Words of Remembrance for Brother Joseph Lapp, FSC

Written and delivered by Brother Colman Coogan, FSC
Mass of Christian Burial
La Salle Hall
Ammendale, MD
March 2, 2020

Today I would like to share a few reflections on a very special person whom we have come to honor. While mourning the loss of a great teacher, friend, and community member, we might also look back at Brother’s many unique character traits as recognized by many.

Born in Pennsylvania’s upstate coal region, Joseph was raised in a large family of nine where he imbibed a strong religious faith, an enduring work ethic, and a simple love of neighbor. Brother was much attached to his parents, Charles and Veronica, who raised their children with closely held values along with their no nonsense approach to life. They loved their children and were pleased to encourage both Joseph and Mary to join the religious life as Christian Brother and Franciscan Sister.

There were many dimensions to Joe’s life that were less obvious, such as his keen sensitivity to others as shown by his attentiveness to those in need of a broad smile or a word of encouragement. Not one given to emotional displays or presence at large gatherings due to his acute sense of hearing, he was, nonetheless, quietly present to all. When not teaching or engaged in the garden, he was either at community prayer or reading from one of his many books which were always in hand.

Then there was the professional life of Brother Joseph in which he measured up to every aspect of being a consummate teacher of Biology as proven by the many testimonials from students who, years later remarked that among all of their high school teachers, he stands out as one of the best. Impressive alone by his 6’4″ frame, he commanded attention; the classes, more than being instructive, were entertaining. His “hands-on” presentation of fish, pet monkeys, or other wildlife such as a giant iguana which he walked on a leash in after school hours. And then there was the harmless snake he would let loose to circulate around the classroom to keep everyone alert. Encyclopedic in his knowledge, Brother Joseph was a lifelong learner, as there was nothing biological he did not know or love to explain. And, one might add, pity the lad or lassie who thought to interrupt his lesson! For more than thirty-six years, Brother Joseph served in eleven different placements including the Philippine Islands. He taught thousands of students to know, love, and respect nature. At every location, he cultivated a garden often with student help.

Retiring from an active teaching career, Brother Joseph spent his last twenty-two years here, cultivating the landscape, raising flowers (most from seed), and beautifying the grounds, not simply for his own delight but for the enjoyment of all.

As energy declined in the last few months, Joe began to cut back on gardening. He cleared his work bench, stacked up flower pots, and relinquished his handiwork to others. For the first time, he made no preparations for annual spring planting. Even his personal room was spartan with only a few plants in the window and well-marked keepsakes set out for others. Death did not come by surprise.

When completing his Five Wishes where it asked: “How would you like to be remembered?” He may have said it all with, “I have had a fantastic life filled with multiple experiences, loved teaching and helping others.” He requested that no extended care be given, a quiet funeral arranged, and that his body be cremated, thus returned to the elements from which it was composed as nature would have it. Now, with everything planned, he expired at age eighty-seven, exactly on the date he entered the community sixty-six years ago. What is the probability that anyone could figure that out?

Today each ofus holds the memory of a wonderful human being who loved life to the fullest, always mindful of that which was to come. In closing, let us be thankful for the privilege of having known the example of one who lived not for himself only, but also for others, for an appreciation for nature’s mysteries, for its protection, for friendship, and for faith.

Well done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of the Lord. Amen.

Please Pray for the Repose of the Soul of Brother Joseph Lapp, FSC

Born Joseph Charles Lapp in Maizeville PA on 16 March 1933

Entered the Ammendale MD Novitiate on 15 February 1953

Received the Religious Habit and the Name Brother Gordian Ronan on 7 September 1953

Pronounced Perpetual Vows at Ocean Rest, Ocean City NJ on 24 June 1959

Died at De La Salle Hall on 15 February 2020



Monday, 2 March 2020

Mass of Christian Burial – 11.00am
La Salle Hall
6001 Ammendale Road · Beltsville MD 20705

Burial following
La Salle Hall – Saint Joseph’s Cemetery
6001 Ammendale Road · Beltsville MD 20705

Luncheon & Hospitality

Brother Joseph died peacefully early Saturday morning after short respite in hospice care.

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

May he rest in peace.


Elkins Park PA

Pittsburgh PA
Central Catholic High School

Philadelphia PA
West Catholic High School

Miami FL
Immaculata-La Salle High School

Lipa Philippines
De La Salle Lipa

Bacolod Philippines
La Salle College

Radnor PA
Archbishop John Carroll High School

Audubon PA
Saint Gabriel’s Hall

Pittsburgh PA
Central Catholic High School

Baltimore MD
Calvert Hall College High School

Washington DC
Saint John’s College High School

New Iberia LA
Catholic High School

Cumberland MD
Bishop Walsh School

Pittsburgh PA
Seton-La Salle High School (staff)

Radnor PA
Archbishop John Carroll High School

Adamstown MD
Christian Brothers Spiritual Center (staff)

Beltsville MD
La Salle Hall (retired)

Lincroft NJ
De La Salle Hall (retired)