Brother Jerome David Donnelly, CSC

September 12, 1945 – August 28, 2019

Brother Jerome David DonnellyThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Jerome David Donnelly, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Br. Jerome died in Valatie, New York, on August 28, 2019. He was in his 54th year of religious life in the Congregation.

Brother Jerome David Donnelly was born on September 12, 1945 in Philadelphia, PA. He was the youngest of four children born to John Donnelly and Anna Rubin both of whom were factory workers. His brother was named John (Jack), and his sisters were Joanne and Joan. Jerome was the fourth “J.”

Jerome was baptized at Ascension Parish in Philadelphia. His family later moved across the Delaware River and settled in Williamstown, NJ. The Donnelly’s were active members and supporters of St. Mary’s Parish and School. Jerome’s mother, even though not Catholic, made sure that the Donnelly children knew their catechism and attended and participated in the various activities, novenas and liturgical celebrations at the parish church and school. When his mother passed away, the pastor insisted that the funeral take place at the parish.

Jerome traveled to St. Joseph High School in Camden where he was taught by the Felician Sisters. His senior religion class was assigned a project where the students had to write to various religious communities requesting vocation literature. For some reason, Jerome chose Holy Cross. He read the literature for his report and was intrigued. He wrote his report and did well and thought he had completed his assignment. For some reason, though, the mailings from the Vocation Director – Brother Hyacinth, I believe – never stopped! In spite of several requests to the Vocation Director, it seemed that there was no way to get off the mailing list! And the rest, as they say, is history. Whoever that Felician Sister was, she proved to be a pretty astute vocation recruiter!

Brother Jerome David DonnellyJerome was received into the Congregation of Holy Cross on August 22, 1964 at St. Joseph Novitiate in Valatie, NY. On August 23, 1965, he pronounced his vows for the first time. Along with other members of his novitiate class, he was assigned to Vincent Hall on the campus of St. Edward’s University for his studies. He remained at St. Ed’s until 1968, when he was assigned to teach at Bishop McNamara High School, even though he had not completed his degree. He remained there for several months and then was assigned to Notre Dame High School in West Haven, CT for the 1968-1969 academic year. On the obedience list for the fall of 1969, he was assigned back to St. Edward’s to finish his degree in Business Administration.

Upon receiving his degree, Jerome returned to Notre Dame High School in West Haven in 1970 where he remained until 1976. He taught religion and began the first campus ministry program which was an idea still in its beginning stages. At this time, he spent summers at St. Mary’s College in Winona, MN studying for a Master’s degree in Religious Education. Jerome was also involved with the retreat program for high school students in the Archdiocese of Hartford. In 1979, he was assigned to St. Joseph Center in Valatie, NY where he developed Youth retreats and programs. He was also the Administrator of the Center and remained there until 1982.

In 1982, he began studies for a Master’s degree in family counseling at the State University of New York in Oneonta which he completed in 1984.

In 1984, he was assigned to the Notre Dame International School in Rome where he served as a dormitory prefect, counselor and teacher of Religion. He took full advantage of his European stay and had quite a few adventures with other members of the community. From 1987 to 1992, he served as a counselor at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA. In 1992, he was appointed the President of Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, CT where he served for fifteen years. He was proudest of the new art rooms, gallery and digital classrooms he was able to construct. Jerome’s common and practical sense as well as his intelligence led him to being elected or appointed to serve on the Provincial Council many times.

Following his tenure in Connecticut, he served as the Director of the Brother Charles Andersen residence in San Antonio, TX and as a Counselor at Holy Cross of San Antonio. He also served as the Director of Student Success and Retention at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

In 2013, he was confronted with some challenges to his health and moved to St. Joseph Center in Valatie, NY.

Jerome’s gift was his ability to engage people and to help them discover their gifts and their needs. His personality, quick wit and sense of humor made him a favorite of many. He was funny and clever, knew how to tell a good story, and brought laughter to others. He could entertain and regale with his adventures, often with a good poke of fun at himself. His community, his students, his friends loved to spend time in his presence. His skill as a listener made him an effective counselor and adviser. He had the uncanny ability to ask the “right” question which would unlock that place of pain or confusion for the other and he would then help that person find comfort, solace and understanding. He was wise and practical and good. He could be demanding, with high standards and a keen eye for detail. He was not pious, but he was a man of faith and belief. He cared greatly for others and always sought the good for them and in them.

