of all of our lives, his passing leaves what feels like an irreplaceable hole. Our greatest comfort is in knowing that, even with the hole, all of our lives, and all of us, are better, more vibrant ourselves, for having shared this time with Uncle Tom.
Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of
Br. Thomas McPhillips, FSC
Born Thomas Hugh McPhillips in Philadelphia, PA, on September 8, 1949
Entered the Ammendale, MD, Novitiate on June 15, 1967
Received the Religious Habit on August 31, 1967
Pronounced Perpetual Vows at La Salle College High School, Wyndmoor, PA, on August 22, 1976
Br. Thomas died at the Roncalli Community, Philadelphia, PA, on June 6, 2013
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Viewing from 4:00 – 7:00 pm
Mass of Christian Burial at 7:00 pm
De La Salle Chapel
La Salle University
1900 West Olney Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19141-1199
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Burial in the Brothers’ cemetery at 11:30 am
La Salle Hall
6001 Ammendale Road
Beltsville, MD 20705-1202
Luncheon to follow
SUFFRAGES FOR OUR DECEASED BROTHER THOMAS
District: 50 masses
Roncalli Community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass
Brother Thomas passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep at the Roncalli community. May he rest in peace.
Elkins Park, PA
La Salle College H S
Archbishop Carroll Community residence
teacher and director
South Hills Catholic H S
San Antonio, TX
professor (Jeremy House residence)
La Salle University
professor and director (Roncalli residence) Philadelphia, PA
La Salle University