Brother Philip G. White, CFX
1925 – 2019
Brother Philip White, died early on the morning of October 15, 2019 at Xaverian House. His funeral will be on Monday, October 21, at 3 PM in the St. John’s Prep School Chapel. The wake will begin at 2 PM. There will be a supper provided at Xaverian House after the Mass.
At the age of ninety-four, Brother Philip White was the “Dean” of our Congregation. The oldest Xaverian Brother alive. The word “alive” best describes Brother Philip’s stance toward life, toward the students he taught and their families and toward his Brothers in community. Phil was born in Boston on March 21, 1925 to Mary and Harry White. He was one of six children. His two sisters and two brothers have pre-deceased him. Phil grew up in Quincy. He met the Xaverian Brothers as a student at Mission Church High School in Roxbury.
Phil’s gregarious personality, his natural enthusiasm for life, his energy and zeal for work were dispositions that served him well as a Xaverian Brother. In 1943 Phil entered Sacred Heart Novitiate in Virginia. He received the Xaverian habit and religious name “Brother Claver” on August 15, 1943. Two years later, on the same date, Phil would promise to the Church and the world to follow Christ by professing the vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience.
Phil’s was, indeed, a full life. He was faithful to his call as a Xaverian Brother for seventy-six years. Phil showed great generosity when his university studies had to be interrupted in order to help staff Saint Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore, Maryland. At that time Saint Mary’s was a difficult assignment. Most of the residents of the home were there because of court orders. Some were troubled youth. As challenging as it was, Phil always spoke of his time at Saint Mary’s with his characteristic zeal. He served at Saint Mary’s until it closed in 1950. Saint Mary’s dates back to 1866 when our Congregation was just establishing itself in America. Saint Mary’s was the response of Archbishop M. J. Spalding to orphans of poor Irish and German immigrants who were often victims of the ugly discrimination brought about by nativism.
Phil continued his studies and earned his BS degree from Loyola College in Baltimore, MD and his Masters from Boston College. He would also do graduate studies at Columbia University and Fordham in New York City as well as Mohawk Community College in Utica and Keene State College in New Hampshire. His teaching assignments includes Flaget in Louisville, St. Francis De Sales in Utica, Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx, and Saint John’s Prep and Malden Catholic in Massachusetts.
I met Phil for the first time in 2001 when the Brothers from Xaverian House spent a year at Ryken House in Louisville while their residence was being renovated. Phil animated the community in Louisville with his stories, his enthusiasm and his willingness to roll up his sleeves and make community work. Phil would service the fleet of cars and make sure they were clean. He helped with the dishes. He also helped Brothers who could no longer help themselves. No task was too menial for Phil.
Two things impressed me about Phil and still do: Phil’s ability to fit in and be at home in community and Phil’s enduring relationships with the Flaget alumni. He was like a magnet who attracted men he had taught forty-three years earlier. Phil was no stranger to his former students nor they to him. Phil was very approachable, very human. He was always appreciative of the Flaget alumni’s kindness to him. He would spend hours making and painting wooden cutouts as a token of thanks.
Phil leaves us with wonderful lessons about how to embrace life with joy. In life he gave us the secret of how we can “be formed by God through the common, ordinary and unspectacular flow of everyday life” (Fundamental Principles). His secret is simple: Do everything with zeal, enthusiasm and unshaken confidence that God is with you in everything. We thank our Brother Phil for the positive influence he has had on us. May Phil enjoy with zeal and enthusiasm the peace that Christ promises all who set out to do the Father’s will. May he and the souls of all the faithful Rest In Peace.