All in all, Jerome was a good and faithful friend and brother. Our lives will be quieter and with a little less laughter now. He will be missed by many.

Our Brother Jerome now rests in peace in our God’s loving embrace!

Ave Crux, Spes Unica.


Live Where You Are, Be What You Are

I believe that everyone here is aware that attendance is being taken and that our demeanor is being graded.

Brother Jerome David DonnellyThe sadness we all feel is tangible and I imagine that it is tinged with more than just a patina of shock. I offer to Jerome’s family – to Jeanna, Joe and Dennis who are here with us, and to the other members of Jerome’s family, our deepest sympathy and love. Know that we share your loss.

I have imagined that first encounter of Jerome with our loving God. And I can see him arriving in the Divine Presence in somewhat of a harrumph with a barrage of questions, complaints and suggestions. Lakisha held him as he died, and he passed from that caring embrace into the loving embrace of God, that embrace which dissolves every concern, making all well. I imagine that Jerome was completely satisfied, perhaps for the first time in his life!

I have struggled with this eulogy. I did not know where to start to reflect on and appreciate the life and person of someone I loved and knew as a good and close friend, a confidant and consoler. I know too that these words will resonate with most people who knew Jerome. I needed something to put his life and love into perspective to truly appreciate a person who was so unique and special, and even complicated. He was charming and warm, caring and concerned and, we can admit, unreasonable and annoying at times when he was letting you know that you were not living up to his expectations! I needed a starting point that would be clear but not pious, never pious or sentimental. These last years, I think, had been especially trying for him as he became more debilitated and limited. We know that for Jerome, patience was only a word in a dictionary. But that too was part of the package of that friend whom we loved, as testing as he could be at times. I say that because that too was part of his own charm.

So, for me the question was where to start? It came to me that I had read a reflection some years ago that had been delivered in a retreat preached by Christian de Chergé, the prior of the Cistercian monastery, Notre Dame de l’Atlas in Algeria. Recently Pope Francis declared Christian de Chergé and six members of his community martyrs after they were murdered by Muslim terrorists during a civil war in Algeria.

Christian said:

“The only way for us to give witness is to live where we do, and be what we are in the midst of the banal, everyday realities …. If redemption is the motive for the coming of Christ, then Incarnation is the method.” 1

1 Kiser, John W. The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria. (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002). P. 281

Brother Jerome David DonnellyTo me that spoke of the practical and simple spirituality of Jerome. Jerome was proud of his roots, of Williamstown, New Jersey. He loved where he came from and was proud of being the son of a Jewish mother. He spoke lovingly of her, of how she cared for him and his brother and sisters, of how she was attentive to his religious upbringing and training, of how, despite her Jewish faith, she attended benediction, vespers, novenas and a host of other religious activities and devotions in his home parish and school. When she died, the pastor insisted that she be given a church funeral.

He loved and had many stories of his high school years with the Polish nuns in Camden. And of course, we know of that vocation story when the simple request for a class assignment turned into a neverending deluge of vocation literature. He said he could not get off that mailing list no matter how much he tried. And, we all know too, the Donnelly method of discernment vis-à-vis the Ignatian method: with the latter you prayed and fasted, rose in the middle of the night and after 30 days of doing this you would have the answer to your query. The Donnelly method was simpler and less work: no fasting from food, no rising in the middle of the night, no long hours of prayer on your knees. It was a simple question, do you want to do it or not? If you do, then do it. End of story.

Jerome knew how to live where he was and be what he was in the midst of this world. There was usually no doubt but supreme confidence. He knew how to live the Incarnation, without pretense, with strength, with humor, with honesty and, as he often admitted, in his full humanity. He did not like weakness in himself but recognized it. His life of ministry brought him joy and he shared that joy. He brought laughter and appreciation of the ironic and silly to his students, colleagues and friends. He was an engaging and interesting teacher.

In his early years he sought to make religion a matter of living faith, of experiencing the grace and love of God, of knowing “how to be where we were and how to be who we were.” He did this in his classes and in the student retreats he organized for many years whether in Connecticut, or in southern California. It was about the experience, and there are adults today who still reap the grace of those experiences and hold them as significant and unforgettable moments in their lives that will be treasured always.

