Brother Charles Cully, C.F.X.
Brother, you have responded to the invitation
Come follow me.
In the gospel reading for Monday, January 11, we read about Jesus’ invitation to Simon and Andrew and then to James and John to ‘come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ (Mk 1:14-20) Little did we know Monday morning that we would be recalling how Charlie responded to the call to follow Jesus. His unexpected death from a heart attack shocked us. While we naturally grieve Charlie’s passing, our faith tells us to celebrate his life and the quiet influence he had on so many people.
Jesus’ call to the first followers was quite abrupt. He sought a quick response. The four men responded spontaneously and immediately. Charlie responded to the same invitation from Jesus. However, both the invitation and his response would be more gradual.
In 1950, Charlie met the Xaverian Brothers for the first time as a student at Saint Teresa’s Elementary School in Brooklyn. Jesus’ call to follow Him would become clearer as a high schooler. Charlie was in the first class at the newly opened Xaverian High School (1957). His experience of the talent, enthusiasm and energy of the Brothers as well as their complete dedication to the students would impact Charlie. The Brothers assigned to open the school were outstanding individuals. They would greatly influence Charlie’s call to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as a Xaverian. Charlie, along with eleven of this classmates, would enter Sacred Heart Novitiate in Leonardtown, Maryland, on July 8, 1961.
On September 8, 1961, Charlie received the habit of the Xaverian Brothers. He was to be known in religious life as ‘Brother Hugh.’ He was, however, to be affectionately known by his classmates as, ‘Hughie Bear.’ Charlie made his first profession on September 8, 1963.
Upon completing the novitiate, Charlie earned his BA in Physics from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His first mission was Saint Joseph Preparatory School in Bardstown, Kentucky where he taught physics and math. St. Joe Prep, closed in June, 1968. The school was founded in 1819 by Bishop Flaget and served a number of educational purposes until the Xaverians were asked to take it over in 1911.
Charlie would remain in Kentucky until 1997. He was assigned to Flaget Memorial High School from 1968 to 1974 when the school closed. From 1974 through 1997 Charlie continued to teach physics and math at Trinity High School. He also coached soccer and track. In his time at Trinity, Charlie was involved with the student retreat program. In 1997, he moved to Baltimore and started teaching and coaching at Mount Saint Joseph High School. In recent years he worked as an assistant in the Athletic Department.
Charles Cully was born in Brooklyn on April 26, 1944, to Peter and Katherine (O’Donnell) Cully. Both his parents were from Ireland. He is the youngest of three sons. His oldest brother, Peter, died in 1995 from cancer. Charlie is survived by Brother Tom Cully, CFX (Brother Russell) who entered the Congregation in 1956.
In talking about our mission to bring about the Kingdom of God as followers of Jesus, Desmond Tutu gives practical yet inspirational advice when he says,
Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits
of good put together that overwhelms the world.
Charlie did a lot of ‘little bits of good wherever he was.’ He shared his personal gifts. He was humble and unassuming. He was also a very bright individual; a voracious reader who was interested in both science and literature. Charlie was a quiet and simple man. He didn’t need titles, position or prestige. He was content with ‘the common, ordinary and unspectacular.’ Nothing seemed to upset him. One of his signatures was his frequent whistling or humming a tune. Kids readily picked up on this habit. Charlie lived in the ‘now.’ As a result, he was present to others. Former students at Trinity High School and at Mount Saint Joe’s paid touching tributes to Charlie on Facebook and Twitter. It is worth noting a few.
“The news is heart breaking. I always called him ‘Brudda Chuck.’ He was a fun teacher and a great retreat leader. Peaceful rest to him” said Pat Chandler, THS.
“Good man. Never gave up on me even when I was less than deserving of his dedication. Great geometry teacher. I loved that Irish accent. RIP Brother Charles. And Jump up to heaven!” shared David Reid, THS.
“Charlie coached pole vault! Brother helped me overcome every obstacle I had in track. Without a doubt he is the best coach I ever had,” said Dallas Ector, MSJ.
“He was a humble guy” mentioned John Davis, MSJ.
“He helped athletes from all schools… and his iconic hat, clipboard and stool went with us at the pole vault pit in this coming season,” said Kyle Reagan, MSJ.
“When I heard the news, I was devastated. He was a man with a heart of gold, who wore it on his sleeve and had a fantastically dry sense of humor to boot,” said Kevin Abdo, MSJ.
Not one to emote, yet deeply emotional, Charlie’s life was marked by two loves. Love of his family and love of the Xaverian Brothers. His love of family, of course, included the family members who remain in Donegal. Charlie’s Irish heritage had a strong influence on him. In Donegal, time stands still. Friendliness and hospitality are central to their way of life. The unique love of the clan runs deep in the culture. Charlie enjoyed his many visits ‘home’ to Ireland. Not surprisingly he became the major researcher on the history of his mother’s clan, the O’Donnell’s.
Charlie’s love of the Brothers was most evident when he was appointed as a pastoral coordinator in Maryland in the former Central Province. In our Fundamental Principles we read…
Cultivate a sincere friendship and a warm affection for your brothers,
For it is in the manifestation of onset fraternal concern and love for each other
That you and they will show you are sons of Ryken and disciples of Jesus.
Charlie’s compassion, care and dedication to our elderly Brothers was always evident in the many ‘little bits of good’ he did for them. His affection for his Brothers started 71 years ago at Saint Teresa’s. Charlie would do things for the Brothers without drawing attention to himself. Often at meetings Charlie used to lament our not having assemblies or large meetings as we once were able to have. His lament did not come from nostalgia as much as from his desire for fraternity. In his own unique and quiet way Charlie shows us what it means to be a son of Ryken and a disciple of Jesus.
As we prepare to lay Charlie to rest, let us give thanks for the little bits of good he did for so many of us. May Charlie enjoy the peace Christ promises us. May Charlie’s example inspire us to put our little bits of good together as a Congregation in order to overwhelm our world with the compassion, simplicity and goodness it sorely needs.
We extend our prayers and support to Charlie’s brother, Tom, to members of his family, his relatives in Ireland, and to his many friends. May we learn from him.
Brother Edward Driscoll, CFX