Brother Francis Raymond Ellis, CSC

December 23, 1936 – September 9, 2017

Brother Francis Raymond EllisThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Francis Raymond Ellis, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Br. Francis died in South Bend, Indiana, on September 9, 2017. He was in his 63rd year of religious life in the Congregation.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut on December 23, 1936, Francis was the second of the four sons of Frank R. Ellis, Detective, and Alma East Ellis, Teacher and Principal. Francis was baptized on January 10, 1937 at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut. His early educational experience in New Haven began at Ivy Street Public School and then St. John the Evangelist, where he graduated in 1950. Notre Dame High School, run by the Brothers of Holy Cross, was the next step in his education. He relates that in his senior year he began to think of becoming a Brother because of “the friendly and sincere way the Brothers help and teach others.” So, with the encouragement of his mother, he decided to “give it a try.” Upon graduating from Notre Dame High School in 1954, he applied and was accepted that June into the candidacy program of the Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Joseph Juniorate in Valatie, New York. He was received into St. Joseph Novitiate, Rolling Prairie, Indiana, on August 15, 1954, and made first profession on August 16, 1955, and final profession on August 23, 1958.

Leaving Rolling Prairie in August of 1955, Brother Francis began his undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana. He graduated in August of 1958 with a BA degree, upon which he was assigned to teach math and Latin and to coach freshmen football and basketball at Monsignor James Coyle High School in Taunton, Massachusetts. The following year, he was assigned to teach at Vincentian Institute in Albany, New York, while attending graduate courses at Siena College in Loudonville, New York. In June of 1961, he received a MA degree from Siena College and then went on to teach at Holy Cross High School, Flushing, New York. In 1970, Brother Francis became Principal of Bishop Hendricken High School, Warwick, Rhode Island, prior to the Brothers leaving the high school in 1971. Brother Francis then returned to teach and coach at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, New York, from 1971 through 1978, when he was appointed Principal of Cardinal Mooney High School in Rochester, New York, from 1978 to 1985. Following his role as Principal, he enjoyed a renewal program at Sangre de Cristo in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and studies at Santa Fe College, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and at Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C.

Brother Francis Raymond Ellis, CSCIn 1986, Brother Francis was assigned to Notre Dame International School in Rome, Italy, to teach math and coach various intramural sports. In 1988, his teaching ministry took him to St. Mary’s Seminary in Fort Portal, Uganda. Although he served only one year in Fort Portal, his hospitality made a deep impact on the many and varied frequent visitors to the Brothers’ house.

Brother Francis then returned to Notre Dame International School in Rome as a teacher and as the director of the Holy Cross Religious community. He thus finished his overseas ministerial experiences and moved back to the States in 1991, to live at Columba Hall on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, where he began a Master’s of Science in Administration degree at the University. Upon completion of the Master’s degree, he was assigned in 1993 as Business Manager at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland. In 1998, he assumed the additional role of Director of the Brothers community.

In 2005, Frank began a sabbatical year at Sangre de Cristo, New Mexico and then at St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas. He then returned to Notre Dame where he resided at Columba Hall and started his ministry at Dujarie House, primarily as a “Transportation Coordinator.” His years of experience driving buses for school teams made him wellprepared for driving brothers to various medical appointments and shopping. Frank would often drive the van on a wandering route through the campus of Notre Dame to ensure the Brothers were up to date.

Brother Francis Raymond Ellis, CSCAlthough Frank described himself as semi-retired, he was very active as Assistant Superior at Columba Hall. Besides taking care of the various needs of the Brothers in community there, as well as many of the guests, he was busy attending the various athletic events, lectures and cultural events on the Notre Dame campus, not to mention getting in some swimming at the Rockne Memorial and playing golf – for free at the two university courses.

In April of 2015, at the time of his 60th Jubilee, he related, “I plan to keep doing most of these things for the next decade or so with God’s blessings.” But, the Lord called him home on Saturday, September 9, 2017. He was not feeling well that morning and at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana, a heart problem was detected, but in the midst of preparations for surgery, he passed on to new life.

Please join me in prayer for the repose of the soul of our dear Brother Frank and for the consolation of family, community members and friends. We have been blessed by his many years of dedicated ministry in secondary education – in the classroom and on the sports field, and to us, his Brothers. We will greatly miss his presence as Assistant Superior, brother and friend.

For a short video interview of Br. Frank Ellis, please click here.

In Holy Cross, Br. William Zaydak, CSC


“Perhaps I Would Like to Teach Music”

Thank you to all of you for coming together to celebrate the life of Br. Francis Ellis. I would like to express appreciation to Fr. Bob DeLeon, our celebrant; to Ed Boyer and Mark Knightly for the music and to Susan Henderson for preparing the booklets for our services last night and today. And I want to express my appreciation to the religious here at St. Joseph Center and to the staff for their exceptional hospitality.

We gather as the family of Holy Cross – religious of Holy Cross along with friends and colleagues and especially the family of Br. Francis. We are very grateful that you, as family, are able to be with us and to make complete the celebration of Frank’s life.

