Monday, November 28 marked the beginning of Founder's Week at St. John's. This is the time when we put a special focus on the Xaverian Brothers and the remarkable influence they have had on the history of our school. As we often say of the Brothers, "We are blessed to stand on the shoulders of giants."
Each day during morning prayer this week, a graduate of St. John's who now serves on our faculty or staff will share a profile about one of the brothers who dedicated some part of his life and ministry to St. John's. We will add additional profiles throughout the week.
Brother Boniface Mullins, C.F.X.
Paul McNamara, a member of the class of 1969 and Alumni Programs Coordinator at St. John’s, spoke about his former teacher, Brother Boniface Mullins, C.F.X.
Born in Worcester in 1903, Br. Boniface entered the Xaverian Brothers at the age of 18. For the first 47 years of his career, he was assigned to serve in several places all along the East Coast, including Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Kentucky. During that time, he taught at St. John’s Prep in different stints: from 1935 to 1940 and 1962 to 1969. Br. Boniface was accomplished in academia, having studied at Catholic University, Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins, Loyola Maryland, Fordham, St. Francis College, Boston College, and Wesleyan.
Always a student, he was so modest a man that he never boasted of knowledge; he kept his learning much to himself. It was only when somebody would ask him for some obscure information about the life of some saint or of some Civil War general that he called on his vast store of knowledge for the quick and correct answers. Br. Boniface kept notes from his considerable reading, the most satisfying for him being the ones on religious life and religion. In every way he was a teacher, in the classroom and by example. Br. Boniface’s dedication in the classroom carried over into school activities, where he earned a reputation for being the most active fan of all the athletic teams.
After his retirement in 1970, Br. Boniface returned to his favorite school to spend the rest of his life: St. John’s. During these thirty years, our beloved Brother demonstrated his devout relationship with God around campus: praying his rosary beads on daily strolls around campus and in the woods surrounding St. John’s. He believed God is vibrantly alive in the world; through our relationships with one another, nature, prayer, and also in the smallest of actions. Br. Boniface was known to show up to every prayer service and Mass that Campus Ministry would organize and enjoyed the company of all.
In community, he was a man of warmth and welcome. He often took on little jobs that no one else was doing. Only when he went away did the other Brothers realize how many such duties he performed. After a fall and a brief illness, Br. Boniface passed away at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in 2000 at the age of 97.
A beautifully strong encapsulation of the Xaverian value of simplicity, Br. Boniface believed that that each person could do small things with great love. With this spirit, he teaches us the true meaning of “In Harmony, Small Things Grow.”
BROTHER LIONEL, C.F.X.
David Hennessey, a member of the class of 1983 and a social studies teacher at St. John’s, offered this reflection about Brother Lionel Doyle, C.F.X., who served the St. John’s as an English teacher, moderator of the Parent Council, and Director of Admission from 1960 to 1981.
Born in Somerville in 1915, Br. Lionel entered the Xaverian Brothers at age 18. After having served at various in schools in Virginia, Maryland, New York, Kentucky, and Massachusetts over a span of 23 years, he arrived at St. John’s in the fall of 1960. From the very beginning, Br. Lionel experienced the Prep through positions that allowed him to work with students, their families, and especially, prospective students.
An utmost gentleman, he was known to wear french cuffed shirts underneath his Xaverian habit and wanted to exhibit sense of class in all that he did.For many who sought admission to the school, he was the first member of the community whom they met. By the account of many Xaverian Brothers who were his colleague at St. John’s, Br. Lionel took his role as the Director of Admissions very seriously and wanted to ensure that he could provide only the best students to the school. Additionally, he worked tirelessly to ensure that applicants of modest means would have access to scholarships and financial aid.
No matter the financial or family circumstance, Br. Lionel believed that if someone had the potential to succeed at St. John’s, then he should do his part to turn that potential into success. He worked wonders as Director of Admissions up until his retirement in 1981. The last two years of his life were particularly difficult, as he suffered from the complications of diabetes. However, Br. Lionel lived long enough to see his 50th anniversary of being a Xaverian Brother, only weeks before his passing in 1983.
No matter the task or occasion, he approached all he did with great dignity, professionalism, and warmth. Br. Lionel was never hesitant to show his love for St. John’s and made sure that each 8th grader could have the same feelings about our alma mater. Taking to heart the Xaverian value of Trust, he believed he had a God-given duty to ensure that St. John’s enrollment was thriving and opened his heart to each student whom he believed belonged here.
BROTHER MATTHIAS BOUTLIER, C.F.X.
Eric Kimble, class of 1985 and English teacher at the Prep offers this description of the life of Br. Matthias Boutlier, C.F.X., the Xaverian Brother credited with teaching the game of baseball to none other than the Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth.
Born 1872 on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Br. Matthias stood at six foot six, weighed two hundred and fifty pounds, and was a force to be reckoned with. Spending most of his career as a Dean of Students and Assistant Athletic Director at a reform school and orphanage for boys in Baltimore, “Big Matt” [as he was known] commanded the respect of rapscallions and rule followers alike. A firm, but fair, disciplinarian, Br. Matthias was known for using his ultimate passion to reach out to students: baseball. In fact, he often patrolled the hallways and courtyards of the school with a fungo bat in one hand and a glove on the other.
When Brother Matthias was 30 years old, he was introduced to a 7-year old troublemaker named George Herman Ruth whose parents had turned over to the Xaverian Brothers to reform his incorrigible behavior. Using baseball as a hook to relate to young Ruth, Brother Matthias began to morph the youngster from a miscreant to Mr. Baseball. Through his daily practices, academic classes, and conversations with Brother Matthias through the years, the Babe gained a greater understanding of baseball, his faith, and himself.
