In Memoriam: 
Brother Brian Vetter, C.F.X. (Brother Roger)
1943-2023

At times you will discover that God’s ways are not your ways,

And God’s thoughts are not your thoughts.

When this happens try to surrender yourself trustingly into 

The arms of your Father who knows you, understands you

And loves you. 

(Fundamental Principles)

Brother Brian entered eternal life very peacefully on the morning of Jan. 14.  For the final time, Brian surrendered himself ‘trustingly into the arms of the Father’ in whose love Brian has grown as a Xaverian Brother. In death as in life, Brian exemplifies the essence of our Xaverian spirituality.  

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Brian was born on July 4, 1943 to Bernadette and Stewart Vetter.  He is survived by his two sisters, Suzanne and Sherry, and his brother, Blaine.  The love and affection Brian had for his family was clear to all.  Graduating from Saint Xavier High School in 1961, he  began his college studies at Bellarmine. In 1964 Brian would respond to God’s call to follow Christ as a Xaverian Brother. He entered Sacred Heart Novitiate in Leonardtown, Maryland and on September 8th received the Xaverian habit and religious name ‘Brother Roger’.  

After finishing his degree at the University of Maryland, Brian taught at both Holy Cross and Holy Name elementary schools in Brooklyn. His ministry would then take him from Brooklyn to Baltimore. Brian would spend the next twenty-three years at Mount Saint Joseph High School as a most effective teacher, track coach, counselor and Dean of Students. Brian earned his Master’s Degree at Loyola, Baltimore. 

In 1993 Brian responded again to God’s call, this time to join our mission in Bolivia. He would spend twenty-five years in Bolivia, first at the Colegio San Francisco Xavier in Carmen Pampa, then at la Escuela de Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Chinguri and finally at la Casa Nazaret, an orphanage in Cochabamba. Upon returning to the United States, Brian asked permission to join those ministering to refugees at the boarder in El Paso. When he returned to Louisville, he offered to help his brother-in-law care for his sister, Sherry, who needs full time attention.  

This list of the ministries and places do not reveal the genuine gift that Brian was and is to the Congregation, to his family and friends and to many young people. Brian most humbly and simply ministered ‘God’s healing touch of love to all whom he met’ (FP) throughout his journey as a Xaverian.   

The following quote from our Fundamental Principles, I believe, captures Brian’s spirit. 

Brother, it is the communion with the living God which is at the heart of 

your life as a son of the Father, disciple of Jesus, witness of the  

Holy Spirit, quickened member of His Body and brother to the  

world.  (FP) 

Brian was ‘brother to many.’ Quiet, humble and reflective by disposition, it is no surprise that Brian understood that communion with God needed to be at the heart of his call as a Xaverian. He truly desired to integrate his experience of community and ministry through his daily commitment to contemplative prayer. On occasion, Brian would talk about that desire. His understanding of the exhortation in our Fundamental Principles ‘to spend time each day in solitude and prayer’ was clear and firm.  

Brian’s quest for communion with the living God was apparent to those who lived with him. As I was reflecting about Brian, a striking image came to mind. I found myself back in the Brothers’ house in Chinguri. Our rooms were across from each other. Since we taught in the afternoons, our mornings were free. Brian’s door would be closed for a couple of hours. This was sacred time for him. He spent it in prayer and reading. We all knew that. Occasionally he would share what he was reading or thinking or praying about. 

Brian’s prayer life flowed into his relationships and ministries. While at Carmen Pampa I asked Brian to take charge of a new dorm for about twenty middle schoolers. At times, they were a real handful. Ardillas (squirrels)!  During a visit to Carmen Pampa, Michael McCarthy visited the dorm. He saw that Brian had created community with these kids. They trusted him. He never raised his voice when correcting them. He was always calm and present to them. They ended each night forming a circle in the middle of the dorm for night prayer. As Michael shared with Brian, ‘No one else in the Congregation could do what you are doing.’ It is so true!  And not just true in Bolivia. No one else could do what Brian did — whether with young people in Brooklyn or in Baltimore or with refugees at the boarder.  

Those who knew him well quickly point out that he never drew attention to himself. He never had to be the center of attention. Brian embodied simplicity. He had very few needs. Brian was comfortable just being ‘Brian’. He could connect with young people others had struggled with. Brian was a gifted listener. His empathy and compassion for what others were going through made a real difference in so many lives.  

