Brother Joseph James Ruane, CSC

October 9, 1928 – September 23, 2017

Brother Joseph James RuaneThe 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 Scranton, Pennsylvania, Br. Joseph died in Valatie, New York, on September 23, 2017. He was in his 70th year of religious life in the Congregation.

Joseph was born on October 9, 1928, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the second son of John Ruane, a railroad yardmaster, and Margaret Sames Ruane, housewife. In his home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, he was baptized at the Church of the Nativity of the Lord on October 21, 1928, and confirmed at St. John the Evangelist Church, where he received both his elementary and second education.

Upon graduating as Class Valedictorian from St. John’s High School, he was accepted as a Holy Cross Brother candidate on September 30, 1946, at St. Joseph Juniorate, Valatie, New York. He was received into St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, on February 1, 1947, and made First Vows on February 2, 1948, and Final Vows on August 16, 1951.

In 1948, after completing his novitiate year, Brother Joseph began his college studies at the University of Notre Dame, living at Dujarie Hall. Brother then taught science classes at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, until 1955, studying at St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas, during the summers. He completed an undergraduate degree in science at St. Edward’s University in 1951.

Brother Joseph was assigned to teach science and math at Vincentian Institute in Albany, New York, in 1955. In 1959, he began the first of three assignments to Notre Dame International School in Rome, Italy, teaching physical science and physics, along with various math classes. He returned to the United States in 1963, to teach at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, New York, and was appointed Superior from 1967 through 1970. During his years there, he received a National Science Foundation grant to Wesleyan University, where he earned a Master’s of Liberal Science degree.

He served a second time in Rome from 1970 until 1978. Brother taught science and math to middle and high school students at Notre Dame International and was Superior of the Brothers’ community from 1973 until 1977. During the last few years at Notre Dame International, he began to have an interest in library science, and upon his return to the United States he began a Master’s degree in Library Science at St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York. Completing this degree, he returned to Rome a third time to teach at Notre Dame International from 1979 until 1984. His ministry at the school now included librarian and moderator of the photograph club. He also began to be known as a great cook and electrician and again was the Superior of the local community from 1980 through 1983.

Brother Joseph returned to the United States to teach science and work in the library at Bishop McNamara High School, Forestville, Maryland, from 1984 to 1996. During this time, he began to experience increased difficulty in hearing. He retired from the classroom in 1996 and served part-time as librarian and technology guru at the school, computerizing the library until he retired in 2005 to St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York.

During his retirement years at the Center, he continued to enjoy wood-working and gardening. But, his magnum opus was organizing a system to classify, check out and return hard cover books, paper backs, tapes and DVDs. He accomplished all of this while his hearing and sight declined significantly.

In spite of having great difficulty in hearing and seeing, Joe continued to be present at community prayer and liturgy, utilizing the special hearing device in the main chapel. The use of his audio book machine in his room enabled Joe’s desire for spiritual reading.

In his ministry and community living, Joe was gentle, easy-going and positive. He always had a quiet word for everyone around him – even though, because of lack of sight and hearing, he wasn’t always immediately sure who he was talking to! He often expressed gratitude for the help he received, especially for the nursing staff for their care and many acts of kindness during his illness.

Recently, his health declined significantly after pneumonia infections and internal bleeding. On September 23, 2017, Br. Joseph passed onto eternal life at St. Joseph Center at about 6 a.m.

Please join me in prayer, giving thanks for the inspirational ministerial life of our beloved confrere, Joseph, who faithfully served the Lord as a dedicated religious of the Congregation.

In Holy Cross,
Br. William Zaydak, CSC
Thanks to Brothers Harold Hathaway,
Fred Crosgrove, and Richard Critz
for their assistance in preparing this obituary.


Into the Light

When first asked to speak about Br. Joe, I was quite reluctant to say “yes.” What could I say about Br. Joe that others more qualified than I might be able to say? Then I began thinking of various encounters I had with Joe over the years and said, “Yes, I think I can do this.” So, for better or worse, Joe, here it goes.

My first recollection of Br. Joe is from the time we served together at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland. Br. Joe was the Librarian and I the Music Director. In my short three year term there (from ’89 to ’92), I saw Joe update and modernize the library system, making use of the new technology at his disposal at the time. More especially, I witnessed his great patience and kindness in his role. No matter how many students there were in the library requesting his assistance, he seemed never to be flustered. The students demonstrated their utmost respect for this gentle man from whom they sought advice.

Only much later did I learn that Library Science was not Br. Joe’s first academic discipline. Rather, he had been a teacher of physics and earth science prior to this later interest. At first I thought the two fields of study were miles apart, but then I realized how he integrated his knowledge of the sciences and use of technology to his advantage and the benefit of his students.

I also learned that Br. Joe taught, on three different occasions, at Notre Dame International School in Rome. Having only a nodding acquaintance with the school myself, I can easily see how he fell in love with the school, the students and all the cultural attractions that the Eternal City had to offer.

