Brother Fulgence (James) Dougherty, CSC

May 18, 1922 – December 17, 2017

The prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Fulgence (James) Dougherty, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, Br. Fulgence died at Dujarie House in Notre Dame, Indiana, on December 17, 2017. He was in his 75th year of religious life in the Congregation.

Brother Fulgence was born on May 18, 1922 in Devil’s Lake, a tiny church-less village in a wheat farming area in the upper east quadrant of North Dakota. Ten days later, he was baptized in the chapel of the local hospital and named James Lamb Dougherty after his parents, James Dougherty, a postal clerk, and Mae Rose Lamb. On most Sundays, the family would kneel in the living room for Mass broadcast over the radio from Winnipeg, Manitoba. On the rare Sundays when a priest could travel to Devil’s Lake, the Catholic community would gather in the Dougherty home to celebrate Mass.

Brother Fulgence was born on May 18, 1922 in Devil’s Lake, a tiny church-less village in a wheat farming area in the upper east quadrant of North Dakota. Ten days later, he was baptized in the chapel of the local hospital and named James Lamb Dougherty after his parents, James Dougherty, a postal clerk, and Mae Rose Lamb. On most Sundays, the family would kneel in the living room for Mass broadcast over the radio from Winnipeg, Manitoba. On the rare Sundays when a priest could travel to Devil’s Lake, the Catholic community would gather in the Dougherty home to celebrate Mass.

In the late 1920s, a prolonged drought and plummeting wheat prices caused the family to lose everything, and they moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Despite their calamitous losses, the family felt greatly blessed through their participation in the vibrant parish life of St. Joseph Cathedral. Here, James completed grade school, made his first communion, received the sacrament of confirmation, and served at Mass. With his older brother Charles and his younger brother Richard, he attended Cathedral High School.

During his sophomore year, when a visiting Christian Brother spoke at a high school assembly, James’ heart was opened to the possibility of a vocation for himself as a lay religious. The next year, when James read in the school library a booklet from Notre Dame titled “The Training of a Brother,” he felt called to religious life in Holy Cross.

For a year after his 1940 graduation from high school, James worked in a truck garden and attended classes at Sioux Falls College, all the while trying to anticipate how his parents might react to his calling. But it was a needless worry – they were completely understanding and supportive.

In the fall of 1941, James entered the Holy Cross postulancy program at Watertown, Wisconsin. Reflecting on his experience there, he wrote: “The Brothers at Watertown were good teachers and skilled workmen; they were prayerful men, and best of all, they were happy men.” When Father James McGarvey and Father Joseph Voorde, Holy Cross missionaries home from Bengal, shared their stories with the postulants, James responded with serious interest.

He was received into St. Joseph Novitiate, Rolling Prairie, Indiana, in February of 1942 and made his first profession of vows on February 2, 1943, taking Fulgence as his religious name. Next came studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in Education and completed his bachelor’s degree in 1945. He was assigned to teach first at Catholic Central High School, Monroe, Michigan (1945-46) and then at Central Catholic High School, South Bend, Indiana (1946-1947).

On August 16, 1946, Brother Fulgence professed his perpetual vows as a religious of  Holy Cross. Then on December 8 of the same year, he took the mission vow for life. In the fall of 1947, Brother Fulgence began studying the Bengali language. He remembered saying “Of course!” to Brother William Mang’s question: “Do you really want to go to Bengal?” By October, he was continuing his language studies in Bandura, East Pakistan.

For the next 25 years, Brother Fulgence served in East Pakistan as it gradually, and sometimes chaotically, evolved into Bangladesh. At St. Gregory High School, Dhaka, he taught and supervised boarders (1949-1951), returning later as Headmaster (1957-1962). At Holy Cross High School, Bandura, he served as Headmaster (1951-1955). At St. Joseph High School, Dhaka, he taught for a year (1956-1957) and then was Headmaster (1957-1963). Brother Fulgence served his last nine years in Bangladesh as the Superior of the District (1963-1972).

Ready for another challenge, Brother Fulgence then moved to the African continent. He taught at St. Patrick’s High School, Monrovia, Liberia (1972-1974) and then accepted a teaching assignment at St. John’s High School, Sekondi, Ghana (1974-1978) until, at 55, he reached the official age of retirement in the state.

Prepared to commit many more good years of service to Holy Cross education, Brother Fulgence returned to the United States to begin a new long chapter in his life – 32 years at the University of Portland, Portland, Oregon. In August of 1978, he became the Director of the International Program there. With his extensive cross-cultural experience, he was eminently qualified to assist foreign students in the transition to life and education in the United States. He left that position in May of 1992, but continued to serve at the University until 2009 as an assistant to the academic vice president, an evaluator of foreign transcripts and always as a compassionate advisor and mentor. Upon his retirement there, Brother Fulgence continued to live in Holy Cross Court for another year before moving to Columba Hall, Notre Dame, Indiana, in 2010. Because of increasing health care needs, Brother Fulgence moved to Dujarie House in 2016. Recently his health seriously declined and in the presence of family members, he passed onto new life on December 17, 2017.

A member of the South-West Province (later the Moreau Province) Brother Fulgence liked to remind his provincials that he had never actually lived or worked in the South-West. Nonetheless, he maintained a keen interest in province members, news and developments. Deeply committed to the Holy Cross mission of education, he wanted detailed information about how it was being fulfilled and ensured in each institution. Brother Fulgence served on various committees of the South-West Province, and contributed generously from his patrimony in support of the mission of Holy Cross around the world.

