1931 – 2018

Words of Remembrance for Brother Kevin Strong, FSC

Mass of Christian Burial
Calvert Hall College, Baltimore, Maryland
January 13, 2018
Given by Brother Kevin Stanton, FSC

Jesus said: Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead they put it on a lampstand to give light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before everyone that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

We are grateful to all of you who have come from near and far, joining us today to glorify the Father for the life of a man whose light has shone so brightly among us. Bishop Madden, we are especially grateful for your presence. I hope you know that you were one of Brother Kevin’s favorite people.

Just how does one man draw so many people together?

It was December 1948. Brother Clement, the principal of La Salle High School in Cumberland, MD, was attending a meeting at St. John’s High School in Washington, D.C. During his time there, Brother Clement mentioned to the Brothers that one of his seniors, an outstanding young man by the name of Richard Strong, was applying to enter the Brothers. How do I know that, especially since I was in the fifth grade in Philadelphia at that time? Well, one of the Brothers present on that occasion was Brother Patrick Power and he told me about it many years later. If you want to check my story, just get in touch with Brother Pat who, by the way, just turned 105 last month. Among other things, he has been a man blessed with a great memory.

Six months after that, in June of 1949, Dick Strong, as he was known to his family, the youngest of six children of Charles and Minnie Strong travelled to Ammendale, MD to enter the Brothers’ Novitiate. He was accompanied on that journey from Cumberland by our much beloved Brother Jeremy McNamara, his teacher at La Salle and the man who had most inspired him to become a Brother. That September, when Dick received the Brother’s robe, he was also given his new religious name, Brother Denis Kevin.

Fast forwarding seven years, to June of 1956, I was one of twenty-four 17 and 18 year olds meeting the young Brother Kevin when we arrived at the Novitiate in Ammendale. He was on the staff there at that time and one of his duties was to introduce us new recruits to the practice of Mental Prayer or Meditation. It would be a difficult task in the best of circumstances but, at 6:30 in the morning, it was a real challenge for both he and us. None of us were morning persons at that point in our lives. As I recall, Brother Kevin stood about 6’3” and weighed about 160 lbs. in those early days. Those were physical measurements which would later cause his La Salle High students in Philadelphia to nickname him “Stretch” – a polite way of saying, one skinny guy.

When my family came to visit me after I received the robe, I happened to introduce him to my parents. It was pure instant bonding, probably facilitated by their soft brogue and Kevin’s lifelong fascination with all things Irish. He would be “family” for the next 60 plus years, despite the frustration he would experience several years later trying to get my younger brother interested in British literature at West Catholic High School. That sense of family extended even to my cousins in Ireland when he had the opportunity to visit there with his classmate, Brother Colman Coogan. All of us, like many of you here, considered ourselves extremely blessed to have such a close relationship with him for so many years.

Life went on for both of us and, as our school assignments evolved over the years, we wouldn’t be together again in community until 1996, when he was the president of Calvert Hall and I was newly assigned here as principal. By that time I was generally aware of Brother Kevin’s many talents, but it wasn’t until I lived and worked with him that I really began to appreciate the full range of his gifts. So much so that, when I stood on this spot in 1999, during the celebration of his 50th anniversary as a Brother, I borrowed an expression from St. Irenaeus who, back in the 2nd century, famously said that “the glory of God is man (or woman) fully alive.”

I spoke of Kevin on that occasion both as a man “fully alive” and as “a man for all seasons.” In the course of his 68 years as a Brother he served in 9 of our high schools as teacher, counselor, moderator of numerous student and parent activities, vice principal, principal and president. In addition to his work in our schools, he was often called upon by Sisters and lay leaders at other Catholic schools to conduct faculty retreats and workshops. At various times in his career he also served in our formation program, counseling young men who were considering a call to religious life. After all, why wouldn’t we want someone like him being the face of our brotherhood?

In his “off” hours, if there was such a thing, he was also Director of the Brothers’ community, gardener, cook, artist, singer, poet, and caring visitor to the sick. As many of you also know, he was a man with a vast repertoire of jokes, which he delivered in his own inimitable style: spot on foreign accents, eyes laughing and hands gesturing all the while. Bottom line – things were never dull when Brother Kevin was in the room, and were we not all more alive in his presence?

