Gerry, Joseph


Given by Brother Colman Coogan, FSC
April 12, 2014

Mass of Christian Burial
La Salle Hall, Beltsville, MD

“For if before all, indeed they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.  As gold tried in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings, he took them to himself.”  Wisdom 3:3-7

This scriptural quotation is particularly appropriate as we come to pay our final respects to Brother Joseph Gerry.  In his Five Wishes he asked that his coffin remain closed, that no homily be given, and that he be buried with as little ceremony as possible.  Self-effacing person that he was, his request comes as no surprise, possibly because he saw nothing in his life worthy of comment.  Pardon us, Joe, but to honor that last request would be an unpardonable omission for two reasons:  first, the Brothers and this community need to receive a word of gratitude for having made it possible for you to live out your life with dignity and as humanly as possible; secondly, your special life needs to be reframed for its uniqueness lest it be written off or misunderstood as being useless.  We cannot allow that to happen.  Your sixty-three years among us were rare and rich in meaning, a legacy we need to cherish.

What, then, is that legacy?  First and foremost was Brother’s acceptance of the basic components of personality given him by Divine Providence.  Brother Joseph was saddled with a mental health condition that left him withdrawn, uncomfortable in groups, slow to speak, shy, even fearful of eye contact.  Hardly positive markers for one destined to live in a community of teachers.  This trait was amenable to neither professional help nor medication and would account for both his success and apparent failure.

As a gifted student, Brother Joseph majored in languages, particularly Latin, Greek, and French.  There was hardly a word he could not parse or that he did not find among those Classics on which he was an expert.  Attempts to share this gift with students met with utter failure.  They couldn’t care less about the fourth declension, Ovid, Racine, or even The Odyssey, and that attitude was strongly reflected in their behavior.  As a consequence, Brother Joseph was assigned to other duties, often of a menial nature, and these he accomplished uncomplainingly.  What a keen disappointment this must have been to a man of his intelligence—submission to failure in his cherished career.

At times, Brother Joseph was dubbed as being odd, “singular”, the catch-word for those who just didn’t fit in.  Yet, there was an ascetic air about him.  He was truly a man of prayer in the best sense of that term.  As the years passed, Joe withdrew increasingly from community life, settling for appearances at times when all had retired.  Then, he would eat alone, tidy up the kitchen, reorganize reading materials, or delve into the daily news.  He never showed an interest in television, movies, or music.  Still, there was a keen interest in the Brothers as belied by his occasional quests for information.  He knew about everyone in the District.  He held a treasury of information about ages and assignments and so forth—a tribute to his phenomenal memory.

He loved his fraternal association with the Brothers.  When Brother Dennis Malloy paid him a visit at the hospital, you would have thought he had seen Santa Claus on Christmas morning!  Brother Joseph never infringed on anyone’s personal space, yet if you chose to enter his, he was open and could converse knowledgeably on a host of topics including sports.  He was a community-oriented person through and through if you took the time to engage him.

Finally, there was a religiosity about Joseph, a mystical tone, but what was that?  The dark night of the soul?  I would hazard to say it was.  Speaking of its difficulty, St. John of the Cross said:

“Few there are with the knowledge and desire for entering upon this supreme nakedness and emptiness of spirit.  This path on the high ground of perfection is narrow and steep.  It demands travelers who are not weighed down by the lower part of their nature, nor burdened in the higher part.”  Ascent, II.vi.

Brother Joseph never spoke in these terms, but everything points to its lived reality through the greater part of his life.  Toward the end, he spent endless hours in his room, absolutely silent, a virtual hermit.  Perhaps it was best reflected in his ardent desire to die, about which he often spoke, and when you consider what he suffered, death would be a welcome.  For then, and for the first time, he would enjoy the freedom to assume his true self, to witness the Beatific Vision which he sought.

This then is Brother Joseph’s Gerry’s legacy to us:  perseverance in sickness, courage in the face of failure, community-centeredness, and a faith-filled confidence in God’s will for him.

Thanks, Joe, for the wonderful life you shared with us.  It was not a waste.  We got the message to  “consecrate our lives entirely to you to procure your glory as far as (we) shall be able and as you will require of us.”  This you did for your whole life in an exemplary manner.

“For if before all, indeed they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.  As gold tried in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.”  Wisdom  3:3-7

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen.

Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of Br. Joseph Gerry, FSC

Born Donald McLane Gerry in Washington, D.C., on August 3, 1932

Entered the Ammendale, MD, Novitiate on June 10, 1950

Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Felician Joseph, on September 7, 1950

Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Ocean City, NJ, on June 25, 1957

Br. Joseph died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on April 8, 2014


At Brother Joseph’s request, there will be no viewing of the body.
A private memorial prayer service will be held for the De La Salle Hall Community.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mass of Christian Burial at 7:00 pm

La Salle Hall
6001 Ammendale Road
Beltsville, MD  20705-1202

Brothers are welcome to join the La Salle Hall Community
for dinner at 5:30 pm

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Burial in the Brothers’ cemetery at 11:30 am
Luncheon at La Salle Hall to follow



District: 50 masses
De La Salle community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 
1 mass

Brother Joseph died quietly and peacefully in the morning at De La Salle Hall.  May he rest in peace.


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