Brother Harry Eccles
Brother Harry passed peacefully on March 8, at Nazareth Nursing Home in Louisville, his hometown. He had been a resident there for over a year and endured the hardship of no visitors during COVID-19 restrictions. He kept in touch through letters, emails and even telephone calls until the very end.
Harry joined the Xaverian community after high school at St. Xavier in Louisville in 1945 and lived 76 years incarnating the charism of his beloved congregation, missionary evangelizers. He received the religious name Bernard which he kept until the late 60s when he returned to his baptismal name. He completed his initial formation and university education in 1950, taking the good news of Jesus and proclaiming it with great conviction and integrity, whether in the classrooms of St. John’s Prep in MA, Good Counsel in MD, St. Michael’s, Xaverian or St. Brendan’s in Brooklyn or St. Joseph’s in Bardstown, KY. He was an inspiring English and Religion teacher, a faithful guide on student retreats and a pioneer in the Encounter Movement in Brooklyn. He is well remembered by his alumni as a “special presence” and a “blessing”; as someone who taught from his heart.
One passage from the Brothers’ Fundamental Principles epitomizes Harry’s deepest desires as he moved from the traditional classroom setting in 1979:
“Brother, it is through your life of gospel witness lived in common with your brothers that God desires to manifest his care and compassionate love to those who are separated and estranged, not only from their neighbors, but also from their own uniqueness: to those who suffer from want, neglect and injustice: the poor, the weak, and the oppressed of this world.”
The impact of these words focused the next stage of his life: devotion to the poor and marginalized. Harry became a pioneer in the newly created program of the Diocese of Richmond to host volunteer communities in areas of need in Virginia. For ten years Harry lived with and mentored groups of recent college graduates, volunteering a year of ministry service in rural Virginia.
In 1989, Harry responded to the invitation to begin a ministerial outreach in Haiti. With Bro. John Mahoney, and sometime later Peter Mahoney, Harry moved to Pandyassou, Haiti. He eagerly accepted groups of college graduates from the states who wished to serve the Haitian people under the guidance of the Xaverian Volunteer Program.
When a new orphanage was built in the town of Hinche, Harry relocated to Maison Fortune for the rest of his time in Haiti. In this new setting of over a hundred boys, Harry was the English teacher to the older young men.
Harry shared his English teaching expertise at the Catholic high school in town, as well as at the minor seminary in the countryside. He was the evangelizer par excellence, rejoicing in the good news of Jesus and always used the New Testament as his text.
Always the missionary, each month Harry would travel to Port au Prince to accompany the dozen young men living at the Sant Zaveryen, completing their university studies with the help of the congregation. He once again would help develop community, encourage them in their studies and always hold them accountable to their budgets! Thanks to his faithful service and the generosity of the congregation, Haiti is now gifted with doctors, teachers, accountants and spiritually and socially sensitive citizens whose task is transforming Haiti to a more just and educated country.
Harry joined the Ryken House community in 2014 and enjoyed some years of retirement with many of the Brothers he had served with over the years.
When his health began to fail, he transferred to the Nazareth Home, where he enjoyed the best of attention and partook in the spiritual and social activities offered there. He was the missionary evangelizer to the very end and lived his deepest desire: to be bread that is broken as nourishment for others.
May he rest forever in the arms of his loving God.
Brother Michael McCarthy, CFX
Thanks, Brother Michael McCarthy for preparing this excellent biography of one of my two surviving classmates. I am shocked, saddened getting the news. He will ever be in my prayers. Our other survivor of the class of August 15, 1945, Bob Generelli, is not doing well in Italy. We, along with Charlie Foley supported each other in our declining years. When Harold was still in college at Catholic University, he mustered up a campaign to have Founder, T. J. Ryken venerated by the Church. We treasured the memory of Brothers Kirby, More, Bob Doherty, Jack Wills, John Lesica, Jack Wills, and John O’Brien. George Newitt left the Congregation but remained loyal. I always admired this Liverpudlian for his efforts in Virginia and Haiti.
I met Harry Eccles when I was in the College Seminary (Douglaston, Queens, NY) in 1974. He was my Religious group leader on the Christian Awakening at St. Paul’s Center in Brooklyn. Even though he was teaching full time, he gave up his weekends to evangelize. I was invited back to be a leader, and to my great joy, we were paired together to be group leaders together. This started a sporadic relationship up until right before Covid. I always felt he was an excellent spiritual advisor, friend and an amazing example of the best of what a Xaverian Brother is and should be. Although saddened by Harry’s death, I am sure he is running some group in Heaven and attracting people to build community in heaven. We;; done good and faithful servant. I am grateful to have been able to call you friend.
I knew Brother Harry as Brother Bernard at St X in the mid 1960s. He was a towering figure then thus he influenced many in good ways. He is missed and share the sentiments of those above that he’s getting us organized for our ascent following his.
Class of 1968