When you consider the life and ministry of Br. Francis in Holy Cross, I think you would agree that he truly was an educator. Consider his 47 years in Holy Cross secondary schools, as teacher, coach, dean of discipline, principal and business manager. And of those 47 years, 33 were spent in classrooms in the United States, Rome, Italy and Fort Portal in Uganda. In two schools, he was the Dean of Discipline.

I can attest through personal experience as a student at Holy Cross High School, Flushing, that Frank’s imposing size was enough to ensure discipline! He rarely raised his voice; not many words were needed. Just by standing there, order and quiet would quickly result.

Outside the classroom, where education continues in other significant ways, at various schools Frank coached football for a total of 15 years; track for 10 years and basketball for 3, and he was Athletic Director for 5 years.

Within our schools, Frank was recognized as an extraordinary educator: he received the Hall of Fame Award from Holy Cross Flushing and the Caritas Award for Distinguished Service from Bishop McNamara High School.

Within the community, Frank was engaged in internal ministry – as religious superior, provincial councilor and moderator at chapters. In recent years his internal ministry, at Dujarie House and Columba Hall, was greatly appreciated.

As I just described, Frank had a variety of assignments in different locations, on three continents. I had the opportunity to read through correspondence over the years between Frank and various provincials about proposed changes in assignments.

At one point a provincial asked Frank to consider a change of assignment, and Frank wrote in response: “I am open to provincial needs. If there’s a particular need that you or the provincial Council feel I could capably satisfy or fill in, all that is necessary is that you tell me what the need is and that you feel I could capably satisfy the need, and I will give it very strong consideration.” Now, many of you know Frank well – so you immediately realize that the key word here is ‘consideration.’

Frank was willing to consider a change – which did not automatically mean ‘yes.’ Frank was not a “yes man”. So there were some requests which Frank ‘considered’ – and said ‘no’ to. But the majority of the time, his response was ‘yes’. And we know that Frank took on some assignments that ended up being quite difficult – and not surprisingly, he did quite well. The community and the schools benefited from his willingness and capacity to take on tough situations.

My life and Frank’s intersected first when I was a student at Holy Cross High School, Flushing, again when I was assigned to teach at Cardinal Mooney in Rochester, NY, and finally in East Africa. When I was a student at Holy Cross, Frank was teaching Geometry, was coaching and was Dean of Discipline. I didn’t have him for Geometry, but a few times he would cover when our teacher was absent. We were in awe of him. He was first of all, physically imposing to us scrawny sophomores and secondly, he seemingly had memorized the Geometry textbook! He could cite by page number an example in the book and would state from memory the exercise questions at the end of the chapter. We also were fascinated by his amazing ability to sort of reach behind himself and without losing eye contact with us, draw a perfect circle on the board for use in explaining a geometric proof.

Much later in my life, when I would meet with Frank for a provincial interview, I learned that Frank was always prepared! He would bring with him a list of items. And you will not be surprised that (1) it was hand written, never typed and printed (2) it was written in pencil and (3) it was all in capital letters.

Regardless of what I wanted to talk about, it was always clear that we were first going to go through his agenda of opinions and questions for me. And once he determined that we had adequately dealt with a topic, he would actually cross it off or put a check next to it and move on the next item. After working through his list, and after he had made all his points, observations and got answers from me, I felt that I had passed the Grand Inquisition. I could then relax and we would have a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion about a number of topics.

Finally, I would like to share with you some of what I learned about Frank’s vocation story from reading through his application papers to Holy Cross. When Frank was a student at Notre Dame High School, he participated in football, intramural sports and was a member of the school band. At the memorial service last night, we heard the story about Frank being in the band, and one of the Brothers, noting Frank’s size, asked his mother to consider allowing Frank to play football. Fortunately, she eventually agreed. During summers, he, along with his two brothers, worked at the school to help pay off tuition, which I suspect fostered his vocation through contact with the Brothers.

On his application to the Community, Frank wrote that he was impressed with the Brothers because of the “friendly and sincere way they help students.” He also wrote several sentences about his vocation discernment:

“The first time I began to consider a vocation to the brothers was in my sophomore year. Several brothers at the school along with Br. Hyacinth spoke to the class about vocation to the brothers. During my junior year, Br. Theodore spoke to us about the brother’s vocation and life at the 5 novitiate. In this past year (senior), Br. Germanus spoke about vocations in religion class. Later I spoke personally to Br. Hyacinth. After that class I told my mother about my interest and she was quite pleased. She encouraged me strongly to follow the call.”

On his application he also wrote: “I hope to become a teaching brother, but right now, I am not sure what I would like to teach, but perhaps I would like to teach music.” Frank thought he might want to be a music teacher! Well, because of the powers that be, his undergraduate studies set him in the direction of Latin and Geometry and later some US History and Algebra. Frank as a music teacher is an interesting story to consider…

Frank was dedicated to education in the classroom and on the sports field. Frank was dedicated as a religious of Holy Cross. Those two aspects of Frank, put together, had an impact on the lives of so many students. Like all of us, Frank struggled with his crosses to bear. I think the awareness of his weaknesses helped Frank to be aware of, and concerned about, what he saw as the needs of his fellow religious, which he would share with me. It is very clear that the community at Columba Hall will dearly miss Frank’s leadership which was the unique combination of being super organized, but primarily very concerned about all the needs of the brothers.