Sensitive to proprieties, Brother Fulgence carried himself with remarkable dignity and treated others with great regard, setting a tone of mutual respect. He loved to sit and share stories and was never lacking in good humor. He was valued for his wise leadership, kind presence and his commitment to religious life in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Among his surviving relatives is Rev. John Dougherty of the United States Province.

At the University of Portland, on the occasion of Brother Fulgence’s 76th birthday, Rev.Terry Lally, CSC, honored him with these words:

[We] have been the luckiest of men to have this, the finest of men, in our midst … On and on he has taught his students how to make sense out of birth, love, pain and death. His own big heart has fathered meaning and taught compassion, beauty, and justice to the youngsters of three continents. Love of the Lord Jesus burned in his heart and was the energy that drove him to nourish hope and growing intelligence in the hearts of his students of many colors, his children of God. As a disciple of the Lord, he has stood side by side with His people, with them made new by the Lord’s love, with them hoping for a world where justice and love prevailed. Fulgence came as a teacher, neighbor, friend to be with and of the people.

Reflecting on what God is calling Holy Cross and the Church to, Fulgence once wrote: “…a life that gives priority to values expressed in the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. We must study the vows constantly and adapt our lives to their demands. The one thing we must not do is to explain them away.”

We give thanks to God for the life of Br. Fulgence whose faithfulness to the vows and whose zealous ministry for the sake of the Congregation and the Church has been truly inspirational. His simplicity of life and desire to minister with and for the poor has brought the presence of Jesus to so many. Let us pray together:

“Lord, grant him eternal rest!”

In Holy Cross,
Br. William Zaydak, CSC

 Thanks to Brother Richard Critz for writing this memorial.


A Man of Kind Surprises

Br. Fulgence Dougherty, known with affection as “Uncle Jimmy” to his gaggle of nieces and nephews, was a man of kind surprises.  One such surprise sticks clearly in my mind and always surfaces when I think of him.  I was in elementary school and we had an assignment to write a letter to a relative who lived far away and ask that relative to describe the place that he or she lived.  Well, I could think of no relative who lived further away than Uncle Jimmy.  He was that mysterious uncle who lived in exotic places, places so remote from Buchanan, Michigan, that my parents had to point them out for me on the giant wall map in our basement.  I remember staring in amazement and wonder at that map, marking the distance between my hometown and the distant locales where Uncle Jimmy lived.  And the names of those places were utterly romantic to a child, especially one who liked maps and globes and daydreamed of travelling the world.  Dhaka, Ghana, Bangladesh, the sound of those names reverberated in my mind and I dreamt of tropical sunrises haloed by jungle mists.

So I had the far away relative picked out and then, in obedience to the assignment, I summoned up all the literary talent I possessed and wrote, “Dear Uncle Jimmy, Please tell me about Ghana.  Love, Pat.”  Off my letter went to the post.

A month or so later I received a package from Africa.  From Africa.  With strange stamps affixed to it.  In this package among many gifts was a twelve page typed letter where Uncle Jimmy wrote about his school, his students, the climate, the neighborhood, the city, and the country.  He even included photographs and, most marvelous of all, seeds and small blocks of chocolate to help explain the cultivation of cocoa.  All this in response to a miserably short little missive from a nephew who had never bothered to write to him before.  My teacher, Ms. Holmes, was ecstatic and we soon had a week long unit on Ghana, complete with library trips to research more about each of the myriad and magical things that Uncle Jimmy wrote about in his letter.  We watched a film about chocolate production, we drew maps and read about Kumasi, Tamale, and Accra, and we even learned how to say good morning in Twi.  It’s “Maakye” for those who want to know.

Yes, Br. Fulgence Dougherty, “Uncle Jimmy,” was a man of kind surprises.  He could find the time in a busy schedule to respond to a child’s simple request, finding in the act a chance to connect, teach, and engender memories.  It’s more than a generation later and I still remember that letter, the package full of wonders, and his kindness in taking the time and making the effort to make it all happen.  That was the type of man that Uncle Jimmy was, a man of kind surprises.

Eulogy by Dr. Patrick T. Dougherty
Delivered by Jamie Dougherty
Our Lady of Holy Cross Chapel
 Dujarie House, South Bend, IN
December 20, 2017


Brother Fulgence (James) Dougherty, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1945-1946 Teacher, Catholic Central HS, Monroe, MI
  • 1946-1947 Teacher, Central Catholic HS, South Bend, IN
  • East Pakistan / Bangladesh

    • 1947-1949 Language Study, Bandura
    • 1949-1951 Teacher; Supervisor of Boarders, St. Gregory HS, Dhaka
    • 1951-1955 Headmaster, Holy Cross HS, Bandura
    • 1956-1957 Teacher, St. Joseph HS, Dhaka
    • 1957-1962 Headmaster, St. Gregory HS, Dhaka
    • 1962-1963 Headmaster, St. Joseph HS, Dhaka
    • 1963-1972 District Superior
    • 1973-1974 Teacher, St. Patrick’s HS, Monrovia, LIBERIA
    • 1974-1978 Teacher, St. John’s HS, Sekondi, GHANA
  • 1978-2009 International Programs, University of Portland, Portland, OR
  • 2010-2016 Resident, Columba Hall, Notre Dame, IN
  • 2016-2017 Resident, Dujarie House, Notre Dame, IN