Goodbye and Get Going

It was a happy trip going back to the U.S.A. and to the college where my heart had been. At this time most people traveled across the ocean by boat, and the trip was usually very restful. Even in a fast boat one would have five days to rest and prepare a presentation or write a few letters. The trip sometimes could take as long as eight days. Later on we would travel by plane in order to save time and money. Plane travel gave me much less time to prepare a report, and no time to relax. I really miss traveling by boat.

This trip to the United States was for me to say goodbye. It was great getting back to the Scholasticate at the college even if it was mostly to gather my clothes. The most encouraging factor was the quality of the men who were replacing me. They had worked closely with me for some time, so they would not be disturbed too much by my going. The Lord provided through the men He had given me from the start, especially Bro. Linus Foy who had taken over before when I was on tours of our Marist Province as Vice Provincial visiting our houses and schools. He always took over and everything ran smoothly. In fact he was much better prepared for the job than I had been when I first started but that is the Lord's secret to be able to assure success. Linus Foy had all the qualifications that I had not had, and had a way with teachers and employees that was enhanced by the Marist family. The college was in good hands, and it would continue to thrive during the eighteen years of my absence.

And it was also the same as far as my care and training of the many fine young Brothers that we had in training at the college. The highest number I ever had was 163 young Brothers and remained close to that figure for a long while; then it increased when we opened to our lay students. To be able to train young people at that particular age requires a person with a very special gift of understanding and patience. That teacher needs to be able to produce a kind of family spirit that one should find in a home, even if it is a home away from home. The man to take over and to give that extra familiar touch which our sometimes sophisticated college students needed was Bro. Kieran Thomas, who had a special gift of sizing up the truly gifted students from the phonies and had a pleasant character, making him a pleasure to live with and to work for. It was a real blessing for the college to have these two great guys here at the same time, especially at this critical time of change.

The fact is that no one even noticed the change in administration. It was a shock, though, to the two men who were willing to replace me for a couple of months during the Chapter meeting and then found themselves shackled with the job permanently. These two men were the right persons at the right time and a blessing from the Lord who wanted this college not only to continue but also to improve and grow. And this growth was now assured by the permanent status of two of the most dedicated persons I have ever known. Linus Foy not only continued the college but also pushed for higher qualifications for the staff and personnel. His contacts were invaluable and he worked hand in hand with Nilus Vincent for the continued growth of the college. The Scholastics were now assured to mature and serve as true Brothers of Mary.

The growth of the college was assured regardless of how many new ideas and visions we would have. There was also the ready backup of the first and most dedicated Marist College trustee, John J. Gartland, Jr., who had been the first layman to come to work with us on the board and, I believe, had the longest tenure of any trustee. I also like to note that at the time of this dedicated service there was no McCann Foundation to come to the rescue following each new idea or new need of the college. Jack was always there and made himself available. He seemed to thrive and triumph on every new request. Years later when I would be called to go to work in our Marist mission of Liberia, it would be Jack and his beloved wife who would look after my needs and send along Christmas or Easter packages to help make mission life more fruitful and successful. He was not only a right-hand man always on the ready but also a genius with his ideas for growth as well as success. He has seen as much of the growth of the college as I have and has contributed so much. He continued this dedication with the presidency of Linus Foy and that of Dr. Dennis Murray. His fantastic contribution to the future growth of the college has all been God’s work.

I made a tour of the various communities of our Brothers to make sure that I knew what they wanted for the Marist Brothers of the U.S.A. and to sound them out about the proposal to divide the U.S.A. into two Provinces. I would need their input when I returned to the General Council. This was an important moment in the growth of our Marist family, and we wanted to be sure that it was what the Lord wanted of us rather than what we wanted of Him. The approval would come the following year.

Of course I had spent some time with many of the members of my numerous family. Mother was still alive and well enough to he able to enjoy the tremendous birthday party that was organized for her, and every branch of the family was fully represented as well many of the Marist Brothers of New England, who knew her quite well. They also knew my sister, who worked for us making cassocks and was proud that her oldest son, my nephew, had joined the Marist Brothers as Bro. Paul Bernard. His teaching life at Molloy has been a cross and a blessing both sent by the Lord. And he has brought more blessings on our religious family and on his natural family than his uncle who was busy running around the globe. It would be years later when Mother would be able to come for a visit to Rome with a friend of hers and have the special privilege of a private visit with the beloved Pope John XXIII.

I visited a number of our houses and was able to see some of the Brothers of our group of 1930. These three companions were the closest colleagues I had ever had. It was tough to say goodbye to Norbert, Gene Michel, and Bill Gleason. Bill has since made the grade, thank God, and Norbie and Gene are now putting their best efforts as Marists toward earning the key to the permanent Champagnat Marist Province in Heaven.

The goodbyes were sincere and I was promised prayers by everyone, so I had nothing to do but to leave myself completely in the hands of the Lord, who had provided just about everything else in my life so far. I had left home in 1926 to become a member of the greatest of all families. I was leaving again, but to serve in the same family under wider horizons and greater duties, always with the same Champagnat Little Brothers of Mary!