Brother John F. Kerr, C.F.X. (Brother Lambertus)
Brother John F. Kerr, C.F.X. (formerly known as Brother Lambertus) passed away on Thursday, April 20, 2023 at Mary Immaculate Care Center in Lawrence, MA where he had been suffering from dementia.
Growing up in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, Brother John was the son of Thomas and Katherine Kerr. He leaves his sister Mary and brother Philip as well as his nieces and nephews, his Xaverian Brothers, and his many friends and former students. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his sister Katherine.
John attended St. Thomas Aquinas grade school and high school in Jamaica Plain and then in 1950 went on to study at Boston College. He was introduced to the Xaverian Brothers by his classmate Jim McIntyre, a Malden Catholic alum who was himself discerning his vocation. Jim, who later served many years as vice-president at BC, remained a close friend of John’s. John left BC in his sophomore year to enter the Xaverian Brothers novitiate in Old Point Comfort, VA and received the religious name Brother Lambertus.
Upon making first profession of vows in 1955, the young Brother Lambertus would spend a year at Xaverian College, Silver Spring, MD before being sent out to the missions, first to Cardinal Hayes HS in the Bronx for a year and then a year at CYO Home in Detroit while he completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Detroit. He would return to Cardinal Hayes for another five years before being assigned to the newly opened Xavier High School in Middletown, CT in 1963 where he would serve first as assistant principal and later from 1967-1976 as principal. Those were very formative years for this new mission and Brother John was instrumental in empowering the Brothers and lay faculty at the school to implement the teachings of Vatican II and create a community of faith that focused on its mission as a Catholic school of excellence. Much of the school’s success can be traced back to the influence that Brother John provided in those early years and the trust he placed in his colleagues and the Brothers who were missioned with him.
After a renewal program at Sangre de Cristo in Santa Fe, NM in 1976, Brother John was appointed to serve as headmaster at Malden Catholic. However, prior to his assuming office he was elected to serve as a member of the Congregation’s General Administration in Rome, Italy. He would subsequently be elected to serve as Superior General from 1983-1989. During his twelve years in congregational leadership, John was involved in the renewal of the Xaverian Brothers’ Constitutions and the development of the Fundamental Principles. He also became a strong advocate for the renewal of the Brothers missionary activity in Congo (then Zaire) and supported the reopening of the formation program there. He would continue to support the efforts of the Brothers in Congo over the years.
Brother John spent a sabbatical year at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkely, CA and then joined the staff at the St. Stephen Priory Spiritual Life Center in Dover, MA where he would serve as retreat director and spiritual director for 12 years. When the Dominicans withdrew from Dover in 2004, Brother John began volunteer work at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Norfolk, MA until he joined the Xaverian House Community in 2016. With the onset of dementia and the need for more care, Brother John entered the memory unit at Mary Immaculate Care Center, where he and a number of Brothers received wonderful care.
Brother John was a superb administrator, firm but fair. While he could intimidate with his presence, he oversaw the development of a real community of faith and empowered Brothers and lay faculty to live up to their calls as Catholic school educators. The words of our Fundamental Principles capture perfectly what Brother John lived as a teacher, administrator, congregational leader and spiritual director: “It is through your life of gospel witness, lived in common with your brothers (and sisters) that God desires to manifest His care and compassionate love.” Brother John allowed himself “to be given away as nourishment for others, as bread that is broken.” May he now enter his eternal rest, joining the great communion of saints and interceding for all who strive to live Theodore Ryken’s vision and mission.
A viewing will be held on Tuesday, April 25, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. at St John’s Prep Chapel in Danvers, MA. A Mass will be held at 3:30 p.m. followed by the burial. A reception will be held at St. John’s Prep Campus Ministry Center.
Brother John Kerr joins a long list of deceased Xaverian Brothers who blossomed and flourished within the community. He did the Brothers proud. The reward that he never saught in this life he now enjoys in heaven. RIP my friend.
R.I.P. Uncle John.
I remember Brother John Kerr as my Algebra 1 teacher and later Assistant Principal at Middletown Xavier. During my college years in Ohio, I received frequent letters from Brother John. After graduating from college, returning to Connecticut, and teaching at an area Catholic K-8 school, Brother John invited me to teach English at Xavier where he served as principal. After four years, I left Xavier to teach and later administer public schools and districts, but I kept in contact with Brother John through annual letters and cards. As a surprise to me, I walked into a retreat one day, and Brother John was the retreat master. He was excellent, and we later shared stories and laughs about our days at Xavier High School.
Brother John Kerr was a wonderful man, a talented teacher, a firm and kind disciplinarian, a man of vision and faith, and my friend. God bless you, Brother John! Rest in Peace.
Brother John and I were in a Faith-Sharing group for a decade or more meeting three or four times a year for four days. John had a dynamic Faith that knew no bounds, integrating all of his relationships and experiences into a living presence that the Fundamental Principles express so well: “In you, as Risen Lord, He wants to walk this path again, and His Spirit, the Spirit of God, now guides you.” John revealed God’s love and wisdom. What a graced world he leaves all who knew him. Brother Bill Griffin CFX