Brother Joseph John Chvala, CSC

May 30, 1924 – February 11, 2018

Brother Joseph John Chvala, C.S.C., age 93, died on February 11, 2018, at Dujarie House, in Holy Cross Village at Notre Dame, Indiana. He was born in Ludington, Michigan, the son of Anton and Josephine (Miller) Chvala. He attended Pere Marquette Elementary School and Ludington High School graduating as the class valedictorian in 1942. He worked for a year as secretary in an electrical shop and then joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and served for 3 years. He rose to the rank of Petty Officer, 2nd class aboard the U.S. Farragut and was discharged in 1946. He studied at the University of Michigan for 2 years. In April 1949, he followed a vocation to the religious life and went to Sacred Heart Juniorate in Watertown then entered the Novitiate, where he pronounced his vows as a Brother of Holy Cross on August 16, 1950. Brother Joseph attended the University of Notre Dame where he completed his college studies and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. degree in 1954 and later earned a Master of Arts in English degree there in 1966.

He began his teaching career with one-year stints at Cathedral High in Indianapolis, St. Edward High in Lakewood, Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, six years at Holy Trinity High in Chicago, a year at Archbishop Hoban High in Akron and three years at Holy Trinity. In 1965 he began a long 40+ year tenure at his favorite niche, St. Edward High in Lakewood where his fame as a “master teacher of English” was revered by students and colleagues. He was a lover of words, spoken or written, especially in his favorite English courses and in developing the literary arts magazine, Flight. Many of his students remembered him with visits and contacts in their graduate studies and later in business or professional careers. A teacher never stops learning. Brother Joseph would often attend summer workshops or institutes to improve his teaching techniques at colleges in the Midwest and East Coast. His leadership and expertise were recognized by colleagues and awards he received such as: the recognition in 1990, as one of ten outstanding Ohio teachers with a grant of $2500 by the Ashland Oil Achievement Program; in 1998 he was one of fifty Notre Dame Alumni teachers honored for his teaching career; in 1999 he received a plaque and citation from the Ohio House of Representatives; in 2001 one of Brother Joe’s honor students received the Presidential Scholars Award in a formal ceremony at the nation’s Capital, and Brother Joe was also honored with a Teacher Recognition Award at the same ceremony.

Many of the awards he received were given following a stroke he suffered in October 1995 which necessitated a period of convalescence, therapy, and recovery. He said, “Most people quit after they have had a stroke. I didn’t. You have to get angry with yourself and make yourself do it.” He set goals. He was determined and focused. His strength came from prayer, people, and affirmation. His treatment and therapy was at Notre Dame where many of the Brothers urged him to pray to Brother Andre’. Visits and letters came from faculty, friends and students. His therapist urged him to return to his students in Lakewood since it would be the best thing for him. One day, the stimulus for recovery arrived in the form of a letter from (then Principal) Jim Kubacki inviting Brother Joseph to return to St. Edward and get involved with the students again. In the fall of 1996 he returned to continue his love of teaching and served part-time in guiding students until he retired from St. Edward in the summer of 2006. He moved to Notre Dame, where he found opportunities to assist and influence Holy Cross College students by volunteering in its Writing Clinic.

When hearing of Brother Joseph’s death, President Jim Kubacki remarked: “It is just amazing how often Brother Joseph is remembered by alums across the country as the teacher who made the biggest difference in the lives of those St. Edward High students.”

Visitation will be held on Friday, February 16th, at Our Lady of Holy Cross Chapel from 9:30 to 11:00am in the Schubert-Dujarie complex on the grounds of Holy Cross Village at Notre Dame. The Mass of Resurrection will then follow with interment in St. Joseph’s Cemetery of the Village. Kaniewski Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.

Memorial contributions in honor of Brother Joseph Chvala, C.S.C., to support the mission and ministries of the Brothers may be sent to: Brothers of Holy Cross, Office of Development, P.O. Box 460, Notre Dame, IN 46556.