He is remembered for his wise and always honest counsel. His years at Notre Dame International School in Rome, whether in the classroom or in the dormitory, allowed him to calm, instruct, affect and encourage young adolescent males far from family and home in the navigation of their somewhat fraught passage into adulthood so they could emerge with enough confidence and grace to face the future. He is well remembered and loved for that interest and care and even for the not so gentle challenges and the sometimes curse (the worse of which was “I hope you have five kids just like yourself someday. You’ll finally understand what I’m talking about.”) I remember him saying that to a sophomore who was absolutely horrified that he would say that to him. I think that the kid was even more terrified because he understood the implications!

“The only way for us to give witness is to live where we do, and be what we are in the midst of the banal, everyday realities …. If redemption is the motive for the coming of Christ, then Incarnation is the method.”

Brother Jerome David DonnellyJerome taught others to incarnate the reality of Christ among us. Jerome’s gift was his ability to engage people and to help them discover their gifts and their needs. His personality, quick wit and sense of humor made him a favorite of many. He was funny and clever, knew how to tell a good story, and brought laughter to others. He could entertain and regale with his adventures, often with a good poke of fun at himself. His community, his students, his friends loved to spend time in his presence. His skill as a listener made him an effective counselor and adviser. He had the uncanny ability to ask the “right” question which would unlock that place of pain or confusion for the other and he would then help that person find comfort, solace and understanding. He was wise and practical and good. He could be demanding, with high standards and a keen eye for detail (and the wrong date on today’s Mass program would drive him wild.) He was not pious, but he was a man of faith and belief. He cared greatly for others and always sought the good for them and in them.

All in all, Jerome was a good and faithful friend and brother. Our lives will be quieter and with a little less laughter now. He will be missed by many.

There is more to that quote from Christian de Chergé which brings “a period” to the end of the sentence for this reflection on Jerome’s earthly life. I’ll read it all:

“The only way for us to give witness is to live where we do, and be what we are in the midst of the banal, everyday realities …. If redemption is the motive for the coming of Christ, then Incarnation is the method. Intent belongs to the Son [Jesus the Christ]. He wanted to save something in us that only He could save. But the method is up to us. In our life, there is always a child ready to enter the world – the child of God that each of us is.”

In Jerome’s own unique, inimitable way, with gales of laughter and sometimes with hard truths and honesty, he enabled in others the acceptance to become that child of God and finally to become that child of God himself. That was his grace, often imperfect, but always effective: to be a man whose journey to God reflects our own and sheds light on the grace, trust and hope of our own journeys. May we remember that joy and laughter as well as the struggles with weakness and disappointment, to be fully human, “to live where we do and to be what we are” and “to give witness” to the Loving Christ in our lives and in our world.

The Cross is our Only Hope. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Delivered by Bro. Thomas A. Dziekan, CSC, Provincial
at St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
September 21, 2019


Thanks to the Brothers

NDI Family,

Brother Jerome David DonnellyLast week I attended the funeral of Brother Jerome Donnelly, CSC, who was the Notre Dame International School (NDI) religion teacher in 1986. Also in attendance at the funeral was Paul Scarpetta, NDI class of 1975. I made the drive to the Saint Joseph retirement community in Albany, NY from Detroit to support Brother Tom, who was a close friend to Brother Jerome, Brother Joseph Zutelis and the other Brothers of Holy Cross.

Brother Jerome was a good teacher who I really enjoyed also as a person. I spoke at Brother Jerome’s wake. I shared with the audience that I appreciated Brother Jerome’s religion class because he taught me how to extrapolate thoughts from mind on to paper and then he taught me ways to reflect on those thoughts via the completion of weekly reflection papers, which I still have. Brother Jerome was witty, knowledgeable and had a way of meeting you where you were. I thanked Brother Jerome’s family for sharing Brother Jerome with NDI and with the Brothers of Holy Cross. Then, I thanked all of the Brothers of Holy Cross who were present at the wake for the excellent education I received, their friendship and for the strong and meaningful relationships that have endured for 30 plus years with NDI students and faculty.

Attending Brother Jerome’s funeral provided me the special, unique opportunity to reflect on my experiences at NDI with some of the Brothers who were in Rome with me. In addition, it gave me a front row seat on how life moves forward. It seemed like only yesterday when I was at NDI in the mid 1980’s having a wonderful time to the present moment, of burying one of my teachers, and then walking through the adjacent cemetery viewing the burial places of many of my other teachers.

