Brother Tadeus Joseph Las, CSC
February 9, 1929 – August 24, 2016
The prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Tadeus Joseph Las, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Elbert, WV, Br. Tadeus died in Albany, NY, on August 24, 2016. He was in his 65th year of religious life in the Congregation.
Tadeus Joseph Las was born in Elbert, WV, on February 9, 1929, to parents of Polish descent: Franciscus (Frank) Las, a coal miner, and Aniela Gowel. He was the fifth of six children. He was baptized Tadeus on March 31, 1929, in Our Lady of Victory Church in Gary, WV, and confirmed in the same church on October 15, 1939.
He received his education at the public schools of Elbert-Filbert Elementary School and Gary High School. After graduation, in order to save up for future college tuition, he worked two jobs: as an “outside laborer” for US Coal and Coke Company and as a store clerk for Union Supply Company.
After his freshmen year at Alliance College in Cambridge Springs, PA, he attended Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, where he studied Civil Engineering, which served him well many years later in the missions. It was during a weekend retreat while at Marquette University that he seriously considered entering religious life.
That consideration came from a supportive Catholic family and involvement in the local church. Recommending him, his pastor wrote: “For several years until going off to enter college, he faithfully walked three miles each Sunday morning to build the fire and open the mission church an hour or so before mass.” It was also noted that he was involved in parish activities and trained other altar servers.
He was accepted into the Holy Cross Brothers candidacy program at the Sacred Heart Juniorate in Watertown, WI, on September 4, 1950. He was received into St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, IN, on February 1, 1951; professed first vows on February 2, 1952; and final vows, including the mission vow, on August 16, 1955. Following his novitiate year, he completed a Bachelor of Science degree from St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX, in 1953.
Brother Tadeus had a multifaceted ministry in Holy Cross. He taught at Vincentian Institute, Albany, NY, for ten years starting in 1953. Because of his interest in civil engineering, during the summers of 1953 through 1962, he assisted in various projects, including the construction of Milk House in Watertown, WI. During 1954-1962, he oversaw the construction of the Brothers’ residence at West Haven, CT, while teaching summer school at Notre Dame High School.
In 1963, Brother Tad began his first of several assignments to Uganda. He started this time by teaching at St. Leo’s College in Fort Portal, Uganda, and served as local superior of the Brothers’ community. In 1968, during a home leave, he delayed returning to East Africa due to the health problems of family members and was a prefect at Pius XII School, Chester, NY, until January 1969 when he returned to Fort Portal. During this second term in East Africa, he experienced heart problems and returned to the United States in late 1970 for treatment. He taught at Cardinal Mooney High School, Rochester, NY, for three years and then served on the Renewal Team at St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY, for one year.
In the summer of 1974, Tad went to Uganda for a third time. During the next 13 years, he taught, served in administration and was, at times, a regional and a local superior. During this time period, he also took classes at the AMECEA Pastoral Institute in Eldoret, Kenya and was the assistant Director of Novices in 1984. The novitiate property is at Lake Saaka, Uganda. It provided him with the opportunity for one of his life’s loves – fishing.
In 1987, he returned to the United States and briefly worked at Mackin High School in Washington, DC, before making another international move, this time to new ministry in Tiberius, Israel, at the Mater Ecclesiae Center (MEC). But before going, he was a student at Seton Hall University, New Jersey, where he enjoyed and greatly benefitted from a course on Luke and the Acts. At MEC, he taught classes, (in particular, on the Gospel of Luke), up-dated the library and was the overall maintenance person, fixing things that needed attention, especially cars.
The time at MEC was very significant for him, collaborating with the Sisters of the Holy Cross, whom he first came to know through ministry in Uganda. He once wrote of his time in Israel: “There is not enough space nor time to relate the experiences of places we have visited. What does come across much greater for me are the ‘Messages of the Lord’ at the various sites where they were given. It is understandable why the Holy Land is called the fifth Gospel.” As an inveterate angler, Tad wrote that while catching fish in Lake Galilee, he would hold “mental conversations with Jesus and St. Peter.”
Tad ministered at MEC until the fall of 1991, when he returned a final time to Uganda for five years. He taught first at St. Mary’s Seminary in Fort Portal. He then oversaw the construction of the Br. Andre Candidate Formation House in Jinja, Uganda. In the past, his mechanical skills, which were used creatively to keep things working, now shifted to making something new. But now the creativity involved securing materials – especially building bricks. There were several delays because of insufficient bricks or because his eye for detail determined that not just any brick would be acceptable. He also returned to the classroom and taught at the nearby Holy Cross Lake View Secondary School, which he noted he was enjoying even at the age of 65.
Tad returned to Mater Ecclesiae Center in Tiberius, Israel, for a brief period and then made his last move in this life to St. Joseph Center in Valatie, NY, in 1997.
His skills, honed over many years in maintenance, were put to good use.
