Brother John M. Collins, C.F.X. (Brother Mark)
The mystery of one man is too great and too profound to be
explained by another man.
The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen
Mystery often describes religious life. The mystery of God’s call. The mystery of attraction. The mystery of responding to the call. The mystery of living the call. The mystery of one’s spiritual growth. The mystery of communion with God. Henri Nouwen notes just how difficult it is to pay tribute to the mystery of another’s life once they have passed.
Brother John Collins responded to the mystery of God’s call “to live a life of love and trust” as a Xaverian Brother sixty years ago. The mystery of that call is now complete. The mystery of John’s recent illness and suffering is over. His mission complete. His influence, however, continues in the many lives he touched as a catechist, formator, spiritual director, Brother and friend. Brother John passed away peacefully on February 7, 2020.
John M. Collins was born in Somerville, Massachusetts on June 16, 1936 to Frank and Mary (nee Doyle) Collins. His only brother, Robert, predeceased him. John is survived by his fellow Xaverians, by his sister-in-law Judy and his nieces, as well as by Dian Shucard, with whom he shared the Community of the Way.
John first met the Xaverian Brothers in the person of his uncle, Brother Lionel Doyle. The impact of the Brothers at Saint Joseph Grammar School in Somerville no doubt influenced his decision to become a Brother. Upon graduating from Matignon High School in Cambridge, MA, John first joined the Xaverian Brothers at Old Point Comfort, Virginia. He withdrew from the novitiate and enrolled at Boston College where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in History and Government in 1957. John taught in the Somerville Public Schools before responding to the mystery of God’s call and rejoining the Xaverian Brothers. On July 8, 1960, John entered Sacred Heart Novitiate, Leonardtown, MD, where he received the Xaverian habit and religious name Brother Mark on September 8, 1960. This year John would have celebrated his Sixtieth Anniversary as a Xaverian Brother.
John professed first vows on September 8, 1962. Already having a degree, John was sent to Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx directly from novitiate. While at Cardinal Hayes, John studied theology at Fordham University. He would spend seven years (1963-1970) as a founding faculty member at Xavier High School in Middletown, Connecticut doing campus ministry and teaching religion. In 1968, John earned his MA in theology from the Catholic University of America. In 1970, John joined an experimental community of Brothers who as a team provided religious education in Flushing, Queens. He would return to Xavier to teach from 1971-1974.
From 1974 to 1980, John served as Director of Formation and novicemaster in Newton Highlands and at Xavier Center in Danvers.
The mystery of our “following Christ, the poor man,” is a quest for communion with the God of love, the source of compassionate love that we are called to share with “all whom we meet on this journey of life.” John’s quest for communion with God led him to spend significant time living among the Trappists at the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. It was here that he would come to know and befriend Henri Nouwen, the priest and spiritual author. This experience also deepened John’s sense of the contemplative dimension of Theodore James Ryken’s vision for the Xaverian Brothers. It would also be influential when John was invited along with Brothers Roger Demon (Belgium), Bernard Philpott (England), and Peter Fitzpatrick (USA) to be on the Commission on the Xaverian Constitutions that succeeded in writing our present Fundamental Principles. John was one of the principal composers.
Having come to some insight into the contemplative dimension of our life, John received permission to experiment with developing the Community of the Way, an effort to deepen the contemplative and international missionary dimensions of Ryken’s vision. It was here that he would meet Dian Shucard, with whom he lived in community for many years. For some of those years the Community of the Way cared for two autistic young men in Connecticut. John also served as a spiritual director in the Community Formation Program in Providence, RI as well as in Adams, MA.
Since 2001, the Congregation had called on John frequently to serve our Congolese and Kenyan Brothers in the initial formation programs in Nairobi, Bungoma, Lubumbashi and Kipushi.
God blessed John with the love of theology and faith formation, with an avid interest in the history of the Congregation and in the life and charism of our Founder, and with deep commitment to the integrity of religious life. John was blessed with generosity that impelled him to help others to respond to their calls to follow Christ. He was blessed with an understanding of the need to integrate contemplation with mission and ministry. These spiritual practices matured over the past sixty years.
We express our gratitude to John’s life-long friend, Dian, to the Brothers at Xaverian House who have accompanied John in recent years, and to John for helping us to understand the mystery of our call as members of the Xaverian family.
May John experience the peace that comes from communion with God.
May he Rest In Peace
Brother Edward Driscoll, CFX