Brother Martin (Leslie) Wilson, CSC

February 24, 1923 – February 5, 2019

Brother Martin WilsonThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Martin (Leslie) Wilson, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Natchez, Mississippi, Br. Martin died in Austin, Texas, on February 5, 2019. He was in his 76th year of religious life in the Congregation

Brother Martin (Leslie) Wilson was born on February 24, 1923, in Natchez, Mississippi, and grew up there. He was the fourth of eight children of Ira Wilson and Mary Sophie Weidenmuller Wilson. He was baptized and confirmed at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Natchez. Leslie attended the Cathedral Grammar School and St. Joseph’s High School where his contact with the Sacred Heart Brothers sparked his interest in a religious vocation.

In October, 1940, he entered the juniorate program for the Brothers of Holy Cross in Watertown, Wisconsin, and then was received as a novice on August 15, 1941 at St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. He made first profession of vows there on August 16, 1942, taking the religious name Martinian, later shortened to Martin. He studied at the University of Notre Dame and earned his BA degree in June of 1946 and made his perpetual profession of vows the same year on August 16 at Sacred Heart Church on the Notre Dame campus. He earned a master’s degree in Education from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas in July of 1969.

Brother Martin WilsonAfter his graduation from Notre Dame, Brother Martin was assigned to Cathedral High School in Indianapolis to teach. Then in 1947 after a short introduction to the Bangla language, he was sent to serve in what is now Bangladesh. While continuing his language studies in Bandura, he served at Holy Cross High School from 1948-1949. For the next three years Brother Martin taught at St. Gregory High School in Dhaka, then returned to Holy Cross High School for another three years. Finally, he was assigned again to St. Gregory High School as Assistant Headmaster. In 1962, after serving fourteen years in East Pakistan and having witnessed several periods of civil unrest, he returned to the United States.

Brother Martin’s next assignments were as a teacher and Dean of Students at Archbishop Curley High School in Miami, Florida (1962-1965) and at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California (1965-1967). Then for three years, he took on the ministry of vocation promotion for the South-West Province, splitting his time between Austin, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. From 1970 to 1993, he served as a guidance counselor at Holy Cross School in New Orleans, except for a short time (19891991) in Biloxi, Mississippi in pastoral service to the elderly and poor.

When he retired from school work in 1993, Brother Martin expanded his role of service to the local community of Brothers in New Orleans, taking care of shopping and household needs. In 2002, he moved to the Brother Vincent Pieau Residence in Austin, where he continued to provide valuable services in support of his Brothers, especially as a driver.

By around 2012, Brother Martin retired from his very active and generous ministry. He admirably endured the many ways his body betrayed him over the years, and finally had been under hospice care where he continued to be a faithful and engaging confrere in the Brother Vincent Pieau community. In 2017, Brother Martin celebrated his 75th anniversary of profession as a religious of Holy Cross. On February 5, 2019, at the age of 95, he passed peacefully to his eternal reward. May our Brother Martin rest in peace!

– Br. Donald Blauvelt, CSC
and Br. Richard Critz, CSC

Home to Stay

Brother Martin WilsonOn Monday, when we knew that Brother Martin had started his final journey, Brothers and members of the staff would stop by his room to pray for him and to say goodbye. As our vigil extended into Tuesday, I wondered what was keeping him bound to his mortal body. He was kept comfortable through the tender ministries of Debbie, our devoted nurse. At almost 96, you would think that Brother Martin might easily have just slowed down after so many years contending with the major and minor betrayals of his body, but now as ever, he carried on, determined, his pulse strong, he still had things to do before taking leave.

I imagined that he was turning things over in his mind, reviewing his life, as always, one story leading to another. How he would tell Jesus again that, like him, he had been born in a stable. Well, not quite, but his father Ira was a livestock trader and the family lived in an apartment over the barn. And about Natchez, located on a high bluff above the mighty, muddy Mississippi River, the first capital of the State of Mississippi, his hometown named for the Native Americans there.

And how the Cathedral church of Natchez, St. Mary’s was his home parish, under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows, by coincidence the patroness of Holy Cross. That’s where he attended grade school, at the Cathedral School, and then for high school, he went to St. Joseph’s run by the Sacred Heart Brothers. He admired them a lot, and he will be reminding Brother Florian that he would have joined their order except that their candidate program wasn’t going to start till the next year, and he didn’t want to have to wait around that long. So then, another Brother and Leslie’s confessor both recommended that he apply to the Brothers of Holy Cross, even though that would take him across the Mason-Dixon line. And how Bishop Gerow of Natchez personally wrote a letter of recommendation for him and even paid his travel fare. Leslie served Mass regularly for the Bishop, and especially enjoyed the free breakfast afterwards.

A part of the story Brother Martin will now be pleased to know is that Brother Florian wrote to tell Brother Theophane of young Leslie’s “wonderful record as regards conduct, study and work. He is an intelligent boy with a very pleasing personality. Furthermore, he is a ‘hustler’ and everything he does is well done.”

Riding on the Hiawatha, at 80 miles an hour the fastest train in the USA, Brother Martin would recall that Brother Theophane was there to welcome him when he arrived at an unscheduled stop on the tracks within view of Sacred Heart College in Watertown.

Reviewing his time at Watertown, his introduction to religious life in Holy Cross, Brother Martin would anticipate again seeing and thanking Brothers Polycarp, Sixtus, Magella, Silvan, Giles and John William – Brothers he admired for their example of “what a Brother should be.”

