Hundreds filled St. Joseph Memorial Chapel this morning for the funeral Mass of Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J. ’49, who led Holy Cross through unprecedented growth and transition during his nearly quarter century tenure as president. Following the service, he was laid to rest at the Jesuit cemetery on the campus.
Fr. Brooks served as president from 1970 to 1994. The highlights of his career included recruiting African-American students in the late 1960s, and transitioning Holy Cross to coeducation in 1972.
Alumni from those two groups, who had lasting relationships with Fr. Brooks, served as honorary pallbearers. The African-American men included Stanley Grayson ’72, Eddie Jenkins ’72, Dhfir Jihad ’73, Malcolm Joseph ’71, Arthur Martin ’70, Walter Roy ’72, and Theodore Wells ’72. The women included Kristyn Dyer ’94, Ruth Ann Elias ’76, Ellen Keohane ’83, and Bernadette Semple ’82.
Fr. Brooks died July 2 at UMass Memorial Hospital — University Campus in Worcester, at the age of 88, after complications from lymphoma.
The Mass was concelebrated by Rev. Philip Boroughs, current president; Rev. John D. Savard, rector of the Jesuit community at Holy Cross; and Rev. Myles N. Sheehan, the provincial of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus.
Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus, retired Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, and retired Auxiliary Bishop George E. Rueger presided at the Mass.
Clergymen, members of the Holy Cross community, and dignitaries, including U.S. Rep James P. McGovern and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, were among the mourners.
In his homily, Rev. Earle L. Markey S.J. ’53, associate director of Admissions, recounted the many initiatives Fr. Brooks undertook in making Holy Cross a nationally-renowned liberal arts college: recruiting an excellent faculty and bright students, adding new buildings, introducing new academic programs, helping create the Patriot League, and building the endowment — all while staying true to the College’s Catholic roots.
“In the midst of great change, John always confirmed that the College remains a Catholic college,” he said. “He never wavered from his view that the College of the Holy Cross served the Church as an instrument of intellectual competence, where the Church met the world and world met the church. It was a place where faith and reason could meet and be reconciled each to the other.”
P. Kevin Condron ’67, chair of the board of trustees, said that when writing his eulogy, he had difficulty coming up with words to capture the uniqueness that was Fr. Brooks.
“His influence and impact were so extraordinary that the very campus we gather at today, his beloved Holy Cross, stands as a eulogy to the man himself,” he said.
Fr. Boroughs said that Fr. Brooks became “not just the president but the personality of Holy Cross.”
“His commitment to academic excellence, to diversity and inclusion, to a measured approach to athletics, to the professional development of the faculty, to critically-engaged theology and to our Catholic and Jesuit identity has become the imprint of all that we do today,” he said.
Photography by Rob Carlin
Fr.Brooks’ wisdom, foresight, and dedication, moved Holy Cross to the forefront of liberal arts colleges while maintaining its Catholic tradition, a truly remarkable achievement.
I studied Theology with Father Brooks in Beaven Hall, where my father studied Biology in 1927. Evidently, it was a lab back then.
Brooks never discussed a “supreme being” or anything superstitious. He said the Catholic Church is controlled by the Roman Curia. That is where the policies come from that control the Catholic Church. M
Digesting the words delivered at his funeral, I am struck by the mark Fr. Brooks has left on Holy Cross, one filled with wisdom, humor, dedication and devotion. Clearly a brilliant man, so committed to excellence not only for the institution, but for each of us who knew him. His legacy is secure in the College and in all of us.
Fr Brooks and Fr. Miller came to three alumni gatherings in Columbus, Ohio. His reviews of the status of the College were complete and enlightening. Sitting next to him he shared with me humor about the focus and dedication of Fr. Joseph F. Busam SJ, the pre-med director; and the building of the pipe organ. I am still very moved by his “Body of Christ, Tom” at the reception of the Eucharist at the Mass of the Holy Spirit beginning the academic year of 1984. RIP