Brother Robert Carberry, CSC

July 1, 1929 – October 14, 2017

Brother Robert CarberryThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Robert Carberry, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Tabor, South Dakota, Br. Robert died in Notre Dame, Indiana, on October 14, 2017. He was in his 62nd year of religious life in the Congregation.

Robert Carberry was the son of Emmett Carberry of Panora, Iowa, and Pauline Hruska Carberry of Tabor, South Dakota. Although he was born in Tabor, South Dakota, on July 1, 1929, he always claimed to be an Iowan since most of his life after five years took place in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Both of his parents were teachers.

Robert attended elementary and high school at Corpus Christi Academy, a parish school in Fort Dodge. He was also confirmed at Corpus Christi Parish.  After graduating from high school, Robert went to Fort Dodge Junior College and then transferred to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, earning a degree in business administration in 1951. He later took courses at St. Edward’s University and Santa Clara University. During his college years he also held several jobs, one of which he thought really gave him good background for what he would be doing later in his life. This was work in a clothing store where the owner would ask him to be with her when she spoke with sales people visiting the store. He also worked for the U. S. Post Office after his graduation from college.

His family had several Holy Cross connections. One of his uncles, his father’s brother, went to Hollywood to work with Father Patrick Peyton recruiting actors and actresses for the Rosary Hour radio performances. One time when he was visiting his California uncle, he learned of a job opening for a counselor at Rancho San Antonio in Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley. It was conducted at that time by the Brothers of Holy Cross. He applied for the position and was hired. It was here that he first became interested in being a Brother of Holy Cross himself.

He went to Sacred Heart College in Watertown, Wisconsin, in June of 1955. In August of that year he was received as a novice at St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. He made his first profession there on August 16, 1956. He eventually made his perpetual profession of vows at St. Francis de Sales Church in North Hollywood on August 16, 1961.

After spending a year in post-novitiate formation at Vincent Hall on the St. Edward’s University campus, Brother Robert was assigned to Notre Dame High School in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he taught for one year. He returned to St. Edward’s University in 1958 where he worked for a year in the treasurer’s office. In 1959 he began an assignment which lasted more than 20 years, with several brief intervals, at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California. While in Mountain View he served as a teacher and local superior, as well as bookstore manager and business and facilities manager. He also served as general contractor for several building projects.

After leaving St. Francis High School in 1979, he was asked by the provincial, Brother Patrick Sopher, to spend some time at several schools evaluating and assessing the physical plant. He did this at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California, and at Holy Cross in New Orleans, Louisiana. Along the way he taught for one year at St. Anthony High School in Long Beach, California, before heading for a brief stint of social service ministry at Casper, Wyoming. He then spent several months at Moreau Catholic in Hayward, California, before spending two years at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, California.

Over the years, Brother Robert had developed a great ability to gather materials and barter the materials for needs of the poor and of the schools. Some friends of his got him a warehouse in the industrial section of Mountain View where he was able to store furniture and other inventory until it was needed. There are numerous legends about Brother Robert parlaying cases of bedpans into writing paper and the like. In 1991, Brother Robert began a 20 year relationship with Father James Walsh, pastor of St. Cyprian Parish in Sunnyvale, California. When Father Walsh moved to St. Christopher’s Parish in San Jose, he took Brother Robert with him to assist the school there. Brother Robert encouraged Father Walsh to hire the former brother Rudy Chiaromonte to work for the pastor as well.

In 2011 Brother Robert moved to the Brother Vincent Pieau Residence in Austin, Texas. A year later he moved to Schubert Villa at Holy Cross Village in Notre Dame, Indiana. He was in declining health the past several years due to cancer and passed away at Dujarie House at Holy Cross Village in Notre Dame on October 14, 2017.

Brother Robert CarberryThroughout the years, Brother Robert demonstrated boundless energy when it came to the needs of the poor and the needs of the schools. He did much to support the needs of elementary schools in the Diocese of San Jose and supported several outreach programs to feed the hungry and serve the homeless in Santa Clara County in California.  He was a man well-known and well-loved by alumni and alumni parents at St. Francis High School. At the time of the school’s merger with Holy Cross High School for women in 1968, Brother Robert designed and built several buildings to support this quick change, including a second gymnasium and some classroom buildings.

