Brother Richard Hartling, CSC

August 3, 1927 – January 5, 2018

Brother Richard HartlingThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Richard Hartling, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Br. John died in Albany, New York, on January 5, 2018. He was in his 71st year of religious life in the Congregation.

Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts on August 3, 1927, Richard Paul was the first child in the Hartling family. His parents, Otto Hartling, a laborer, and Theresa McGillicuddy Hartling, housewife, were also from Holyoke, Massachusetts. The local Catholic church, Holy Rosary, was foundational in Richard’s life. There he was baptized, there he was confirmed, and there he made his first communion. He was educated at Holy Rosary Grammar School and at Holy Rosary High School. He was employed during his high school years as a stock boy at Hadley Falls Manufacturing Company and as a clerk at the Central Market grocery store.

In 1945, even before he graduated from high school, he applied for admission to the Brothers of Holy Cross. His pastor, Rev. John McMahon, wrote a promising letter of recommendation: “Richard Hartling has been a lifelong resident of this parish and has spent his whole school life in our parish school. His record is spotless. I feel that he will be found dependable and sincere in his chosen life. He is known to all of us as a fine Catholic young man. He will graduate from our high school this June 17th.”

Two months later, Richard entered the candidate program of the Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Joseph Juniorate, Valatie, New York. In February 1946, he was received into the novitiate in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and after 6 months, continued his novitiate year in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. On February 2, 1947, Brother Richard made his first profession of vows.  On June 17, 1951, he and Brother John O’Laughlin made their final professions together at St. Joseph Juniorate. In 2017, Brother Richard celebrated his 70th anniversary as a religious Brother of Holy Cross. In the fall of 1947, Brother Richard started his undergraduate education at the University of Notre Dame, but, as was often the case for many young religious, his college studies were interrupted by a teaching assignment. Eventually, he earned a B.S. in Education from Fordham University, New York and a M.S. in Education from Siena College in Loudonville, New York.

Brother Richard’s first teaching assignment was to Cathedral High School, Indianapolis, Indiana. After a year there, he taught six years at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the Bronx, New York – the longest assignment he had anywhere else until 1995 when he retired to St. Joseph Center, Valatie, New York. In the intervening years, he taught at Bishop McNamara High School, Forestville, Maryland; St. Thomas Aquinas School, Brooklyn, New York; Holy Cross High School, Flushing, New York; Cardinal Mooney High School, Rochester, New York; and Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Staten Island, New York.  In Great Falls, Montana, he served as principal at St. Gerard School and at St. Peter and Paul School, simultaneously.

He was a cottage director and counselor at Holy Cross social service institutions: St. Charles Boy’s Home, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Pius XII Youth and Family Services, Chester, New York. He
also served on the staff at St. Joseph Center, Valatie, New York and worked for the Diocese of Gallup, providing direct care to Native Americans in Arizona. Returning to a number of province schools where he had taught previously, Brother Richard took on staff and maintenance positions. Br. Richard was assisting the staff at the Eastern Brothers Provincial House in New Rochelle, New York before moving to St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York in the summer of 1995.

Br. Richard spent his retirement years assisting with maintenance needs at St. Joseph Center. He faithfully attended daily Eucharist and communal prayer. He enjoyed reading the various newspapers that came into the Center and would deliver the latest sports news to anyone within hearing distance. He loved to drive and take care of cars. Not only would he wash them, but he would detail them, all the while chewing on a cigar. A Chevy Geo he delivered to the community in South Georgia forever retained the residual fragrance of that drive.  Despite his reputation for being “a bear” for most of his life, Brother Richard mellowed considerably in his later years and was a lot of fun to talk with.

At a routine doctor’s appointment on January 4, 2018, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and seemed to have only minor breathing difficulties.  Later that evening, he entered the Albany Medical Center, requesting only comfort care. He passed away in the early morning, Friday, January 5, 2018 at the age of 90.

May God give eternal rest to our Brother Richard.

Br. William Zaydak, C.S.C.
Provincial Superior

Thanks to Brothers Harold Hathaway and Richard Critz for their assistance with this memorial.


Openness to God’s Grace

To the members of Brother Richard’s family, Pauline, his sister, and his nephews and nieces, we extend our condolences on the death of your brother and uncle.  We always appreciate having members of a Brother’s natural family with us as we lay our Brother to rest.  Thank you for being here today.