After Babe Ruth left the school in Baltimore and hit the big leagues, Br. Matthias came to St. John’s in 1935 until his death in 1944. During that time, Babe would often visit him on campus whenever he was in town. Though his reputation at St. John’s was much quieter than his time in Baltimore, Br. Matthias inspired his fellow Brothers in Danvers with his patience, ability to listen, and willingness to engage with students that struggled. A reporter once asked Babe’s daughter why Br. Matthias had such an impact on her father. She replied, “When Babe was twenty three years old, the whole world loved him. When he was thirteen years old, only Brother Matthias loved him.”
In closing, Brother Matthias epitomized the Xaverian value of Compassion. Taking the time to show kindness and care to someone who had never known it before, he made a difference in the life of countless young boys, including one who would go on to be one of the most famous athletes in American sports history.
BROTHER AUBERT DOWNEY, C.F.X.
Michael Orlando, Ed.D., chair of the World Languages Department and a member of the Class of 2002, spoke about Brother Aubert Downey, C.F.X.. Brother Aubert graduated from St. John's in 1909 and became our fifth Headmaster.
Born in South Boston and raised in Somerville, Br. Aubert is the second alumnus to serve as Headmaster of St. John’s. Entering the school in 1903, when it was a junior seminary for boys looking to become Xaverian Brothers, he would later teach for ten years at St. John’s from 1915 until 1925. After leaving to serve elsewhere for the next eight years, he was called back to lead his beloved alma mater as Headmaster in 1934.
Returning to Danvers, Brother Aubert was given a daunting challenge for anyone in his position: steering a young school through the heart of the Great Depression. The moment he arrived on campus, Brother Aubert made it known that he would not let the struggles of the times extinguish the flame of the school’s existence, nor would he let economic shortcomings prevent St. John’s from fulfilling its mission to its students. During this time, he rallied the boys of St. John’s to keep a strong and positive attitude through several difficult years in the nation’s history and reinforced the importance of being young men who possessed, and I quote, “cultured manhood, increased intellectual awareness, and religious devotion.”
Because of Brother Aubert’s tireless work and effort to keep the school not only afloat, but as a beacon of hope and strength in a dark time, the Xaverian Brothers’ leadership gave St. John’s an extraordinary tribute in 1939 during the centennial celebration of the order’s first 100 years of existence, saying “Comparatively speaking, St. John’s is one of the more recent of the major foundations of the Xaverian Brothers. But in point of size and in value of investment, it ranks with [the best of our schools in Belgium, England, and the United States.]”
After the Great Depression ended, Brother Aubert departed his alma mater to work in other schools and ministries, particularly as a Xaverian Brothers historian. Though he stood a mere five feet tall, he was considered a giant by most who knew him in his 72 years as a Xaverian Brother.
Embodying the Xaverian value of zeal, Br. Aubert never gave up on keeping St. John’s alive and allowing students to flourish into young men of confidence, intellect, and faith. Today, we continue Bother. Aubert’s zeal of striving to be a community of hope in the midst of challenging times. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and Xaverian Brothers – we all have the power to make a difference for our school and beyond.
BROTHER EUCHERIUS CUMMINGS, C.F.X.
John Munro, a member of the class of 2002 and a English teacher at St. John’s, read this about Brother Eucherius Cummings, C.F.X.
Today, I will be sharing about Br. Eucherius Cummings, C.F.X., one of the founding Brothers of St. John’s Prep and who served for many years as a member of the facilities team and support staff.
Born on June 21, 1889, in Barre Plains, Massachusetts, Br. Eucherius led an average and ordinary New England life with his parents. However, at age sixteen, with the desire to find meaning and purpose in his life, he made the resolution to serve God as a Xaverian Brother. Despite his strong sense of duty and personal drive, Br. Eucherius lacked the educational background and training to be a teacher. As a result, he was initially designated to start his religious life as a tailor, particularly for the community of Brothers with whom he lived. While being an outstanding worker of cloth and stitch, it was soon discovered by his fellow Brothers that he was a skilled carpenter and painter. It was in woodwork that Br. Eucherius found meaning and purpose.
His reputation as a first-class carpenter blossomed from the very start. As the Congregation of St. Francis Xavier wanted to send their best to start St. John’s Prep in 1907, an 18 year old Br. Eucherius was sent as one of the founding Brothers to lay the foundation of the school we know today. Every day of his ministry, he began his day’s work promptly at nine each morning and concluding exactly at four in the afternoon. He insisted on using only the best materials and would work meticulously to produce nothing less than professional craftsmanship for St. John’s. Additionally, he served the community by driving cars for members of the school community and service trucks around campus for repairs and maintenance. As a way to interact more with the student body, Br. Eucherius became a licensed motion picture operator and often played Saturday night movies for the boarding students.
Though he came across as gruff and serious, he was said to be very kind and appreciative of both colleagues and students alike. Serving our school as both his first and last assignment, our beloved Brother spent 31 years serving St. John’s before going home to God in 1964. Though he is gone from sight on our campus, his example and inspiration lives on in the hard work of the men and women who serve our school in the Facilities Department that continues to upkeep the renowned and impeccable standard of our grounds. From his time as a young man discerning his call from God to establishing himself as a cornerstone of our school in the early days, Br. Eucherius exemplified the Xaverian value of Humility; serving God the way in which he could for the betterment of our first students and Xaverian Brothers.