Moving on to the novitiate at Rolling Prairie, he would remember pronouncing his first vows on August 16, 1942, including even then a commitment to go anywhere in the world the Superior General wished to send him.

And he would like to meet Peter and Paul’s prison guard, his namesake, St. Martinian who was martyred after accepting the faith. He would like to explain to him that he eventually shortened his name to Martin since that’s what people called him in East Pakistan and New Orleans.

1946. Now that was an interesting year. As Brother Martin remembers: “I became part of Notre Dame’s 100th Commencement in ’46. And when the Brothers had our FIRST Chapter, I was still at Dujarie Hall, Br. Dominic had me assist with the refreshments. When the beer gave out, I was told to serve lemonade.” And that August he made his final profession.

Brother Martin could muse over his many years in schools, beginning with Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, and ranging coast to coast from Archbishop Curley in Miami to Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks. But what stands out most for him are his 32 years in New Orleans and 14 years in East Pakistan.

“I was one of the four Brothers chosen to join the Brothers in East Bengal, India.” Fulgence, Hobart and Ivan were the others. “Before we arrived, India became independent, so we were then going to East Pakistan. We had to travel on cargo ships after the war. Near the Canary Islands, our ship was battered for a few days by a hurricane. Even though we were going full speed ahead, we did not make any progress. After the storm, our captain came to check on us. He remarked that we ‘should all be in Davy Jones’s locker.’ Our ship had once tilted to thirty-seven degrees. We should have sunk, but the cargo on deck was extremely heavy with train engines, pre-fab houses and other weighty cargo. So, (thank God), the ship was able to right itself.”

In East Pakistan, Brother Martin alternated between two high schools, Holy Cross in Bandura and St. Gregory’s in Dhaka, teaching English and religion, and serving as assistant headmaster. After two tours of seven years, the missionary came home to stay.

Shifting his thoughts to New Orleans, where Brother Martin served as a guidance counselor and administrative assistant, and for many years worked out the intricacies of student schedules, what he especially relished were his real connections to people, to families, to the school, the local church and surrounding community. He was sought after by alumni and was a comforting presence at wakes and funerals. So many names must surface now, fondly remembered.

Brother Martin WilsonIt was important to Brother Martin to maintain relationships so he was always collecting and sharing information. His weekly contacts making groceries at Schwegmann’s gave him a constant barometer of community opinion. “I love the school and of course I would never meddle, but if there is something the principal needs to be aware of, I’ll tell him.”

Getting out of school work at age 70, Brother Martin gave himself over to generous service in support of the local community of Brothers. In New Orleans, he took on housekeeping chores, kept the cars maintained, did the shopping, and filled the pantry. His indispensible work behind the scenes was deeply appreciated by the other members of the house. He also served as a communion minister and reader in the local parish, St. Maurice.

For the Brothers at the Vincent Pieau Residence, he was also happy to contribute his services. He became the preferred driver for shopping trips or medical appointments because he was so approachable and responsive, never making a big deal out of it. And he assisted with the duties of the sacristan.

Brother Martin spent many hours in chapel, seeking companionship and comfort in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He prayed his devotions to Mary and was attentive to offering suffrages for deceased members of our community. He grieved over his failings, but had a very strong sense of God’s grace in his life.

Now he prayed over his own salvation history. Repeatedly he had the experience of God saving his life: in the hurricane at sea, in a near head-on collision when he was waved forward into a supposedly safe traffic lane; and in health emergencies when he didn’t know what was going on – a ruptured appendix, a ruptured intestine, an abscess on his stomach. His own suffering body records his faith story, how God has repeatedly and in very real ways saved his life. And now the Lord Jesus is saying, “Trust me again.”

“Yes, but what about all my family – they count on my prayers, and the Brothers? They are all dear to me. I didn’t even have a chance to tell my tablemates, ‘Goodbye, Brother Charles; Goodbye, Brother John.’” And I’m sure Jesus said, “Come home, Brother Martin. We can do that from here.”

Eulogy by Brother Richard Critz, CSC
Brother Vincent Pieau Residence Chapel, Austin TX
February 9, 2019

Brother Martin (Leslie) Wilson CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1945-1947 Teacher, Cathedral HS, Indianapolis, IN
  • 1948-1949 Bangla Student, Holy Cross High School, Bandura, East Pakistan
  • 1949-1951 Teacher, St. Gregory High School, Dhaka, East Pakistan
  • 1951-1954 Teacher, Holy Cross High School, Bandura, East Pakistan
  • 1954-1955 Student/Renewal, Holy Cross Foreign Missions, Washington, DC
  • 1955-1962 Asst. Headmaster; Teacher, St. Gregory High School, Dhaka, East Pakistan
  • 1962-1965 Teacher; Dean of Students, Archbishop Curley HS, Miami, FL
  • 1965-1967 Teacher; Dean of Students, Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks, CA
  • 1967-1970 Vocation Promoter South-West Province, Austin, TX and New Orleans, LA
  • 1970-1989 Counselor, Holy Cross School, New Orleans, LA
  • 1989-1991 Pastoral Ministry, Biloxi, MS
  • 1991-1993 Counselor, Holy Cross School, New Orleans, LA
  • 1993-2002 Community Support Services, New Orleans, LA
  • 2002-2012 Community Support Services, Br. Vincent Pieau Residence, Austin, TX
  • 2012-2019 Retired, Br. Vincent Pieau Residence, Austin, TX

Brother Martin Wilson