When Brother Mark Knightly asked me to say some words about Brother Richard Hartling, I thought about bringing some props.  First would have been some of Richard’s reading material.  Then, if I were daring, I would have included a cigar; had I been audacious, I would have prepared a martini.

Richard reading a newspaper is one of the images of him that comes to my mind when I recall visiting here at Saint Joseph Center in recent years.  Before he became more infirmed, spending most of his time in his room, it was more than likely that I would come upon Richard in the rec room reading the NY Times.  I never took Richard to be a New York Times type of person.  Although he read it regularly, even when he lived with us at the Provincial Residence in New Rochelle, he would often go out on his own to purchase a paper more to his liking, the Daily News, and especially the Post.  Real papers with real headlines!

I never really discerned where Richard stood on the political spectrum.  Many mornings, I was tempted to lean over and see what he was reading when he uttered a guttural grunt of disapproval or a light-hearted laugh of supposed agreement.  However, I knew better than to encroach on Richard’s private space.  Who needs fire and fury at the breakfast table?

A religious vocation is a mystery.  Why God calls and why we respond are very personal matters that we ponder over a life time.  But God does call and individuals do respond and thus we are drawn into a brotherhood and a commitment.  Where the call and the response will take us over the course of years, 70 years in Richard’s case, is an unknown when we start out.  Faithfulness is not simply a matter of God’s call and the individual’s positive response.  Faithfulness is a challenge that we can only accept and meet with God’s grace.  Faithfulness is a communal effort.  Faithfulness requires of all of us acceptance of the virtues and flaws of another – we all have both – and support of the other, even when it might not be reciprocated.

From what little Richard spoke about his ministries over the years, I gathered that his years at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the Bronx were his most treasured memories.  Pauline confirmed this when we were speaking before the funeral began.  She related a story about Richard coming home to Holyoke for vacation and singing the praises of New York day in and day out.  Finally, his mother had enough and told him, “If it’s that great, why don’t you go back now.”

He was at Mt. Carmel for six years in the early 1950s, the early years of our commitment to that ministry.  Like many brothers of that era who had been taken away from their studies to meet a need, he taught all day and then headed off to Fordham some evenings and on weekends to finish his undergraduate work.  I can recall once, when I was the executive director of Leviticus Fund, meeting a gentleman who headed a social service agency on Long Island.  As it turns out, he, too, lived on Lorillard Place and attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Elementary School.  When he made the connection that I was a Holy Cross Brother, the first Brother he inquired about was Richard.  He told me that as a youngster he got angry at his mother and locked himself in the bathroom and would not come out.  His mother had to get Brother Richard to convince him to come out.

The other props I would have brought along today, a cigar and a martini, also figure in to my recollections of Richard.  I’ll speak of the latter first.  At New Rochelle, if breakfast came and went without any fire and fury, we could never be sure about the evening news.  This was especially true if it were an evening when we had a social before dinner.  On these occasions, the guttural grunts brought about by a newspaper article became open conversations with the news anchor, the reporter, or the man or woman on the street being interviewed.  It didn’t matter who made the statement, if Richard did not agree, the individual on the screen was going to hear about it, and so were we.  Sometimes amusing, sometimes challenging, sometimes downright disconcerting as the air around us turned blue!  We can only imagine what his reaction would be to the current state of affairs on any of our nightly news programs.

Finally, the cigar.  I do not intend to compare Richard to Sir Winston Churchill.  Although, having recently seen the movie The Darkest Hour about Churchill’s first month as Prime Minister, there are certain similarities.  One similarity is that they both lived a few months past their 90th birthdays.  So, let’s let it go with that.  Take up cigar smoking if you want to live a long life!

It probably wasn’t the cigar smoking, per se, that gave Richard his longevity.  It was the physical activity that went along with the cigar smoking that kept him in good health and in good shape.  How unusual is it that the oldest child outlives most of his siblings?  The workout routines that accompanied his cigar breaks were washing community cars, as we read in his obituary, and raking and sweeping up leaves throughout the fall season.  He was a perfectionist.  On one occasion, I was visiting with Brother Charles Burns in his room in the Br. Ephrem Pavilion.  Charles looked out the window and saw Richard sweeping up leaves, and then proceeded to give me his detailed analysis of Richard’s activity.  Needless to say, coming from Charles Burns, it was not a pastoral analysis!