His health decline first involved a heart valve replacement and, later, kidney failure. Recently he broke a hip and was hospitalized due to an infection. After a rapid decline, our beloved Brother Tadeus passed into the Lord’s loving presence in the early morning of August 24, 2016, at St. Peter’s Hospital, Albany, NY. At the time of his death, he was accompanied by Br. Alan Gugel. We pray for the repose of Brother Tad’s soul and give thanks for his willingness to hear and respond to the call of the Lord to commit himself to the Congregation of Holy Cross. We are grateful to the Lord for the experience of Tad’s brotherhood in community and his service in ministry.
– Br. William Zaydak, CSC
Services for Brother Tad were held at the chapel of St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY. The Memorial Service was held on Friday, August 26, 2016 at 7:15 pm. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 11:00 am followed by interment at the St. Joseph Center cemetery.
A Life of Many Blessings
Brother Tad Las was a good friend of mine. We were together at Mackin High School in Washington, DC, around 1985 and in Jinja, Uganda, a few years later…1992-4. He was a teacher — and a good one, but I knew him more as a builder and maintenance man. He was good at many practical things. Even in his last days, he was repairing things for others. Tad was determined to make Br. Richard K’s small calculator work again. A new one could be had for a few dollars, but he wanted to fix that particular calculator. Unfortunately, it didn’t succeed.
Tad hadn’t taught in many years, but he would talk about his “teachers’ face”. I think you know what I mean, serious, even forbidding. No adolescent seeing that face would seriously think about messing around with him. But the serious face wasn’t all there was to Tad. He was actually very kind and considerate behind the façade!
At Mackin, I can remember one day when a student was disrespectful to Tad. The other vice Principal (I was also a vp) took that child aside and talked with him. Tad never had any more trouble with that student or any other! He always worked hard and kept our small school working.
Mr. Calvin Ash, the last Principal of Mackin, sends his regards to all of us.
Tad’s life was difficult in recent years, but I never knew him to complain. For sure, he would express his frustration at not being able to stand easily or walk unassisted. He would wince with the pain and struggle to get to his feet. He was devoted to his life as a Holy Cross Brother. He was always present at community prayers and also prayed in his room. He told me it would take him two hours to say the rosary (he would doze off between decades…sometimes between “Hail Marys”). I knew that God would not demand that he go through that two-hour attempt, but Tad was determined to do it, and he did.
Imagine undergoing dialysis three times a week. It was difficult. From time to time there would be a problem, the needle coming loose or turning inside his arm. He endured, looking like he had come out second best in a boxing match. He could not eat in the dialysis chair, so had to forego or postpone lunch.
Everyone who knew Tad at all knew he loved fish…and hated chicken. There was a very special meal one day in June. Br. John Flood and I were both here at the same time. (John, as many of you know, has spent many years in East Africa.) Tad wanted to take us out for lobster and he did. We went to a very posh restaurant in the Albany area. We had a wonderful feast…with a memorable bill! (Which Tad insisted on paying! And when he insisted, who could resist!)
I had a small glimmer that this might be the last such meal, and it reminded me of the movie Babette’s Feast, where an elaborate meal brings people together in a kind of Eucharistic experience. In fact, there were two other meals a bit like that, but simpler…and just Tad and I were there.
The day he broke his hip was a Saturday. It had become a weekly event for me to take him to find some sweet corn. He loved the fresh corn as much as anyone I’ve ever known. The day he fell, he didn’t seem very energetic. I asked if he would let me go and get the corn on my own this one time. He accepted, but he gave me very specific directions on how to select the best corn. I’ll never know if I did a good job of picking out the corn because he fell shortly after I got home and was on his way to the hospital, never to come back to St. Joseph’s. He told Brother Mark, the Community Director here, to tell me not to worry about the corn when the medics were putting him in the ambulance.
The last time I saw Tad was at the nursing home Sunday, August 21. I didn’t stay very long, having also visited the previous day. We talked a bit about his condition. He was trying to figure out how the television in his room worked. I’m one of the least gifted when it comes to electronic things. A young woman on the staff came and made it work. He wanted to see a football game, but there were none on that day. He then asked me about my situation. (I’m being treated for some prostate problems.) I thought I had explained earlier, but he didn’t remember. Anyway, I told him what was going on with me, and then the visit ended. I was expecting to see him again in a day or two. That was not to be.
Now, for just a minute, I want to ask you to look at the program provided today. There are two photos that I will always remember. The first is on the cover. It shows Tad with a warm smile. He used to speak of his “school teacher face”. That “face” was very severe. No kid would mess around seeing Tad with his “teacher face”. While I guess it worked, I much prefer to remember him as smiling…which was really more who he was.
The other photo shows Tad with a huge fish! Or maybe a huge fish with Tad! He was very proud of that photo. It is legendary in East Africa.
Tad Las was a good man and a good Holy Cross Brother. I want to close this with some of Tad’s own words towards the end of his life:
“Life has had many blessings, of family, friends, vocation, various assignments on the Mission!
Praise God! Thank you.” (signed) Tad.