The passing of Frank into new life was sudden, quite unexpected. We will expect to see him at community events, we will expect to see him coming to visit our family. It will take some time to process our grief. As I have stated before at times like this, the passing of one our dear brothers makes us pause and reflect. And in doing so, we recognize that we believe in a loving God in the midst of grief. And we believe that Frank is with all the saints, along with all the deceased members of the family of Holy Cross; that “great band of men,” along with his parents, Francis and Alma, his brothers, David and Harry and all his other family members that have passed on. We recognize how much he is in our thoughts, in our hearts – and in our prayers. And we are grateful for that.

And so let us close with a simple prayer: Frank, our confrere in Holy Cross, our friend and colleague and family member, may you rest in peace, watch over us and protect us! Amen!

Eulogy delivered by Brother William Zaydak, C.S.C.
Chapel at St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
September 16, 2017


He Lifted You Up and Made You Feel Special

So many of you here today probably knew Frank better than any of our family here did, but to us Frank was a very special member of our family. We all looked forward to his visits, and for some of us we enjoyed visiting him at Notre Dame and a few other locations where he was assigned. I’m certain he anticipated our visits as well.

Frank’s knowledge and enjoyment of history fascinated us, and his sense of humor was unique. When he and his two younger brothers, David and Harry, got together they kept the banter going, seeing who could remember the most outrageous memories of their childhood.

My introduction to the Ellis family took place when I was 14, but I never really got to know Frank until David and I married seven years later. In fact, we stopped in Albany to visit Frank while we were on our honeymoon. Now that’s brotherly love!

As our family grew to include five wonderful children, we would see Frank when he returned to Connecticut for his August vacation. One year, when the children were quite young, Frank and Harry, a bachelor in those days, came to our home to visit, and since it was a hot summer day, we all decided to head to grandma’s house to enjoy the cooler shore breeze. Frank and Harry volunteered to drive the four older children, ages three, four, five, and six, in their car. This was before car seats, of course. Somewhere along the way the uncles thought the kids would enjoy a treat…popsicles. Well, being a typical summer day, and having no air conditioning in the car, the children all fell asleep during the 20 mile ride. The back seat silence evidently didn’t concern the uncles, and it wasn’t until they arrived in Milford and opened the doors that they realized the children had fallen asleep before finishing their treat. Grandma, after unsticking the little ones, asked her two inexperienced sons, “What were you thinking?”

Being the wonderful woman that she was however, she had a good laugh about the whole episode.

When Frank was Principal at Bishop Hendricken in Warwick, Rhode Island, we took a family road trip to visit him. As we were enjoying our visit, the three girls went to investigate the rest of Frank’s rooms. About ten minutes later they joined us with big smiles on their faces, and proudly told Uncle Frank that they had folded all of his clothes. He graciously thanked them and asked what clothes they had folded. “The ones in the bathtub” they answered. He praised their help very graciously, and off they went again, so proud of their accomplishment. Frank then looked at Dave and me and said, “I use the bathtub as my hamper. Those clothes were headed to the laundry!”

We all laughed, but the girls were none the wiser.

That was the kind of person we knew Frank to be: kind, good-hearted, calm, humorous, intelligent, and devoted to his calling to the religious life. My grandson Joe Perrelli wrote from Montana this week: “I’m willing to bet Uncle Frank’s devotion to God has helped him to gain access to a few private golf courses and libraries in Heaven.” Amen to that, Joe.

Frank always lifted you up and made you feel special. He visited us on his trips to Valatie twice a year, and he always commented how great the meals were that I prepared for him. Then he’d say, “That’s why I keep coming back!” I’m going to miss our rides all over CT, and the enlightening conversations we’d have along the way. The best thing about our trips however, was he never once complained or criticized my driving!

God speed Frank.

Remarks by Judy Ellis
Br. Frank’s Sister in Law
Chapel at St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
September 16, 2017


Brother Francis Raymond Ellis, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1958-1959 Teacher, Msgr. Coyle HS, Taunton, MA
  • 1959-1962 Teacher, Vincentian Institute, Albany, NY
  • 1962-1970 Teacher, Holy Cross HS, Flushing, NY
  • 1970-1971 Principal, Bishop Hendricken HS, Warwick, RI
  • 1971-1978 Teacher, Holy Cross HS, Flushing, NY
  • 1978-1985 Principal, Cardinal Mooney HS, Rochester, NY
  • 1985-1986 Sabbatical
  • 1986-1988 Teacher, Notre Dame Int’l School, Rome, Italy
  • 1988-1989 Teacher, St. Mary’s Seminary, Uganda, EA
  • 1989-1991 Teacher/Director, Notre Dame Int’l School, Rome, Italy
  • 1991-1993 Study, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
  • 1993-2005 Business Manager, Bishop McNamara HS, Forestville, MD
  • 2005-2006 Sabbatical
  • 2006-2017 Transportation Services, Columba Hall, Notre Dame, IN
  • Assistant Superior, Columba Hall, Notre Dame, IN