Words of Remembrance for Brother Philip Zeller, FSC

Given by Brother Robert Ferguson, FSC
Mass of Christian Burial
Chapel of De La Salle and His Brothers
Manhattan College
June 5, 2021

Brother Philip James Zeller and I met at Bishop Loughlin High School in 1963 in a French class taught by a French missionary Brother who hated Americans, and even more so, American high school students. Philip and I entered Christian Brothers Novitiate in late June, 1964 to begin our journey together as Brothers of the Christian Schools. Therefore, for 57 years I have teased and tormented Phil Zeller.

Phil is the kindest and sweetest human being I have ever known. Since he said “yes” to God’s invitation decades ago, he has always responded positively to the needs of others. As teacher, vocation director, parish religious coordinator, computer expert and confrere, he has been a true servant of others. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone approached Phil in the dining room with a computer or telephone problem. When you live with 20 other men who sometimes lack technological expertise, there are so many questions. It’s hard to say no—even if it means interrupting your meal. I used to chide Phil to make the boundaries clear to all the supplicants, but his personal generosity always prevailed. Often he’d rush his meal to get upstairs to the computer room to fix the printer, replace the paper , or with his technical wizardry cajole a balky machine to re-start. Very thankless service never denied.

Philip earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics and a Masters in Science Education. He had the mind and movement of a scientist. In this respect, we were the odd couple. Ask Phil for directions from the Bronx to Queens, and you might receive 8 possible routes. He liked to find new ways to get to places. With computers, he learned to shorten his explanations to us: just get to the point, Phil. More than once, his patience outlasted ours by hours. I confess that I liked to leave the machine in his room and come back later. He never said no.

Phil was a wonderful teacher. Although he taught a challenging subject, he never lost sight of his students. I never heard him complain about the kids. I have to confess that I thought he was very creative in his efforts to reach students. It almost made me want to learn science. And importantly, he stayed with the teaching profession for a long time; I liked to remind him that many Physics teachers fell by the wayside along the way.

Phil was frail for as long as I knew him. Physical issues dogged him all throughout his life. I know he was hurt by suggestions that his pains were less than real; he suffered a great deal with health issues in his later years. Like his mother, illness often prevented him from a full and active life. However, he always rebounded and got back into action.

I have to admit that a trip to a restaurant with Phil could be challenging. The unfortunate waiter would be grilled more than the upcoming chicken. “ What kind of shortening do you use? Bread crumbs? How many and what spices? Any MSG or gluten?” And then, at the end of the meal, he’d get chocolate cake with a scoop of ice cream! I used to tease him about some of the gluten free cookies and muffins he’d bring home. Have you ever tasted one of them? They always went well with Moose Tracks ice cream.

Though I liked to remind Phil that he was very German in his approach style to driving, fixing computers or solving problems, he was a very Renaissance man in other ways. He liked art, architecture, classical music, photography. He’d often suggest documentaries in these fields for us to watch; I didn’t have the heart to tell him that such shows often lost out to Mets broadcasts for me.

I remember what a great companion Philip was to his father in Pop’s later years. He was a dutiful son. And he was very proud of how his niece Michele had taken control of her life. His heart ached for his sister Pat in her struggles in recent years.

We Brothers and friends are so proud of all that Philip accomplished during his 50+ years as a Christian Brother. Please allow me to speak directly to Phil now on matters of the heart.

Phil, in the past few weeks at CBC we have been saddened by your physical decline. To me it seemed like we all had heart ache; we worried about you, your pain and the medical confusion which seemed to hover over you. We missed you! True, we held our breath that something might go wrong with our computers or phones while you were away. But beyond that, we just missed you. Who you are and what you do have touched us at our deepest level, in our hearts. I have felt the ache these past few weeks, and I know it will intensify more for each of us. In that pain we are reminded that for 74 years you remained attached to us deeply and more truly than we can imagine. As you continue your journey with a loving God in a pain-free kingdom, you leave your mourning Lasallian family behind. We cherish you in our hearts. In our hearts where God dwells to comfort and encourage us on our journey, your soul is at rest to accompany us through any darkness or gloom. Tenderly, as St. La Salle instructed us to regard our students, you have found a forever home within us. Thank you, Phil.

Live Jesus in our hearts! Forever

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Brother Philip Zeller, FSC

1946 – 2021

Born Philip James Zeller in Brooklyn NY on 18 August 1946
Entered the Narragansett RI Novitiate on 27 June 1964
Received the Religious Habit and Name Philip James on 1 September 1964
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Uncasville CT on 31 May 1972
Died at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York NY on 2 June 2021


Friday, 4 June 2021

Visitation – 2.00pm to 4.00pm & 6.00pm to 8.00pm
Manhattan College
Chapel of De La Salle and His Brothers
4513 Manhattan College Parkway
Riverdale NY 10471

COVID Safety Information for Brother Philip Zeller’s Visitation and Mass of Christian Burial are listed at the bottom of this notice.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Mass of Christian Burial – 10.00am
Manhattan College
Chapel of De La Salle and His Brothers
4513 Manhattan College Parkway
Riverdale NY 10471

Interment following
Gate of Heaven Cemetery
10 West Stevens Avenue
Hawthorne NY 10532

Brother Philip died peacefully Wednesday morning after a brief respite in the hospital.

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

May he rest in peace.

COVID regulations for the Manhattan College campus:

1. Masks must be worn on campus.

2. Capacity in the Chapel of De La Salle and His Brothers is limited and seating is guided by social distancing as indicted by stickers on the pews.

3. On the day you come to the campus for the Visitation and/or the Mass of Christian Burial, all visitors must complete the Visitors Daily Symptom Tracker at this URL: https://tinyurl.com/PhilipFSC. Indicate on the 3rd page that you are visiting the “Office of Mission.” Should you have difficulty navigating this Daily Symptom Tracker, staff will provide assistance at the entrance of the Chapel. (People with Manhattan College email addresses are to use the regular employee Daily Symptom Tracker).

4. At the entrance to the Chapel, all persons must show the “Green Pass” (printed or on your phone) that is generated by the Daily Symptom Tracker and sent to your email.


Washington DC
The Catholic University of America (scholasticate)

Uncasville CT
Saint Bernard High School

Narragansett RI
District Administration (Director of Formation)

Brooklyn NY
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School

Santa Fe NM
Sangre de Cristo Retreat Center (renewal – 1st semester)

Brooklyn NY
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School

Brooklyn NY
Saint Cecilia Roman Catholic Church (Director of Religious Education)

Brooklyn NY
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School

Riverdale NY
Manhattan College

Riverdale NY
Manhattan College (resident)