When Tad first came to Uganda, the brothers were all Americans. Now there are three remaining Americans, and a growing number of young African members. Brother Tad Las always remembered his time spent in Uganda. He spent a number of years there in the sixties and seventies. Then he was in Uganda again in the ‘90s. His room had photos and some of his paintings depicting life in Uganda. (Among his many interests was painting.) He prayed often for the mission of Holy Cross in Africa. I’m wearing this white habit today because that is the traditional way the early brothers dressed and how the African brothers dress today. I don’t think Tad has worn the habit in many years, but I wear it today in his honor.
He was a gentle giant. His famous “school face” was enough to scare many a student into good behavior. He looked formidable, and I suppose he was…but he was also kind and gentle. Even if he tried to hide that gentleness.
– Reflections by Br. Alan Harrod, CSC
Chapel of St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
August 27, 2016
A Colorful Life
The family members gathered here represent Tadeus Las’ remaining family consisting of his youngest sister, nephews and nieces. We all have memories of him.
My experience is one of an Uncle that we would not see very often. He did not live down the street or across town. He was out in this huge world that was out there somewhere. Growing up in the same small isolated town that Uncle Tad did, I followed in many of the same footsteps. Same church, same grade school, same high school, same first working experience.
My memories are of a black and white landscape, the valleys were narrow and confining. The surrounding forests were drab browns and grays during the winters. Sometimes there would be snow but the palette was like a black and white photo.
But when Tad would visit, the world was validated as being a very big and very colorful place. His stories of travel to far off places like Valatie or New York or Uganda or Israel made a young boy think that this world might be something really big. He brought back COLOR images in the way of photos and slides. He showed us photos of exotic wildlife, slide shows of the people and living areas, and told of a world that not many are able to experience. These were examples of the people and places that Tadeus would help in this lifetime journey.
Walt Disney would bring us the Wonderful World of Color on Sunday nights. Uncle Tad validated it.
Now, a new journey.
– Reflections by Tim Meyers
Chapel of St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
August 27, 2016
Follower of Jesus
Everyone’s life is connected to others’, and it is in the nature of that connection that we see the person’s real character. The stories and memories we just heard from his nephew Tim Meyers, and by his Brother in community, Alan Harrod, are just little bits of the taste of Tad. He was a very different person and loved so many things about being alive: the faith, family, fishing, a stiff drink, the natural world … all things the earliest followers of Jesus loved. Thanks Tim and Alan, for clarifying our memory of Tad.
We will miss many things about him these next years until we see him again. I will miss a very simple thing: at communion, the way Tad strode up to the chalice on the altar on his rollator, centered himself, and drank from the chalice as though he was a knight honoring his king. It was liturgical to watch, very deliberate, an act of prayer and consecration.
Many others were touched by Tad, and have written in to express this.
I would like to thank his family that were able to be here, Tim Myers, the son of Helen Myers, Tad’s surviving sister, Laura and Beth Burczyk, John and Michelle Sanner, and Walter and Mary Jo Adamczyk. Thank you for making the journey here and being with us … being with him.
Thanks to all who cared so well for Tad in his days of needing help (although, he wanted – and managed! – to leave before he needed too much help!) … our nursing staff … everyone in the community here who listened to his stories, teased him (those that dared!), or even stood by the dining room window with him to watch the deer.
A very special thank you to Bro. Ed Boyer, the Center Director and Superior for many years and our musician today, who did extraordinary service transporting Tad down to Manhattan to have his special heart valve replacement surgery, and drove to appointment after appointment down there, and up here, so that Tad had more quality years to enjoy.
And enjoy them he did! And he would say to us “Go and do likewise!” So we will. Thank you for everything, Tad.
– Comments by Br. Mark Knightly, CSC
Chapel of St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
August 27, 2016
Brother Tadeus Joseph Las, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:
- 1953-1963 Teacher, Vincentian Institute, Albany, NY
- 1963-1967 Teacher/Superior, St. Leo’s College, Fort Portal, Uganda, EA
- 1967-1968 Prefect, Pius XII School, Chester, NY
- 1968-1970 Teacher, St. Mary’s Seminary, Fort Portal, Uganda, EA
- 1970-1973 Teacher, Cardinal Mooney HS, Rochester, NY
- 1973-1974 Renewal Team, St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
- 1974-1985 Teacher, St. Mary’s Seminary, Fort Portal, Uganda, EA
- 1985-1986 Asst. Novice Master, HC Novitiate, Fort Portal, Uganda, EA
- 1986-1987 Teacher, St. Mary’s Seminary, Fort Portal, Uganda, EA
- 1987-1988 Staff, Mackin HS, Washington, DC
- 1988-1992 Staff, Mater Ecclesiae Center, Tiberias, Israel
- 1992-1993 Teacher, St. Mary’s Seminary, Fort Portal, Uganda, EA
- 1993-1995 Construction Supervisor, Andre Formation House, Jinja, Uganda, EA
- 1995-1997 Teacher, Lake View SSS, Jinja, Uganda, EA
- 1997-1997 Staff, Mater Ecclesiae Center, Tiberias, Israel
- 1997-2016 Retired – Maintenance, St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY