‘Going All in to Serve God’

Growing up in Albany, NY, the eldest of three siblings, Bro. John Nicpon, CSC, was always explaining schoolwork or answering the questions posed by his younger sister and brother. It was a role he enjoyed. “I always liked explaining things,” said Bro. John. “Teaching always seemed like a natural fit.” At the Vincentian Institute (VI) in Albany, the Brothers of Holy Cross who staffed the school made a big impression. “The brother who was most influential in my life was Bro. Ferrer McHenry, CSC,” Bro. John recalled. “He was very kind, funny and then taught very well. He made me think I might want to join up because the brothers all seemed so happy.”

Two days after he graduated from VI in 1957, he entered the postulancy at Valatie, NY, then began his novitiate year at Rolling Prairie, IN, which was followed by three years of study at the University of Notre Dame. Encountering the wider world of Holy Cross was a brand-new experience. “It was interesting to know there were other Holy Cross schools,” Bro. John stated. “It was easy to make friends. Everybody was friendly, so I felt I fit in.”

Trained to teach math and science, Bro. John taught math for two years in the U.S. and was sent to St. Leo’s College in Fort Portal, Uganda, where he spent the next six years. He was willing to go. “I’m joining a religious community and giving myself to the community,” he explained. “Why would I limit myself? That was my reasoning. If I was going to give myself to the order and to God, I might as well go all in.”

He enjoyed the students and the simpler lifestyle of East Africa. Coming back the U.S. in 1969 was an adjustment. “Everything was changing, everything was faster paced, and it was a little hard.” Bro. John’s father had also passed away while he was in Uganda. He returned to the classroom and taught math for 24 years, 18 of which were spent at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, CT. “The classroom was always a joy for me,” he said. Administration and the tasks that take you away from teaching, not as much, so he was ready for a new ministry and worked in the Accounting Office of the Eastern Province Provincial House for 14 years.

Along with his 60th Jubilee, Bro. John is looking forward to reuniting with former Brothers of Holy Cross he served with in Uganda. “I haven’t seen them in years,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting to see them.”