As you might imagine, with the similarity of our names, there was inevitably some confusion, especially when we were here together. However, given the magnetism of his personality, there was never any doubt that he was “the” Brother Kevin. And me? Well, as our beloved receptionist used to delight in reminding me, I was simply “the other” Brother Kevin.

Seriously, it seemed to me that Brother Kevin’s “aliveness”, his vitality, had a lot to do with his ability to see and love the beauty in many things: the beauty of a garden, a work of art, a song, a fine meal, a perfect Rob Roy. In essence, Kevin Strong was a Lover – capital L – most especially a Lover who saw the image of God and the unique beauty in each person.

Over 300 years ago, our Founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle, posed this question to his first Brothers: “Do you have such faith that it is able to touch the hearts of your students and to inspire them with the Christian spirit?” De La Salle went on to say: “This is the greatest miracle you could perform, and the one that God asks of you, since this is the purpose of your work.” Powerful words, are they not?

Those of us who were fortunate enough to live and work with him know how seriously Brother Kevin took these words and the extent to which he was able to touch the hearts of his students. He started teaching at West Catholic in Philadelphia in 1954 and there are men in this room today who are here because he did, in fact, touch their hearts for life.

Even outside of the classroom he found ways to relate to students often in areas that weren’t exactly in his comfort zone. I can recall how, when he was President here at The Hall, he would volunteer to moderate the track and wrestling teams. He didn’t know much about the fundamentals of these sports, or any sport for that matter, but he saw them as opportunities to get to know students better and build lasting relationships with them.

We also know that, no matter where he was assigned, Brother Kevin had an enduring impact not just on his students but also on parents, colleagues, alumni and so many others. While he was President here he published a book of poetry entitled Walking in the Presence of God. It consists mainly of poems he composed while he was Principal of Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, PA in the 80s. Those entries reflect the importance he placed on seeing God’s presence in others and fostering enduring relationships.

This past week I received an e-mail from France sent by Brother Robert Schieler, the Superior General of the Christian Brothers. Brother Robert served as Vice Principal under Brother Kevin at Carroll. His parents and his family were very close friends with Kevin over the years. In that e-mail, Brother Bob said: “A few years ago I came across the following sentence in a book I was reading: ‘the measure of a life well lived is the virtue that continues to grow in the lives of those who were touched by it.’ He went on to say: Kevin touched so many lives for the good. Like so many others who had the privilege of knowing him and being in his presence, he was a friend, a mentor and an elder brother to me. With so many of us, he saw and nurtured qualities and gifts that we were unaware we possessed.”

Among Brother Kevin’s many gifts was his fine singing voice which, along with his great sense of humor, provided so much enjoyment for us over the years. He was an accomplished singer even in his high school days. However, once he became a Brother, it wasn’t long before others took note of that mellow voice and began requesting him to sing at family weddings and funerals, a practice which in some families extended into the next generation or two.

During his presidency here at Calvert Hall, Brother Kevin, accompanied by a student named Steven St. Amant on piano, put together a CD entitled Sing Claddagh. It was composed of familiar American and Irish melodies which he then sold to raise funds for tuition assistance for our students. Some years later, after Cardinal Keeler asked him to come out of retirement to be the first President of Cardinal Gibbons High School, he would simply repackage the same CD to assist students there as well. I suspect it may have been that effort of Brother Kevin’s that later prompted Frank Bramble, a ’66 grad and former Chairman of the Board of Trustees, to establish a scholarship fund in Brother’s name for financially disadvantaged students. That would be an honor Brother Kevin would truly treasure.

