Br. Francis J. Feeley, C.S.C.
Brother Francis Joseph Feeley, C.S.C.
February 7, 1937 – March 14, 2021
Francis Joseph Feeley was born in New York Hospital in Manhattan on February 7, 1937. As he liked to say, “he grew up in the upper east side,” on East 88th St. in St. Jean’s Parish staffed by the Blessed Sacrament Fathers and Brothers. He was the youngest of the six children of Catherine McNicholas, a homemaker, and Patrick Feeley, a railroad engineer. A brother had died in infancy and his other sisters and brothers were a good bit older than him. Both his parents had immigrated into the United States from County Mayo in Ireland. His mother died when he was eight years old and his father died when he was eleven.
While his older siblings were either in school or working, Francis was well cared for after school hours by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal who taught in the parish school. They plied him with snacks, attention and extra help. Frank treasured the memory of that experience and kept in touch with those Sisters, always remembering them with great affection. I am pretty sure that he was a favorite of theirs.
His home parish in New York City was Saint Jean Baptiste where he was baptized and confirmed and attended school. After elementary school, Francis moved on to St. Ann’s Academy in Manhattan. After two years there, he moved upstate to Averill Park, New York, to live with his sister Margaret Kenny and her husband John. While there he completed his high school studies at Averill Park High School, graduating in 1955.
After his graduation, he returned to Manhattan where he lived with his brother William. During this time, he worked at D’Agostino’s Grocery Store and then in the purchasing department at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Francis said that one day, while reading in the Sacred Heart Messenger about the Holy Cross Brothers, he was inspired to send a note to Brother Edward (then Hyacinth) Sniatecki. He said that Brother responded to him almost immediately and on June 16, 1957, at the age of 20, he found himself at Valatie, New York, with members of the Feeley family and Brother Edward to see him off on this new adventure in his life.
After the summer as a postulant, Francis went to St. Joseph’s Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana where he was formally received as a novice on August 15, 1957. He made his first profession there on August 16, 1958, and left for St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, as Brother Francis Feeley, C.S.C. He spent a year in Austin taking undergraduate courses when he was called back to Valatie to assist Brother Edward Sniatecki in the Vocations’ Office. After six months working in the Vocations’ Office, Brother Francis began teaching at Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, Rhode Island. He spent three years there and also made his perpetual profession of vows on August 23, 1961.
After three years at Bishop Hendricken High School, Brother Francis was transferred to Notre Dame High School in West Haven, Connecticut, where he served in ministry for thirty-five years. In those years he taught a variety of subjects including religion, business, typing and Spanish. He worked in the Treasurer’s Office as the Assistant Bookkeeper. He was moderator of the Mothers’ Club and Parents’ Association. Recognized as one of the legends of Notre Dame High School in West Haven because of his generous service over his long tenure of 35 years, Brother Francis was honored by being named a Knight of Honor by the School.
During his years at Notre Dame he was able to find time to complete his BS degree in Public Administration from the University of New Haven. He did additional studies during this time in theology and pastoral counseling at Fordham and at the University of Notre Dame. He also completed gerontology programs at both Misericordia College in Dallas, Pennsylvania and at St. Mary of the Woods in Terre Haute, Indiana.
In 1992, Brother Francis assumed the role of Director of the Religious Community at Saint Louis Parish in West Haven, Connecticut where he remained until 1997 while continuing to minister as well at Notre Dame High School. In January of 1998, he became the Director of St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York, the province’s residence for its older Brothers. He once said that he enjoyed working with the retired Brothers, many of whom were quite active and assisted him in running the retirement center. He also said that he had known and lived with many of them throughout his life as a Brother and that they had taught him so much about living the religious life.
He was the Director of St. Joseph Center in Valatie until 2005 when he became the supervisor of transportation for the assisted living members. In 2012, he retired from active ministry and continued to be a resident and active member of the local community.
Brother Francis was a welcoming presence and had a warm, kind and sincere smile. He had high expectations for his students and could put on a good show with a bellowing voice when they turned rambunctious. It was a convincing act and an effective ploy to bring some calm back to his charges. He was interested in his students and their lives. He never forgot them and remembered birthdays and families. If anyone asked him to pray for them or for a special intention, he never forgot and they never got off the list which would be read everyday at Mass. His kindness was expressed by his generosity and willingness to help out. He is remembered by hundreds of mothers of Notre Dame High School students who were part of the Mothers’ and Parents Clubs. They too were remembered with affection and prayer, sometimes with a small trinket to express thanks for a kindness or to offer a gesture of encouragement. He was often teased that he could never say “no” to a request. No matter how engaged he was with his duties and other activities, he would always come through.
Brother Francis was a kind and good Brother, who certainly appreciated and loved those whom God put in his care to serve. He treated them kindly and challenged them strongly to be their best. Early on in life he learned the value of being shown kindness, care, and safe refuge by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. He passed that on to his own family, his students, to their families and to all he met. We thank God for his presence among us and know that he continues to pray for us as we are still on the list! We rest assured that he is held in the loving embrace of our God who loves us.
Ave Crux, Spes Unica!