Brother Robert had many great accomplishments in his ministerial life as a teacher, as a business manager, as a physical plant supervisor. He experienced periods of frustration from time to time when his vision of a physical plant clashed with the vision of a president or principal. More than anything, however, his service to the poor and needy is his most powerful legacy. He did not let anything get in the way of meeting the needs which he could, and he gathered some good people around him in support of this effort. It was difficult for Brother Robert to leave Mountain View and Santa Clara when the time came; his leaving was difficult for those who knew and loved him as well.

Please join me in giving thanks for the inspiring life of our beloved Brother Robert, who faithfully served the Lord as a dedicated religious of Holy Cross for so many years.

In Holy Cross,
Br. William Zaydak, CSC

 Thanks to Brothers Harold Hathaway and Donald Blauvelt for their assistance in preparing this obituary.


What Do You Need?

Brother Robert CarberryBrother Robert Carberry was an unusual man, a man who possessed the gift of visioning, of seeing the big picture.  Whether involved with people, facilities or goods, Robert had the uncanny ability to know how the interaction of these three groups could produce much good for people in need and for the surrounding community.

I lived with Robert in his later years at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California and at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, California, and I witnessed first-hand his ability to engage people in mission to rebuild a school or parish facility.  I witnessed his ability to convince executives that it was better to give him their outdated furniture and supplies, sometimes only a year old, for distribution to those in need, especially struggling Catholic grade schools.  And most importantly, I watched him daily gather food from suppliers to distribute to food pantries.

To some, Robert seemed impatient, a man on the move.  But with his world view, he quickly saw opportunities where others only saw barriers.  His ability to cut through the red tape or bureaucracy, allowed him to serve the poor and to invite others to join him in his mission.  Later on in life as the world changed and we increasingly worried about liabilities, Robert at times grew frustrated when others did not see life as simply as he did.  Namely; here is the need, here is the solution, gather the people and get it accomplished.  However, he never stopped believing i n his vocation to help others, especially those in need.

Br. Robert received his foundation in the Church from his parents in Iowa.  He loved to talk about his beloved home, Fort Dodge, Iowa.  But his awareness of the Lord and his call to Holy Cross came by Divine Providence, when he responded to a job opening at Rancho San Antonio Boys Home in Chatsworth, California.  The simple, dedicated lives and ministry of the Brothers moved him to seek admission into the Congregation of Holy Cross.  Robert made his first profession of vows on August 16, 1956 and his perpetual profession of vows on August 16, 1961.

Brother Robert CarberryIn his early years he did the normal ministry of Brothers.  He taught, managed programs, and enjoyed community life.  During these early years, as resources were few, he began to hone his skills of engaging the laity in mission, especially for the schools we sponsored.   He began to see clearly that much good would come about if you got the right volunteers in place and provided them with the resources with which to build.  Robert had an eye for seeing the volume of supplies and materials going to waste or into the rubbish heap from our throw-away society.  He began to find ways and means to channel these throw-away items of society to serving those in need.  During these years he patented his famous question, “What do you need?”

I remember one time at SFHS, Robert cornered me with the statement, “I need $100 this afternoon.  I have to pay a trucker to move supplies from a donor to a school in need.”  Before I could think, I gave him the $100 dollars and only afterward realized he did one of his special deals and had me pay for it.

Robert, being an uncomplicated person, was direct and honest with his fellow Brothers and with all he met.  He was faithful to prayer and community and immensely enjoyed celebrating with the laity over projects well done.  Robert enjoyed deep friendships with many people due to his kindness and his ability to keep them engaged in the educational mission of Holy Cross and the Church.  He filled people with hope and with zeal for mission.

In his final years, especially here at Schubert and Dujarie, Robert struggled with his illnesses.  Even with his failing mind he still would share with you how to make the deal to engage people and move supplies.

Robert, you are now at rest in the Lord.  Hopefully, you are not looking to rearrange heaven, for the Lord has it right.

I thank God for bringing you to Holy Cross, for being our Brother, a Brother who challenged us daily to care for the community and the poor.  Your zeal for mission did bring hope to many.  You certainly gave me hope to follow in your footprints.

Rest now in the Lord.