Men presently in their fifties or sixties whom Brian coached in track at the Mount in Baltimore were deeply saddened by the news of his stroke. One, in fact, drove to Louisville to be with him after his stroke. A classmate from St. X and lifelong friend, Paul Seadler, shared that ‘Brian is one of the few people you could talk to and be on the same wavelength. He understands what it means to be human as well as any person I have ever known.’ 

Brian’s spirituality led him most naturally to those in need of ‘God’s healing touch of love.’ (FP)  He was especially collaborative in mission, especially with communities committed to advancing peace and justice. Brian found the support needed to live Jesus’ mission in these communities—be it his own Xaverian community, or the community of the Precious Blood Sisters at Casa Nazaret, or the ecumenical prayer group in Cochabamba. In his quiet way Brian influenced so many people. He made lifelong friends. Precious Blood Sisters Joyce and Mary Catherine from Missouri, Father Theo from Holland.  A family from Germany that had been missionaries in Bolivia sent Michael McCarthy a copy of a very touching letter they had sent to Brian upon news of his stroke.  His German friend Ardell writes:  

I am crying as I write you this note: out of so much gratitude and so much awe that God has blessed us beyond words with the fact that we have shared a major part of our life journey with you.  These times were beyond challenging, filled with so much suffering and so much joy all the while being so very sweet.  Thank you for being our friend and brother in the midst of it all. Our family loves you so much, Brian.   

Be at peace, my love.  We’ll see you again.  

Ardell 

Today we offer a prayer of gratitude for the life Brian shared with us. Confident that Brian is enjoying the peace Christ promises us, we celebrate the wonderful example he gives us on how to live our Xaverian spirituality and charism until the end.  

The gift you have received, give as a gift. (FP) 

Gracias, Hermano Brian. 


23 comments on “Brother Brian Vetter, C.F.X.

  1. Neil Hall on

    I knew him as an extraordinary young man. A quiet leader. Reading his history, I was not surprised to see the impact he had on so many for so long. May he rest in peace.

    Reply
  2. John Avara MSJ ‘84 on

    In my 4 years at the Mount he was the Dean ofme at MSJ. I am sad that I will never get to tell him what affect he had on me and the care he showed me in a very troubling time in my life was without a doubt, a true gift to me. In a way he saved my life. There very few men like Br Brian in the world and I try to find peace in the fact that upon he’s passing he heard the words that we all hope to hear, “Well done my faithful servant..”. Rest in the peace of our heavenly Fathers kingdom my friend; it is well deserved.

    Reply
  3. DAVE BORAKS on

    Dear Ed,

    Many thanks for your sketch of Brian Vetter. As I recall, I met him only once. One summer in the 1980’s I had traveled from Mission Hills for a visit to the East Coast and stopped at the Mount. I bumped into Brian as I got out of the car. I had never met him before, and so we introduced ourselves and just chatted briefly. I regret not having the opportunity to get to know him. Like his German friend, I look forward to seeing him again.

    I will pray that God reward him with eternal life and joy.

    Dave Boraks (the former Lucius, Class of 1957)

    Reply
    • Charlie Conaghan on

      Brian entered Xaverian novitiate a year after me. It was my privilege to get to know him in the ’60’s and meet him again in Louisville in recent years when I would be visiting my brother Dan. An outstanding Brother in so many ways.

      Reply
  4. Paul Woolley on

    Oh my! What a shock to see your picture when I did my weekly check of the CFX website. I am so sorry to hear of your death, Brian. I remember you fondly from my days at Mt.St. Joseph. We lived in community together in that ramshackle house on Edmondson in Baltimore. those were good years. It was you who persuaded me to join the team of coaches for the track team. I never played organized sports in my life and knew nothing about track. You encouraged me, handed me a coaching manual and showed me to the “field “ sports area – where I coached shot-put, discus, high jump and pole vault. I grew to love it. I have nothing but fond memories of those good days, Brian. even if years ago. You will be missed.