Several months ago, three NDI grads visited Brothers Joseph Zutelis and Joseph Ruane here at the Center. One of them, whose name I fail to recall, spoke so highly of Br. Joe. He had been more than a teacher to this man – more like a mentor. I learned then of Br. Joe’s interest in photography and the photography club he moderated at NDI. The visitor related the special place he had earned in Br. Joe’s life, having been given the privilege of using Br. Joe’s very own dark room and its equipment rather than the one relegated to the other students and members of the photography club.

In the past ten years of sharing life with Br. Joe here at St. Joseph Center, I have discovered a very kind and gentle man. A man of great determination in whatever activity he pursued … updating and computerizing the house library system; recording various movies and other telecasts of interest to add to the library; hours upon hours spent in the gardens around the house and patio, weeding, watering and tending his most beautiful flowers … and so much more. All this he did while challenged by diminishing eye sight and hearing loss. I recall Joe, frequently on his hands and knees, feeling around to pick weeds … not only in the garden but between the cracks and crevices of bricks and cement in walk-ways and next to the foundation of the building. Br. Joe was indeed a humble, gentle, quiet soul who seemed to know no one else’s business but tended to his own with great dedication and service.

Br. Joe was thoughtful of others and very community minded. It is easy to see how he made an outstanding superior or house director in his earlier years. While here, he still managed to do little things for the community without seeking recognition. For example, Joe could often be found in the little kitchenette on the occasion of the monthly birthday celebration or some feast day, preparing cappuccino for the brothers to enjoy following their meal … and even, sometimes, served with a little bit of anisette or another choice liqueur.

Br. Joe was a solitary man. I suspect this was a trait Br. Joe possessed throughout his life, but it became especially evident in his later years of impaired hearing and eyesight. Joe was always faithful to our common prayer even though he had difficulty seeing the words of the psalms or hearing the readings of the day. Ever faithful and with a unique sense of humor, he used to tell me, “The chapel seems to keep getting further and further away.” It was his way of acknowledging his gradual physical decline and ability even to walk.

Br. Joe was a man of many interests – he was wellread and knowledgeable in areas beyond his study of the sciences –literature and art for example. When not engaged in some activity in the library or garden, Joe relaxed by listening for hours upon hours to audio books he had accessed through local services for the blind.

Br. Joe was a very generous man, living a simple life and frequently contributing his monthly stipend to projects at the Center he thought important. We can be grateful for his most recent gift — the movable sound system for the first floor lounge and basement conference rooms. We can also thank Joe for his contribution toward the refurbishing of the Center dining room several years ago. These are only a couple of the projects with which I am familiar and to which I can testify.

Br. Joe’s final three weeks with us are especially memorable for me. On the morning of September 1st (Friday of Labor Day weekend), Br. Joe was rushed to the hospital and immediately placed in the intensive care unit at St. Peter’s Hospital due to internal bleeding, the source of which was unknown. I spent most of the day with him as the doctors and nurses tended to him with great care. At one point, I was asked to leave the room so that the nurses could “prep him for a procedure” that would hopefully discover the cause of the bleeding. When I returned thirty or so minutes later he told me, “They had a class in here.” I, thinking he was a bit confused, humored him and went on about other things. His attending nurse then returned and I shared with her what he had said and, to my surprise, she said, “Yes, they did have a class.” I realized once again the educator that Joe was, even in his current condition.

Br. Joe was discharged from the hospital on Labor Day and continued to decline. When made aware of his critical condition around the middle of the month, just prior to our Congregational feast day, I spent some time with him at his bedside, praying for his peaceful passing. I thought perhaps he might pass on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. I recall giving him communion and praying a few prayers with him. The next day, Eleanor Prior, our Pastoral Counselor, reported that she had given Br. Joe communion but he probably could not manage but a small part of the host in the future. That may have been the last solid food Br. Joe took.

Br. Joe had reported on several occasions that he could see the light and he wanted to be taken to the light. I had the privilege of witnessing a particularly meaningful gesture in his final days. After praying a bit, he reached up, both arms wide open, and then he brought them to his chest in a sign of complete resignation. Little did I know then that it would be another week before Joe made his final journey home, at about 6:00 AM on Saturday, September 23rd.

Joe, you are going to be missed by your community of Holy Cross and the members of your family, some of whom are with us today. We are grateful for your kind, gentle, and thoughtful ways; and we pray now that you will know eternal peace and happiness in Our Lord’s loving embrace for all eternity.

Well done, good and faithful servant!

Eulogy delivered by Brother Alan Gugel, C.S.C.
Chapel at St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
October 2, 2017


Heavenly Librarian

Thank you Brother Mark for representing the Congregation of Holy Cross, Father Bob for the beautiful Liturgy, Brother Alan for all of your assistance, and all of you for your presence here today to celebrate the life of Brother Joe Ruane.

As one of Brother Joe’s “two favorite nieces,” I would like to share a few memories of growing up with Uncle Joe.

We had a small family; my twin sister and I, my parents, two aunts on my mother’s side, and Uncle Joe; no cousins, just the seven of us. Uncle Joe was the “character” of the family.