Eulogy by Brother William Nick, C.S.C.
Delivered by Brother William Zaydak, C.S.C.
Our Lady of Holy Cross Chapel
 Dujarie House, South Bend, IN
October 30, 2017


Loaves and Fishes

Hi! My name is Alyssa Carroll. I am a sophomore at Notre Dame with a double major in Design and Business, and I live in Badin Hall (where I am the social director).The following words were penned by my father, Jim Carroll, a product of a Holy Cross education; first at St. Francis High School, Class of ’71 from the likes of Brs. Benignus, Patrick, Andre, Marco and Joseph and then at  Notre Dame, Class of ’75, General Program, where Br. Edmund Hunt tested him on the Great Books.

My dad writes
Brother Robert CarberryBr. Robert gave me my first job, and he was one of my dad’s best friends, so close that he evolved into the status of family. And our family, the Carrolls, grieves at his loss, extends its soul-felt condolences to his family and the Congregation of Holy Cross, and thanks the good Lord for gracing our lives with Br. Robert Carberry.

That first job of mine was on the grounds of St. Francis High School in Mountain View, CA. My dad, as was his gift, struck up an acquaintance with Robert and offered the services of his son, then an incoming freshman. Robert, cut of the same cloth as my ole man, understood a father’s desire to impart responsibility and a work ethic upon his boy, and they cut a deal. I was introduced to my first boss, Juan, an extremely capable and friendly facilities manager, and I learned how to dig small ditches and gained an appreciation for the working man, plus the St. Francis quad was complemented with a sprinkler system and Jim Carroll was paid with a complete set of freshman year, used books, including that all important Introduction to Latin. Such a deal: It had Robert Carberry written all over it!

There were many, many more deals to come. And lessons…about responsibility and respect, about being just and walking humbly with the Lord. Where we come from, Brother Robert is an icon. He had this uncanny ability to obtain that which someone had too much of and match it with someone who had a need. Both Christian and canonical, working as an instrument of (the power of) the Spirit, Robert orchestrated the transactions in a manner whereby both parties felt good about themselves, as in benefiting each other, and — their shared community. Whether one was rich or poor, a hi-tech president or a school grounds keeper, had no measure in Robert’s philosophy. Pragmatically, the art of Br. Robert’s deal was a true “win, win.” Theologically, he read Ephesians and put St. Paul’s advice to practice.

Br. Robert could also turn a dime into a dollar. At St. Francis they named a gymnasium after him, and I would not be the least bit surprised if every brick and slap of mortar was donated. Before there was a Silicon Valley, that school prospered with Robert making steady, bartered deposits into its stockpile and bank. As time moved on and the Brothers moved out (and the Latin with them), Robert turned his attention to another dear friend, Fr. Walsh, the Pastor of St. Cyprian’s and later St. Christopher’s parish, in Sunnyvale and San Jose, respectively, then bookends of the burgeoning Silicon Valley. My sister, Anne, taught kindergarten for both parish schools, prior to accepting a demotion and assuming the position of principal at St. Chris’s. We’d touch base regularly and it was Robert this and Robert that, as in an integral and indispensable member of their community. From what I understand of his responsibilities requested by Br. Patrick Sopher, in service to your Congregation’s western province, it’s a common thread. I’ll tell you what else is common: people respected and loved Robert Carberry.

He used to drop by our house when we had a family party, neighbors and friends and the like. The women would all go over and give him a hug, and you could tell that he was not all that comfortable with it. But he’d hang in there, proffer his wry smile, and visit for a while. He would seldom eat with us – seemed he saved that for your community – but he “broke bread,” if you get my meaning. Robert always spoke about what was right and wrong, how things could be made better, and who worked to make a beneficial difference. And he treated rich and poor alike; with Robert you felt respected. It’s the trait of a God-fearing, humble man. Anyway, he never stayed that long, but you were always glad he stopped by. He was not the life of the party, but he gave the party life.

I have to laugh – my brother Joe, God rest his soul, never married and Robert, realizing a shared need, would always call upon Joe to lend a hand. Joe never refused, but he would affectionately complain, feigning that he was put out. Truth be known, he loved the charity work. One of their many, many responsibilities was, in Joe’s words, “the nun run,” a bi-monthly visit to the cloistered Sisters of St. Clare, whose convent is located in the hills above Mountain View. They’d bring donated food and the like to the Sisters, and this went on for years, including large swaths of time when Br. Robert was out of town. You see, Robert set things up for the long run.

Another laugh gets back to my dad. Like Hermione Granger’s purse, Dad had this magic car trunk, because it was always miraculously full of goods. Everywhere he’d go, he’d ask, “Hey, anybody need some extra shoes? How about some bread or fresh tomatoes? Got some binders and adding machines—how’s your office set up?” Observing this I’d ask, “You been palling around with Br. Robert?” And just like Robert, Dad would good-humoredly respond, “Don’t ask! Just take what you need, or if you can, pass it along.” Do pray, there’s something about “loaves and fishes” in that reply.

At St. Francis, Br. Robert taught Business Math, a class slated for those who intended to join the workforce right after high school. I asked him once about the curricula and he explained its pragmatic intent to educate tradesmen and small business owners on the “basics.” Somehow, over the past few decades, I think we’ve lost that pragmatism in education. In California there’s an uber emphasis on college matriculation, yet high school dropout rates remain stubbornly high and graduation rates at Junior Colleges, intended, in part, to assist those not geared for a four year degree, hover under 20%. Perhaps educators need to get back to those basics Br. Robert’s philosophy espoused where one’s measure is not based upon one’s station in life but rather on one’s contribution to life, and assure non-college oriented students are provided the foundation (and courses) they need to succeed.

I have always been amazed that 12 apostles, ordinary guys, plus the many women that supported them, changed – in epic proportions – the course of human history. Often, we learn about extraordinary feats and martyrdoms associated with their lives and those of saints to follow. But the Good News proliferated in large measure, one might argue in larger measure, based upon the work of, initially, scores and then, throughout the centuries, millions of unknown disciples whose lives and daily contributions were in service to Christ. And so too, Br. Robert.

Recently, at Notre Dame, another much more heralded icon, Fr. Hesburgh, passed. University President, Chairman of the Civil Rights Commission and advisor to Presidents and Popes, he none-the-less fervently insisted that at his core he was a simple priest. Likewise, at his core, Robert, the consummate deal-maker, was a simple brother. And, it is in these simple, pious capacities that I’ve personally been ministered to by both – in the confessional and in the guidance to good works, respectively. What started in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, found its way, via the Congregation of Holy Cross, to the Northwest plains of Indiana and California’s San Francisco Bay Area – and I, and countless others like me, are so much better for it. The gift of the Trinity, God’s unconditional love, the Incarnation and the Cross, resulting in the Good News and the Kingdom on earth, and our call to, and responsibility for, participation in it and with it, heralded or not. For having taught me this lesson, this precious gift, I thank you Br. Robert. And, with equal sincerity, I thank your Congregation and all its members.

About a month ago, it was the weekend of the Georgia game, I visited Br. Robert. We talked about the old days, I laughed when he elicited that wry smile, yet one could tell there was a sadness to him that so many close to him had passed. He was ready to move on to his next role in the Kingdom, and he wondered why he had not yet been called. Well the way I figure it, perhaps those pearly gates required some serious repair, but necessary parts were missing, and the Good Lord, at Peter’s emotional urgings, needed someone to cut a deal finding a supplier with too much and willing to help an apostle in glorious need. Robert was the disciple for the job.

God’s speed Br. Robert Carberry, and as to the value of those used books I earned, Pax Vobiscum.

Our Lady of Holy Cross Chapel
Dujarie House, South Bend, IN
October 30, 2017


Brother Robert Carberry, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1957-1958 Teacher, Notre Dame High School, Biloxi, MS
  • 1959-1980 Teacher, St. Francis High School, Mountain View, CA
  • 1973-1980 Local Superior, Mountain View, CA
  • Special Projects

    • 1980-1980 Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks, CA
    • 1981-1982 Holy Cross School, New Orleans, LA
    • 1982-1982 Holy Cross Center, Casper, WY
    • 1983-1984 Moreau High School, Hayward, CA
  • 1984-1986 Staff, Cardinal Newman HS, Santa Rosa, CA
  • 1986-1991 Plant Supervisor, St. Cyprian Parish, Sunnyvale, CA
  • 1991-2011 Special Projects, St. Christopher Parish, San Jose, CA
  • 1998-2000 Local Superior, Mountain View, CA
  • 2011-2012 Resident, Br. Vincent Pieau, Austin, TX
  • 2012-2015 Resident, Schubert Villa, Notre Dame, IN
  • 2015-2017 Resident, Dujarie House, Notre Dame, IN