Brother Jerome David DonnellyWhile at Saint Joseph retirement community, Paul Scarpetta took me to Brother Joseph Zutelis’ room. I had the absolute pleasure of talking with Brother Joseph Zutelis. He is 97 years old. When I first sat down with him, it took him a few minutes for him to remember me. When I first started talking with Brother Joseph, he seemed tired, bored and a little depressed. He questioned why he had lived so long at the age of 97. He said he did not want to be a bother to anyone. Then, something very exciting happened when we began to talk about NDI. Brother Joseph started recounting his experiences at NDI. His body language perked up. He laughed. He said that NDI was the best experience in his life. Brother Joseph was at NDI for 16 years, from 1970 to 1986. He left NDI to take care of his sisters. I added that I was very appreciative of the excellent teaching he provided me. I asked if he remembered when he asked his students in English class, “what was God’s favorite color?” He replied, “Green!” And we laughed. In high school Brother Joseph told us green was God’s favorite color because of grass, trees and plants were green and they were a necessity for all life. I also shared that I also remembered how much he said he despised Cliff Notes. He laughed. Finally, I told him that many of NDI students still talk about him today and one NDI student said he became an English teacher because of Brother Joseph.

Reflection by Curtis D. Smith, ’86
Notre Dame International School


Some Comments Posted on Br. Jerome’s Facebook Page:

I was saddened when I got the news…but I took some comfort knowing you had served dutifully our Lord and you were a dear friend, teacher, counselor to many. I will never forget the love and support you showed me as a young freshman at NDI. God bless you Bro. Jerome and now Rest In Peace from your labor. Winston Jones – Notre Dame International, Rome

 

One of my life-mentors passed away today. Brother Jerome Donnelly, csc was one of my instructors in High School, and remained a close family friend and beloved and trusted member of my family-circle. He was an amazing man, a true gentleman, A brilliant educator, and a loving friend. His like will not be seen again. Rest In Peace Jerome. You changed my life and opened new worlds for me, and many others, I am sure. You will be missed, but those who knew you will carry you in their hearts forever, and pass your lessons to others. Aram Bronston – Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks, CA

 

Requiescat In Pace, Brother Jerome. Thank you for your faith in me and giving me a second shot. You were a good man, I shall miss you. Tom Stroot – Notre Dame International, Rome

 

Rest peacefully, Brother Jerome. He was a wonderful mentor. His was my favorite class senior year! A life well lived with many lives changed for the better! Jamie A. Bishop – Notre Dame Sherman Oaks, CA

 

So very sorry to hear this. I had the absolute honor of getting to know Brother Jerome here at King’s. He was one of the kindest, most caring, and absolutely hilarious people I’ve ever met. He will be missed by anyone who had the absolute joy of knowing him. Dave Reynolds – King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA

 

RIP my Life Spiritual Brother-Advisor. I will always remember your kind and loving spirit advising/supporting me when at Notre Dame and beyond. Although our plans to see each other this Sunday, Sept 8th, I pray for your eternal spirit which lives on within us who were blessed with your friendship. Love, Bob Patenaude – Notre Dame High School, West Haven, CT


Brother Jerome David Donnelly CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1968 Teacher, Bishop McNamara HS, Forestville, MD
  • 1968-1969 Teacher, Notre Dame HS, West Haven, CT
  • 1969-1970 Studies, St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX
  • 1970-1976 Teacher, Notre Dame HS, West Haven, CT
  • 1976-1981 Provincial Council
  • 1978-1979 Youth Retreats, West Hartford, CT
  • 1979-1982 Administrator and Youth Programs, St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
  • 1982-1984 Studies, NY State University, Oneonta, NY
  • 1984-1987 Guidance and Teacher, NDI School, Rome, Italy
  • 1987-1992 Counseling, Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks, CA
  • 1992-2007 President, Holy Cross HS, Waterbury, CT
  • 2007-2008 Sabbatical
  • 2008-2009 Community and Formation Director, Br. Charles Andersen Residence, San Antonio, TX
  • 2009-2010 Counselor, Holy Cross HS, San Antonio, Texas
  • 2010-2012 Dir., Student Success and Retention, Kings College, Wilkes-Barre, PA
  • 2012-2013 In Residence, Kings College, Wilkes-Barre, PA
  • 2013-2019 In Residence, St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY

Brother Jerome David Donnelly