I mentioned earlier that our vocation to religious life is a mystery.  The call to and the response of an individual is a personal matter that draws him into a brotherhood and a commitment.  I would like to think that Richard’s cigar breaks were times of pondering the long history of his response, the good and the not-so-good, the challenges and the successes.  God’s grace was no less available to Richard than to any of the rest of us.  Openness to God’s grace can bring an individual to great acts of heroism as well as small acts of kindness, like cleaning a car or sweeping a driveway.

The first scripture passage that Eleanor read during the Liturgy of the Word is a beautiful description of what awaits us at the end of our earthly life.  So we can now say, “Rest in peace, Richard.”  The loving, gracious, and merciful God who called you to Holy Cross more than 70 years ago and was with you throughout your religious life has now welcomed you home.  The rewards of eternal life will surpass the enjoyment of a good cigar and a well-mixed martini.  And, be assured, the only news broadcast in heaven is the Good News.  Rest in peace.

Eulogy by Br. George C. Schmitz, CSC
St. Joseph Center Chapel, Valatie, NY
January 11, 2018


Colorful and Complex

Thank you to all those who contributed to our prayers today, to all our employees who cared so well for Brother Richard, and to all the brothers who were good community for Richard over the years.

We are really glad members of the family were able to join us to say goodbye to Richard. Many thanks to Bro. George Schmitz, for sharing a community perspective on the character of Bro. Richard Hartling…and he sure was a character!

In a group like ours, characters are important.

In religious life, we usually do the same activities, and we generally share the same demographics – we are all male, almost all of us in the US congregation are white, and from the middle class, and raised in Catholic two-parent families. And once we join Holy Cross, formation tries to form us into people who behave in roughly the same way. This was especially true in the early days. In fact, when Richard joined the Congregation, standing out, being different was discouraged. Brothers were expected to understand and conform to the group identity.

But there’s no way to hide the personality, and guys like Richard reveal that inside we are very different people! So Richard shows the world that our group, the Brothers of Holy Cross, is not one-dimensional, but colorful and complex.

Plus, he gives our story a huge entertainment boost!

As any of us who know him would agree, Bro. Richard didn’t have a lot of “candy” as a character, he wasn’t oversweet. If you think about his life, he was more spinach than candy. He was a little bit bitter but good for us. He pulled us down from inflated reputations.

By this point, we all know that what makes a lasting relationship is similarities across certain key areas: values and hopes, in particular. But a relationship that is too similar is boring and flat. Neuro research has now proven that too much “sameness” leads to early-onset dementia.

For a deep and lasting relationship, for a healthy group – and for a healthy brain! – you need both similarities and opposites, of likenesses and differences. Opposites give relationships life and color; they widen the range of our humanity.
Richard was a very different person from most of us in the way he saw and enjoyed life, and that’s what Richard gave us. That was the gift of his life. Even bringing to mind some of the stories about him, he liberates us from being perfect. He allows us to be real.

For that Rich, we will always remember you.

Taking a line from one of your favorite songs:
‘Til we meet again.

Reflections by Br. Mark Knightly, CSC
St. Joseph Center Chapel, Valatie, NY
January 11, 2018


Brother Richard Hartling, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • Educational Ministries – 28 years

    • Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Bronx, NY
    • St. Thomas Aquinas School, Brooklyn, NY
    • St. Gerard School, Great Falls, MT
    • Cathedral HS, Indianapolis, IN
    • Bishop McNamara HS, Forestville, MD
    • Holy Cross HS, Flushing, NY
    • Cardinal Mooney HS, Forestville, MD
  • Social Ministries – 7 years

    • St. Charles Boy’s Home, Milwaukee, WI
    • Pius XII, Chester, NY
    • Diocese of Gallup, NM
  • Health Care Ministries – 2 years

    • Alternatives Unlimited, Whitinsville, MA
    • Albany Center for the Disabled, Albany, NY
  • Staff Support – 6 years

    • Province Center, New Rochelle, NY
    • St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
  • Retirement

    • St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY