Given by Brother Michael McKenery, FSC
July 26, 2013
Mass of Christian Burial
Our Lady Star of the Sea Chapel, Narragansett, RI

It is both a privilege and an honor this day, on behalf of the Brothers’ Community here at Narragansett and the Brothers and Lasallians of the District of Eastern North America, to speak in memory and tribute of Brother Peter Clifford, FSC, son of Mary and Peter Clifford. Peter was a truly talented and gifted leader, friend, mentor, and guide who touched and transformed lives with his knowledge, wit, wisdom, and unwavering determination during his seventy years as a Brother of the Christian Schools.

Peter entered the Junior Novitiate at Barrytown, New York, seventy-four years ago. He received the habit of the Brothers of the Christian Schools on September 7, 1943, some seventy years ago.

All but fourteen years of his life were spent living and ministering in various programs and communities of the De La Salle Christian Brothers. He leaves us at the wonderful age of eighty-eight, having lived a life full of purpose and accomplishment, and leaving behind a legacy of leadership and inspiration for all those whose lives he touched persistently, quietly and effectively.

Eighty-eight years is a long life, and yet it remains difficult for me, for us, to think of life without our Brother Peter. Peter was a hero in my life, and his going from us stings. Stephen Colbert, the host of the Colbert Report, made a statement about the passing of his 92 year old mother that I believe beautifully describes how so many of us feel about the passing of our beloved Brother Peter. “I know it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long,” Mr. Colbert said about his mother. “But, the fact that she was 92 does not diminish it but only magnifies the enormity of the room whose door has now quietly shut.” For us Brothers, the members of his community here at Narragansett, as well as for the members of his family, the fact that Brother Peter was 88 does not diminish or lessen our sorrow or our sense of personal and communal loss, but rather, it only “magnifies the enormity of the room whose door has now quietly shut for us” and the emptiness of that room affects each and every one of us.

I have always believed that the true measure of any man is in the quality and depth of his life. After journeying with Peter these past weeks and months, those words took on new meaning for each of us as we, as a community of Brothers here at Christian Brothers Center, learned through Peter’s spirit of independence and, at times, stubbornness to understand and appreciate his will to live and his determination to defy the odds. Every step of the way as he battled the cancer and tumors in his body, he chose life. He did that in ways that were sometimes frustrating and exasperating yet somehow, beautifully touching and inspiring. Fiercely independent and determined, he did not wish to be a burden to us, and we, as a community, were just as determined in letting him know that caring for him was not a burden but a privilege and a life- giving experience for us. Our RULE states it so beautifully, “Together they seek God, and it is together they find Him.”

Many years ago Peter changed my life, and he did so in his usual way of speaking honestly, sometimes bluntly, and right to the point,. When Peter was appointed the Brother Visitor of the LI-NE District, he approached me to be one of his Auxiliary Visitors along with Brother Timothy Balfe. I was then the Headmaster at La Salle Military Academy, and in my seventeenth year of ministry there. When I hesitated in my response and came up with the many reasons why I could not accept his invitation, he made it clear that it was not a request, and that it was much more than a suggestion for future ministry. He looked at me and said wisely and to the point, “If you remain herem, you will die.” He saw something in me that I did not see, and I am forever grateful for that special gift in my life.

Recently at one of the last times I spoke with him, I felt comfortable looking right at him and saying, “We do not say this often enough in our lives as Brothers to each other, Peter, —I love you.” And he looked right back at me, startling me, and said, “And I love you.” And that is a moment that I shall never forget.

Let us just take a moment and reflect on all that Peter, the 14 year old boy from the Bronx accomplished in the 74 years since he entered Saint Joseph’s Juniorate at Barrytown, New York. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Manhattan College, a Masters Degree in Education from Fordham University, and an Ed. D from Harvard University. He was a grade school teacher, Academic Dean at De La Salle College in Manila, a teacher and administrator, and an Assistant for Higher Education at the United States Catholic Conference. He served terms as President at Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota and Saint Mary’s College in Leavenworth, Kansas. He served as the Brother Visitor of the Long Island and New England Province for three years and served on numerous Boards, too numerous to mention, and still managed to be a golfer and a sports enthusiast. Peter was truly a man for all seasons.

Yes, today we say goodbye. The reality is that we had a blessed period of time, tinged with loss and sorrow, one that gave us the opportunity to have conversations that we might not have ever had. We, as a community of Brothers, all had the opportunity to express our love, each in his own way, as did our community of friends here at the Center who prayed along with him and with us each day. Thank you, Peter, for a life well lived and for the example you gave as a faithful and cherished member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. You have blessed our lives, and we will forever be grateful for the privilege of accompanying you in your final days. It may well have been the finest lesson you ever taught!

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. Peter Clifford, FSC

Born Patrick F. Clifford in New York, NY, on February 17, 1925

Entered the Barrytown, NY, Junior Novitiate on September 1, 1939 and Novitiate in June, 1943

Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Chrysostom Peter, on September 7, 1943

Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Barrytown, NY, on September 1, 1950

Br. Peter died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on July 23, 2013


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Viewing from 7:00 – 9:00 pm

Christian Brothers Center Community (Blue Room)
635 Ocean Road
Narragansett, RI 02882-1314

Friday, July 26, 2013

Viewing in the Blue Room from 10:00 – 11:00 am
Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 am

Our Lady Star of the Sea Chapel
Christian Brothers Center

Burial in Brothers’ cemetery following


District: 100 masses
Christian Brothers Center Community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 
1 mass

Brother Peter passed away peacefully in his sleep in the very early morning. May he rest in peace.


teacher and sub-director
New York, NY
Good Shepherd School

principal and sub-director
New York, NY
Immaculate Conception School

principal and director
Brooklyn, NY
St. Cecilia’s School

academic dean
De La Salle College

Brooklyn, NY
St. Augustine High School

assistant principal
Brooklyn, NY
Bishop Loughlin High School

Waltham, MA
St. Mary’s High School

acting principal and director
Manchester, NH
Bishop Bradley High School

asst. superintendent (high schools)
Brooklyn, NY
Catholic Schools Office

exec. sec., secondary
Washington, D.C.
National Catholic Educational Assn

assistant dean
Jamaica, NY
St. John’s University

Winona, MN
St. Mary’s College

visitor (LI-NE District)
Narragansett, RI
Christian Brothers Center

assistant (higher education)
Washington, D.C.
U. S. Catholic Conference

Leavenworth, KS
St. Mary’s College

director of finance (LI-NE District)
Narragansett, RI
Christian Brothers Center

Winona, MN
The Metanoia Group

assistant to the president
Narragansett, RI
The Ocean Tides School

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