In the course of his educational ministry Brother Kevin was honored as a Distinguished Lasallian Educator by our Province, but he was also recognized for his service well beyond the realm of our Lasallian schools. To site just a few: the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal from the Archdiocese of Baltimore; induction into the Western Maryland Catholic Schools Hall of Fame; an honorary degree from Loyola College for contributions to Catholic education; the Distinguished Faculty Award from the Alumni of Immaculata-LaSalle High School in Miami; the Michael Guerra Leadership Award from the National Catholic Education Association; and, let’s not forget, a smiling Brother Kevin waving from a convertible gliding down Charles Street as the Honorary Grand Marshall of Baltimore’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

And so, it does in fact seem that Brother Clement’s 1948 assessment of the future Brother Kevin was borne out in the extraordinary life of a man we would all come to know and love.

With the onset of kidney failure and other health issues 10 years ago, life slowed down significantly for this dynamo of a Brother. With the challenges brought on by almost 1600 dialysis procedures, as well as a number of related hospitalizations and surgeries, he would become for us an inspiring example of uncomplaining and courageous endurance.

Yet, in the midst of diminishing physical energy, Kevin still relished the time he had to counsel Freshmen here at Calvert Hall. For him, even in his 80s, it was a grace-filled time to continue to touch the hearts of the young. Transitioning to the caring community of De La Salle Hall in Lincroft, NJ for the past year or so, his life took on a quieter and more interior quality, perhaps in deepening communion with the Lord he had served with such faith and zeal.

A few lines from his poem entitled “Song” which he penned in his book, Walking in the Presence of God, may help to capture a bit of the spirit he so generously shared with us throughout his life.

To lift my voice in tones of melody
Is gift and grace undeserved.
Let my life be your song
Full chorus
Of love for life and shared, heartfelt friendship.

Asked to reflect on his life recently, he simply said:
I loved being a Brother and being called Brother.

And so you were, Kevin – Brother to us all.

Until we meet again, may the light of our risen Lord shine upon you and give you peace.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Brother Kevin Strong, FSC

Born Richard Leo Strong in Cumberland, MD, on March 8, 1931

Entered the Ammendale, MD, Novitiate on June 10, 1949

Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Denis Kevin, on September 7, 1949

Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Ammendale, MD, on August 29, 1956.

Died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on January 3, 2018


Wednesday, January 10, 2018 

Viewing from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm

De La Salle Hall
Lincroft, NJ 07738-1608

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Viewing from 9:00 am – 10:45 am (Noppinger Commons)
Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 am (Knott Center)

Luncheon to follow

Calvert Hall College High School
8102 La Salle Road
Baltimore, MD 21286-8022

Monday, January 15, 2018

Burial at Christian Brothers Cemetery, Ammendale, MD at 11:00 am

Luncheon to follow

The District of Eastern North America remembers Brother Kevin with memorial liturgies according to the tradition of the Institute. Through their prayers, communities and individuals entrust Brother to God’s loving care.

Brother Kevin passed away peacefully after several days in hospice care. May he rest in peace.


Ammendale MD

Elkins Park, PA

Philadelphia, PA
West Catholic Boys High School: teacher

Phoenixville, PA
Protectory: prefect (Feb. – Aug.)

Orange, NJ
St. John’s Grade School: teacher

Elkins Park, PA
Anselm Hall: staff (Jan. – June)

Ammendale, MD
St. La Salle Auxiliary: staff

Canton, OH
Central Catholic High School: teacher

Pittsburgh, PA
Central Catholic High School: teacher

Philadelphia, PA
West Catholic Boys High School: teacher

Miami, FL
La Salle – Immaculata High School: teacher

Canton, OH
Central Catholic High School: teacher

Washington, D.C.
St. John’s College High School: teacher; guidance

Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College High School: guidance director (’74-’76)

Philadelphia, PA
Jeremy House: district formation ministry

Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College High School: district formation ministry

Philadelphia, PA
West Catholic HS: vice-principal (sub. dtr. ’81-’83; dtr. ’83-’84)

Radnor, PA
Archbishop Carroll High School: principal (dtr. ’88-’90)

Baltimore, MD
Calvert Hall College High School; president (dtr. ’96-’99)

Wyndmoor, PA
La Salle College High School: district formation ministry

Baltimore, MD
Cardinal Gibbons High School: president (residence: Calvert Hall)

Baltimore, MD
Calvert Hall College High School: volunteer

Lincroft, NJ
De La Salle Hall: resident