He was the world traveler, and we always looked forward to hearing about where he was going next. Phone calls were challenging, so air mail letters written carefully on onion skin paper would arrive from all around the globe, and so would the gifts…hand carved masks from Uganda, jewelry, scarves, handbags, and table linens from the flea markets of Rome. Uncle Joe always remembered “the girls.”

Every summer he would visit us for a week or two. Even back then he enjoyed working outside; he would trim the hedges and mow the lawn, but by noon he would pull the lounge chair into the middle of the backyard and stretch out to bake in the sun. He had a great tan! He would smoke cigarettes and read books; my mom didn’t approve of some of the titles; one summer he was reading the Godfather. After a few hours, he would head inside for his nap, but when my dad got home from work and the ice cubes hit the martini shaker, there in the living room would be Uncle Joe for cocktail hour. He loved to eat, and knew his way around the kitchen. One night he made a favorite Italian dish, pasta carbonara; I think he used a pound of bacon. After dinner, my sister and I would coax him into badminton tournaments and marathon croquet matches. We always went to the movies during his visits; I saw Jaws with Uncle Joe.

If he was in the States, he would spend Christmas in Schenectady. One year there was a huge storm, and we were trapped inside for about four days. No sooner did the snowplow make it up the hill then there was Uncle Joe, in the hallway, suitcase in hand, asking my dad if he could possibly drive him to the bus station. He had had enough of country life, he needed to get back to the city.

He was always a fun guest, but was a gracious host as well. My family saw many “high school musicals” in Flushing. Uncle Joe was both stage manager and set designer; the productions were fabulous and he was so proud of all of his students. My parents visited him in Italy, and he was a wonderful tour guide. They ate and drank their way through the Eternal City. Once when my parents were in Washington for a conference, Uncle Joe, who was living in Forestville, invited them to dinner at the house. He had prepared the meal ahead of time and left it in the refrigerator. My parents arrived that evening, Uncle Joe met them at the door, and shared the news that unfortunately there would be no dinner; the other brothers had eaten it.

Uncle Joe greatly enjoyed his time in the classroom · and had wonderful stories to tell about his students; but Library Science was his passion. He was happiest surrounded by books, cataloging thousands of CD’s, or researching our family tree on the computer. He proudly told me how he had the TV in his room programmed to record movies at 3 am. I think that his love of libraries was just a natural result of his keen interest in everything. He always wanted to know what was going on.

I had just graduated from college and was working as a security manager at a department store. One afternoon I received a call over my walkie talkie that my uncle was here to see me. “My uncle?” “Yes, that’s who he said he was.” As I came down the escalator, there were Uncle Joe and Brother Robert standing in the middle of the Costume Jewelry department. “Uncle Joe, what are you doing here?” “Brother Robert and I were just passing through, and we decided to stop in and see what you do here.” I gave them a tour of the store, showed them the security office; they were impressed by the cameras and holding cell; we chatted for a while and then they went on their way.

Our small family grew over the years to include two husbands, two grand nieces, four grand nephews and even a great grand niece; and Uncle Joe never forgot a holiday, an anniversary, or a birthday; a card would arrive signed “Love, Uncle Joe Ruane.” We loved him dearly and knew the feeling was mutual. As anyone who has been in his room here at St. Joseph Center knows, our pictures were all over the closet doors.

Speaking of St. Joseph Center, he was so very happy here. This was home…and you were family. And you took such wonderful care of him. My family is more grateful than you will ever know. So, as we celebrate his life, and pray that the Good Lord has rewarded His faithful servant, and that he is already reunited with his parents, and his brother Tom, and his buddy Robert. We know that the libraries are getting organized and the gardens are being tended.

Until we see you again…Take care Uncle Joe…Love You!

Remarks by Ann Gentile
Br. Joseph’s Niece
Chapel at St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
October 2, 2017


Brother Joseph James Ruane, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1948-1950 Student, Dujarie Hall, Notre Dame, IN
  • 1950-1955 Teacher, Cathedral Memorial HS, Indianapolis, IN
  • 1951-1951 Student, St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX
  • 1955-1959 Teacher, Vincentian Institute, Albany, NY
  • 1959-1963 Teacher, NDI School, Rome, Italy
  • 1963-1970 Teacher, HCHS, Flushing, NY
  • 1963-1963 Teacher, St. Leo’s, Fort Portal, Uganda
  • 1967-1970 Superior, HCHS, Flushing, NY
  • 1970-1978 Teacher, NDI School, Rome, Italy
  • 1973-1977 Superior, Rome, Italy
  • 1978-1979 Student, St. John’s Univ., Queens, NY
  • 1979-1984 Teacher, NDI School, Rome, Italy
  • 1980-1983 Superior, Rome, Italy
  • 1984-1996 Teacher/Library, BMHS, Forestville, MD
  • 1996-2005 Part/Time Library, BMHS, Forestville, MD
  • 2005-2017 Resident, St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY