1912 – 2018
Words of Remembrance for Brother Patrick Power, FSC
Delivered by Brother Colman Coogan, FSC
Mass of Christian Burial
La Salle Hall, Ammendale, MD
April 9, 2018
Even to your old age, I am the same . . . I will bear you; it is I who will have done this, I who will continue and I who will carry you to safety.” – Is.46.4
Good morning. My name is Brother Colman Coogan, one who has known Brother Patrick for many years, often sharing residence with him. Today I am honored to offer these few reflections on his life.
On behalf of the Christian Brothers’ community, I wish to extend our sympathy to the members of the Power family, in particular to his nephews Chuck, Ray (wife, Sue), and Jim, also to his many former students and friends who are here today.
Few of us can recall from our acquaintances many who lived to the remarkable age of 100, to say nothing of Brother’s incredible 105 years. Aside from a remarkable DNA, Pat was able to outlive ten Popes, eighteen American Presidents, ten Superiors General, Countless provincials, principals, and probably, most of his students.
An alumnus from the first graduating class of his alma mater, Central Catholic High School, Pittsburgh, in 1931, he has survived as the oldest graduate from that illustrious group as well as to have achieved the honor of being the oldest living member of the Brothers’ Institute, worldwide, as a professed member for more than eighty-six years.
Brother Patrick joined the Brothers upon high school graduation. After formal religious studies, he trained at the Catholic University of America to acquire a Master’s Degree in the Classics (1935) which he taught for many years in various schools. Vivacious, entertaining, and intellectually gifted, as a teacher, he managed to bring life into what was too often referred to as a dead language, for it was the students who were important beyond the subject or grades.
Athletically inclined, he excelled in tennis as well as being a golfer of note. Even in his last years he followed sports avidly on television. This has to be the first time in forty years for him to miss the Augusta Master’s.
Family and Pastoral Interests
During his life, Patrick made frequent reference to his parents, James and Mary (Quilter), emigres from County Kerry, Ireland, whose lives of faith and hard work made an indelible impression on him.
Then, there were his brothers and sister whose lives he followed closely, at times even caring for them in sickness and death. Family was incorporated into his everyday life, hence his fascination with genealogy which he detailed as far back as it could be recorded in the old country. He loved all things Irish.
As to personality, one can say that Pat seemed always to be on a mission, so to speak, outgoing, displaying an interest in everyone, greeting all with a smile. In community, he was a joy to live with. A progressive in politics and theology, he bristled at the Church’s hesitation to embrace the sweeping changes of Vatican II, commenting, “They don’t get the message, do they?” Whenever shown a kindness, his rejoinder was invariably, “Thanks a million.”
Retirement from teaching gave Patrick an opportunity to train as a Pastoral Minister (1981), expanding his interest to adults, especially those at the county’s Kane Hospital where he volunteered in hospice care. There,
even through the night, he would stay on to give a human presence to the dying elderly who had no one to sit with them as they crossed the threshold into life everlasting. He frequently volunteered as Eucharistic Minister to the county jail. More exceptionally, he was on the ministry staff at the huge Allegheny General Hospital where for years, he was the lone ministry representative on the graveyard shift to give comfort and solace to the dying and their families as well as to the staff.
The Prodigal Son
Despite this strong record as teacher and caregiver, I doubt that Patrick would want to be remembered for any of these accomplishments, much less for the fact of a long life to which he seldom made reference. What impressed him deeply, and what may be the key to our understanding of this remarkable Brother was the attraction he felt, one that best sums up his life, his fascination with St. Luke’s parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-31).
One book he cherished was Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of a Homecoming. We are all familiar with the parable about a young man who demanded his share of the father’s inheritance, traveling to a distant land, squandering his money on dissolute living, and ending up in starvation. Swallowing pride, he returned home to beg his father’s forgiveness and permission to serve, even as one of the hired hands.
Although a long way off, the father caught sight of his son and was moved; he ran to meet him, the Gospel says, threw his arms around him, kissed him while ordering the servants to “dress him in the finest robe, put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Prepare a feast to celebrate this son of mine who was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and is found.”
I leave it for you to decide if this touching Gospel story was, in fact, the wellspring to Brother Patrick’s compassion for others, his ability to forgive faults, his freedom from self-righteousness, his openness to all—totally convinced that, although himself a prodigal, he knew he was held firmly in the Father’s loving embrace. Perhaps he realized early on that in God’s eyes we are all prodigals and therefore equally deserving of God’s love and mercy. Was this not reflected in his life, becoming eventually, the very substance of the man we knew?
It is not for us to ponder why God left Brother Patrick among us for so many years unless it be to leave a clear message on how life is to be lived. As one writer observed: “This is not to say faithfulness to the teachings of the Church is not vital; but the ultimate measure of faithfulness to God’s call lies in witnessing to the Gospel of mercy and God’s boundless love.”
And this, Brother Patrick Power did magnificently throughout his 105 years. So, as with the father in the parable we can say, “Welcome home, Pat. It has indeed been a long, long journey. Welcome into the Heavenly Father’s loving embrace and that of your parents and loved ones.” Now, let the celebration begin.
And Pat, “Thanks a million.”
Please Pray for the Repose of the Soul of Brother Patrick Power, FSC
Born Patrick Francis Power in Pittsburgh, PA, on December 22, 1912
Entered the Ammendale, MD, Novitiate on June 21, 1931
Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Gustin Patrick, on September 7, 1931
Pronounced Perpetual Vows at Ocean Rest in Ocean City, NJ, in 1937
Died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on April 3, 2018
Friday, April 6, 2018
Viewing from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Saturday, April 7, 2018
Viewing from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
De La Salle Hall
810 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ 07738-1608
Monday, April 9, 2018
Viewing from 9:00 am – 10:00 am
Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 am
La Salle Hall
6001 Ammendale Road
Beltsville, MD 20705-1202
Burial in the Brothers’ cemetery
Lunch to follow
The District of Eastern North America remembers Brother Patrick with memorial liturgies according to the tradition of the Institute. Through their prayers, communities and individuals entrust Brother Patrick to God’s loving care.
Brother Patrick died peacefully during the early afternoon at De La Salle Hall after almost two months in hospice care. At age 105, he was the oldest Brother in the world-wide Institute. May he rest in peace.
De La Salle College: scholasticate
La Salle College High School: teacher
De La Salle College: study
La Salle College High School: teacher
La Salle High School: teacher
St. John’s College High School: teacher
South Hills Catholic High School: teacher
Calvert Hall College High School: library assistant
Jeremy House: staff
Holy Family Community: director (study at Loyola College)
Brothers’ Community: resident
Seton-La Salle High School: resident
Central Catholic High School: resident
La Salle Hall: resident
De La Salle Hall: resident