Originally posted in The Monitor
I remember going through several job interviews with accounting firms during my senior year at the University of Notre Dame. Although I was focused on getting a job and beginning a career, I was also interested in doing some volunteer work for a year.
My sixteen years of Catholic education gave me an excellent academic foundation, and helped my religious and spiritual formation. Besides Notre Dame, I had the good fortune of attending St. James Grammar School in Red Bank and Christian Brothers Academy. The Sisters of Mercy, the De La Salle Brothers, and the Congregation of Holy Cross were great examples of how people could live a life in service to God and others.
Before accepting a job offer, I contacted the Brothers at CBA and asked if they knew of volunteer opportunities. The Brothers introduced me to Br. Andrew O’Gara, who was the Principal of St. Raymond High School in the Bronx. Br. Andrew arranged for me to teach religion and math and also coach the cross country and track teams. Since I was a volunteer and did not get a salary, I lived with the Brothers in their community. This allowed me to see religious life from the inside, and gave me a better understanding of their vocation.
Being a rookie teacher in a Bronx high school was an experience in itself, but I soon realized that I enjoyed working with young people, and that the life of a Brother, rooted in prayer, service, and community, was very satisfying. At the end of that year, I made a formal application to enter the Brothers.
It’s hard to believe that 35 years have passed, and that my first students are in now their fifties! I spent one more year at St. Raymond’s, and then went to the Novitiate. After the Novitiate I spent seven years teaching and coaching at La Salle Academy, a school that has served an immigrant population in New York City since 1848. My next assignment was working as the Vocation Director of the Province for three years, and after that, I returned to St. Raymond High School to serve as Principal.
In 2002 I was asked to serve as the Provincial, or head Brother, of the New York Province. This position allowed me to visit each of our schools in the Province, as well as our Brothers on the missions in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Africa, and Palestine. Since the De La Salle Brothers are present in 80 different countries, I also had the opportunity to attend international meetings in Rome and hear about the educational work with young people worldwide.
When my term as Provincial was over in 2009, I was asked to come to CBA and follow Br. Andrew O’Gara as President. For me, this was like coming full circle. I had the opportunity to return to my alma mater and succeed the man who gave me my first job with the Brothers. I am now in my sixth year at CBA, and I look forward to going to work each day. Some of my duties as President include overseeing the financial operations, and physical plant, working with the alumni, meeting with parents, and fundraising. The best part of my day is the forty minutes I spend teaching my freshmen Religion Class. After all, teaching is what first got me interested in religious life.
Saint John Baptist De La Salle founded the Brothers in 1680 as a response to a great need of the time, giving a Christian education to young people who were often on the margins of society. De La Salle told the early Brothers that, “To touch the hearts of your students is the greatest miracle you can perform.” As Brothers, we strive to carry this out today by living a simple life in community that is energized by prayer. Our focus is on carrying out God’s will by providing young people with an education that is rooted in the Gospel.
I thank God every day for my vocation, and I pray that young people today take the time to stop and listen to the voice of God in their own lives. It is my hope that they just may hear God calling them to the religious life.
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