Word of Remembrance for
Brother James Steck, FSC

Given by Brother Allen Ganz, FSC
May 25, 2016
Mass of Christian Burial
La Salle Hall, Beltsville, MD

I recall having once read somewhere that all religion is rooted in sacred memory. For Christians, it is rooted in Sacred Scripture, which reminds us of God’s saving acts on behalf of His chosen people. Memory is the basis of our sacramental worship. Today we will have read the scriptures and will have worshipped by following the command to “Do this in memory of Me”. While doing this, we will also pause to remember the life of Walter James Steck: a teacher, Brother, and friend. Wally, as I preferred to call him, gave exemplary witness to all three of these dimensions.

I extend my personal condolences along with sincere thankfulness and that of his Christian Brothers to his family, his deceased parents, to his brother, Ray, his wife Donna, his niece, Donna Ray, and his nephew, Ramond Walter, and his entire family, for having given us so wonderful an individual. I likewise thank Wally for having accepted the invitation to share his life with us.

At his 25th jubilee, I remarked that Jim’s hard work and dedication brought to mind a saying that I had learned in the novitiate. The Brother was to show an “indefatigable zeal” in carrying out his duties. Jim did this throughout his professional life. Whether it was preparing his French and Spanish classes or tackling the various vexing problems of administration as academic Vice-Principal at St. John’s College High School or serving as Principal at the Ocean Rest Summer School. He did these with a calm demeanor. He followed in the large footsteps of Rene Sterner and piloted the La Salle College High School forensics team to a state championship. Long van rides to various weekend competitions were what most energized him when forensics was no longer possible. He took on the moderatorship of the crew team. He drove the van to the boat house and supervised the rowers until that time when the coaches arrived. After practice, it was the return trip to the school. There was even a scull named after him. I joked with him when I learned that the SS STECKIE was damaged by a competing Russian scull and was forced into dry dock. It was years later that he was forced by various ailments to the sidelines as a sports spectator. Lest I forget, this non-jock also moderated the Lacrosse team!

Jim was a deeply spiritual man. Every evening before retiring, he would recite the prayers taught to him by his mother and the nuns. When possible, he did this on his knees. By becoming a consecrated Brother, he adopted the prayers and prayer schedule of the Community. It was not like him intentionally to miss prayer or liturgy. He felt obliged to be with his brothers. Several times he confessed that he was embarrassed when he fell asleep in chapel and would drop his psalm book.

His spirituality grew through contact with various sources. He derived much from personal contacts and gave much in return. Later he listened regularly to various radio evangelists and would share with me the nuggets that he had derived from their preaching. Music was yet

another source of his spirituality. He liked all types of music with special devotion to gospel songs and spiritual melodies. This was how he compensated for not being able to sing. It was how he gave praise. His love of music was also seen in the array of walkmans, ipods, stereos, boom boxes, keyboards, and oh, yes, organs that he collected over the years. Wally’s Polish father had tried to convince him to take up the family accordion. Wally stubbornly held out for an organ. Perhaps it was those innate forensics skills that brought the Steck family their first organ!

His Parkinsons rendered his hands unable to play and what was worse, his hearing failed him in his final years. Music which provided him with hours of soulful uplift was now denied him.

For those of us who lived with Wally, his joi de vive was clearly seen in his love of shopping which was often pursued with all the ardour of a grail quest. Words such as Sale, Discount, Two-fers, Layaway, Coupon and Clearance were also music to his ears! I recall once taking him shopping at Kohls Department Store. It was a struggle for him to stay awake in the car. There were few words exchanged. However, once inside the store, he spied a rack of discounted sweater vests. It was then that his bent frame grew erect, his pace quickened, and his eyes had the focus of a man on a mission. I realized that I had witnessed a momentary resurrection of sorts. I have come to believe that the prospects of being joined to his Heavenly Father, the Creator of all good things, held special promise for Wally in his last days.

For Wally, the glass was always half full. For those of us more inclined to see it half empty, this was both challenging and instructive. While he accumulated much “stuff,” he was generous in both giving away and selling his overstock. Brothers at La Salle could find a bargain suitcase from his ready supply in the community’s corridor closet. Unfortunately, his good buddy, Ganzie, proved unsuccessful in trying to rangle a $10 discount on a slightly worn pair of Birkenstock sandals. Wally’s shopping trips were never complete until the item was returned for a full refund. He eschewed the idea of store credit and avoided any vendor that charged a restocking fee. This became the sage advice of retail therapy that he tried to impart to me.

It was only yesterday that I seriously reflected upon the Steckian Koan and saw something wonderful. Wally believed in what our students have always asked for—“Do overs,” a second chance to better oneself or to get it right this time. It now appears that he was only practicing what he was preaching. All those returns were “Do overs’! I can remember the countless times over the forty-eight years of our friendship that I was granted the grace of a “Do over” for something I had said that was hurtful or ill-advised. Yet, being the bigger man, he never grudgingly forgave me. He was quick to forgive and to move on. Thank you, Kim, Wally, Frere, for all that you have given us. May you rest in peace.

Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of Brother James Steck, FSC

Born Walter James Steck in Wilkes Barre, PA, on November 19, 1944

Entered the Ammendale, MD, Novitiate on October 6, 1962

Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Robert Garry, on January 25, 1963

Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Shiremanstown, PA, on October 18, 1970

Br. James died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on May 20, 2016


Monday, May 23, 2016

Viewing from 9:00 am – 3:30 pm

De La Salle Hall
810 Newman Springs Rd.
Lincroft, NJ 07738

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Viewing from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

La Salle Hall
6001 Ammendale Rd.
Beltsville, MD  20705

Wednesday, March 25, 2016

Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 am

La Salle Hall
6001 Ammendale Rd.
Beltsville, MD  20705

Burial in Brothers’ cemetery
Lunch following



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

Brother James passed away peacefully at De La Salle Hall in hospice care, after battling a number of medical complications over the past several weeks. May he rest in peace.


Elkins Park, PA

Radnor, PA
Archbishop Carroll High School for Boys

Shiremanstown, PA
Trinity High School

Cumberland, MD
Bishop Walsh High School

Washington, D.C.
St. John’s College High School

Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College High School

Jersey City, NJ
Hudson Catholic High School

Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College High School

Beltsville, MD
La Salle Hall

Washington, D.C.
Christian Brothers Conference


Lincroft, NJ
De La Salle Hall