Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bro. Kevin Connolly, SDB (1937-2016)

Brother Kevin Connolly, SDB

Bro. Kevin Peter Connolly died unexpectedly at the Salesian provincial residence in New Rochelle on May 29. He hadn’t been feeling well for two days, keeping to his room. When a confrere went to check on him after Mass on Sunday morning, he was found dead on the floor, where he had apparently collapsed during the night.

Bro. Kevin at his 50th anniversary celebration in 2006.
Bro. Kevin was born in Brooklyn on January 29, 1937, the son of Peter and Mary Connolly. They belonged to St. Teresa’s Church, where Kevin was baptized in February and later confirmed. Stating that he wanted “to work with boys [and] save my soul,” in 1951he applied to enter the Salesians as an aspirant for the brotherhood. The assistant pastor, Rev. A.J. Dallinger, testified that Kevin was sincere, pious, and of good character. He enrolled that September at Don Bosco Technical High School in Paterson, N.J., to train as a brother.

Rated “good and reliable” by his superiors, Kevin went on the novitiate in Newton, N.J., in September 1955, with Fr. Aloysius Bianchi as master of novices, and made his first profession on September 8, 1956. Again he affirmed his wish to work with boys and save his own soul, adding “and those of others.” His classmates included the future Frs. Harold Danielson, Joseph Doran, Kenneth Germaine, and Thomas Juarez and Bro. Bernard Zdanowicz.

Immediately after pronouncing his vows, Bro. Kevin was assigned to Don Bosco Tech in Paterson to teach printing and to coach. From 1959 to 1962 he fulfilled similar responsibilities at Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa. He was sent to Don Bosco Juniorate in Haverstraw, N.Y., in 1962 to help train candidates for the brotherhood; he continued to teach printing and coach and was also athletic director.

A former Haverstraw aspirant, Jerry Stecker, writes: “I knew Kevin from my years at Haverstraw in the print shop and the basketball court, where he was my coach. He could run a printing press!! His goal was always to beat Goshen [an SDB seminary for high school boys considering the priesthood]! He was a great Salesian and a wonderful role model for us kids.”

In 1965 Bro. Kevin returned to Tampa for a 16-year stint as athletic director and coach, print shop manager, and teacher; he was also president of the West Coast Athletic League for a time. In 1981 he was assigned to Don Bosco Technical High School in Boston, where he served as athletic director of a large and highly competitive program for four years; he was also an official in the Boston Catholic athletic program. That was followed by four years in East Boston on the staff of the Salesian Boys and Girls Club while taking courses at Boston and Emmanuel colleges.

At this point Bro. Kevin was undergoing a change in ministerial perspective, becoming very interested in counseling after seeing the tremendous problems young people were having with various addictions. He was granted a diploma as an advanced clinical pastoral chaplain by Andover Newton Theological School in 1989, took summer courses at Rutgers, and in 1989-1990 worked as a clinical pastoral counselor and chaplain at Boston City Hospital and a counselor at the Detention Home for Boys in Boston. Pursuing further training in counseling, in a letter to the provincial in January 1990 he expressed the hope of living “a more personal and  deeper spiritual life.” Later that year he completed a certificate program in alcohol counseling of Boston College’s Graduate School of Social Work.

Recognizing the need for trained counselors, the province allowed Bro. Kevin to enroll in Hazelden in Center City, Minn., in 1990; he was graduated in 1991 as a clinical pastoral counselor. He spent a year in Florida practicing his counseling and chaplaincy skills in a chemical dependency program, then took his skills in the fall of 1991 to Salesian High School in New Rochelle, N.Y., where he was a member of the guidance department for nine years. In that period he was also a lecturer and preacher at Matt Talbot adult retreats and various 12-step programs and worked with both men and women on issues of alcohol dependency, including spiritual support. He earned a B.S. in pastoral ministry and chemical dependency at Iona College (New Rochelle) in 2000.

From 2000 to 2002 he served on the guidance staff at Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, N.J. From 2002 to 2008 he was treasurer and member of the formation team at the Salesian house of formation in Orange, N.J. In 2008 he returned yet again to Tampa as coordinator of the Salesians’ retirement home, the St. Philip the Apostle Residence, remaining until he retired himself in 2014, in somewhat poor health, and came to the provincial residence. In New Rochelle he occasionally helped with the fundraising work of Salesian Missions, where his cheerful presence was appreciated.

Bro. Kevin at work at Salesian Missions. Photo by Fr. Mark Hyde.
Bro. Kevin is survived by his brothers Vincent and Thomas and numerous nephews and nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces—all of whom he was very proud of.

Throughout his Salesian life Bro. Kevin exemplified the hard work and piety of the Salesian brother. He maintained a lively curiosity, often starting breakfast by addressing one of his tablemates with “I have a question” about some theological or liturgical matter. His good nature and cheerfulness endeared him to everyone. Suffering from various physical ailments in his final years, he bore them patiently, lamenting only that he couldn’t contribute more to the community’s life and ministry.

Former Salesian Bob Heilmann offers this remembrance of Bro. Kevin: “I had the good fortune to spend my first year [of practical training] at MHC with him. He took care of the print shop, athletics, and us lowly clerics. When I left the Salesians from Boston and moved back to Tampa,  Kevin went out of his way to make sure I was OK fiscally. I would ref at MHC and he made sure that I would eat supper with the confreres. He would get other schools to use me as a referee and he made sure I got paid in cash. He never forgot that we were spiritual brothers in good times and bad—and he liked a good time.”

Another former Salesian, Jack Hudak, praises Bro. Kevin as “a great Salesian. Had my first contact with him as a camper in West Haverstraw and as a freshman at the juniorate.  A man of few words but he made his presence known when needed.”

Bro. Kevin will be waked in the chapel of Salesian High School in New Rochelle on Thursday, June 2, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. and 7:00-9:00 p.m. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in the chapel at 10:00 a.m. on June 3 with the vice provincial, Fr. Tim Zak, presiding and Fr. John Serio, director of Salesian High, preaching.  Bro. Kevin will be interred in the Salesian Cemetery in Goshen on Friday afternoon.

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