    Reply
    • Thomas William Kohlhepp on

      Brother Paul,

      You were my coach in the shot put and discus. While never particularly accomplished in either, I developed a true passion for the events. Learning all that I could from whom ever I could, including you. I went on to become a track and field coach myself specializing in all the throwing events. It was Brother Brian in fact that gave me my first coaching job at St Joe back in 1982. I went from there to Towson St to Brown University to Syracuse University. I had the honor of coaching several All-Americans, Olympians and US National record holder. All from the interest I developed when you were my coach.

      Reply
  5. Tim Keogh on

    Brother Brian was a quiet yet imposing figure while I was there 1980-84. A man small in stature yet gigantic in presence and effect. Acts 24:15 provides a promise that we all share.

    Reply
  6. Hal Sparks on

    My best friend at the Mount! We both had the same birthday July 4..we celebrated the day together numerous times..You stepped up to coach the JV wrestling team with Scott Moyer..you helped develop the wrestling program foundation to what it is today..I will miss you

    Reply
  7. Joe Matysek on

    Brother Brian was such a positive example of what a Catholic man should be. He was humble and caring. I am glad to have been taught by him. RIP sir.

    Joe Matysek
    MSJ 1971-1974

    Reply
  8. Bob Lindsey on

    I was very fortunate to have been able to spend 9 years at Mt. St. Joe with Brian living in community, teaching and coaching the track and field team. He was a very humble and unassuming man who had a great passion for assisting others in any way he could. There is no doubt in my mind that he is now enjoying his eternal reward, and I thank God for sharing Brian with us.

    Reply
    • Charlie Conaghan on

      Brian entered Xaverian novitiate a year after me. It was my privilege to get to know him in the ’60’s and meet him again in Louisville in recent years when I would be visiting my brother Dan. An outstanding Brother in so many ways.

      Reply
  9. Mike & Lois Dolan on

    After the sudden loss of our young son, Brother Brian went out of his way to help normalize our family. We will also be grateful to him for his kindness, strength, and genuine compassion. Rest In Peace, Brother!

    Reply
  10. Jose Albornoz on

    It is in no small part to the influence of Brother Brian that I got into coaching cross country and track across town at Loyola Blakefield. The years I spent running for him were the most important of my young life. I have modeled much of what I do now on what he did then in hopes of having the same type of influence to students as they make their way through their high school years. A great man!

    Reply
  11. Gilbert Leidig. Mt St Jospeh 1977 on

    Brother, Brian is the reason I still run every morning to this day. Didn’t know at the time why he suggested that to us at our last practice but I know now that running’s the way I get closer to God in prayer in the solitude and stillness of the morning at 5 AM. Thank you Lord for giving us Brian and May your angels welcome Brian home.

    Reply
  12. jerry naylor on

    Witnessing Br Brian’s work as English Teacher,Counsler, Dean of Students, JV Wrestling Coach,Track Coach and more, unequivocally Brother was one of the Hardest Working,Honest, Compassionate member of his religious community.

    Reply
  13. jerry naylor on

    Witnessing Br Brian’s work as English Teacher,Counselor, Dean of Students, JV Wrestling Coach,Track Coach and more, unequivocally Brother was one of the Hardest Working,Honest, Compassionate member of his religious community.

    Reply
  14. Tom Brown on

    I had the privilege of Brian’s friendship and guidance as a teacher at Mt St Joe and living with him and others in the community on Edmonson Ave. in Baltimore. He was a great friend to me as I figured out my path in the world. I often think of him and his wry smile, intelligence and tremendously good heart. Thank you, Brian, for being part of my life.

    Reply
  15. Layne F Huttenberger on

    Brother Brian was a great, quiet, and humble role model for me during my Mount days. His life and his achievements serving our Lord are just outstanding. RIP Brother, you have so earned it.

    Reply
  16. Ed Kirk on

    Rest in peace Brother Brian. I believe your travels to Bolivia were just as impactful on us from afar as when we ran your track intervals or cross-country workouts (my favorite: you drove us to Patapsco State Park and you said, “I’ll see everyone back at the Mount” and drove away!).

    You displayed to us boys a life lived in the trajectory of Christ.

    THANK YOU BROTHER BRIAN from the bottom of my heart – and for the rest of my life, on “our” birthday, I’ll be able to say a prayer to you (never knew we shared a birthday until today).

    Reply

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