For almost a hundred consecutive years, men of the Behenna family of Somerville were faithful members of the Xaverian Brothers. Herbert, later our Brother Guy, became an aspirant in our high school program at the Juniorate in Peabody in the mid 1920s, and we have been honored to have Eugene, later Brother Edgar, in our midst a century later. There were thirteen children in the Behenna family, eleven boys and two girls. Although Herbert was the godfather to Gene, they only got to know one another when the Juniorate boys were home with their families in the summer. Among the Behennas, there was, of course, an assortment of similarities in looks, voice, favorite expressions and interests, but there were graced differences among them, and only rarely did anyone mistakenly call Gene “Brother Guy”. The Xaverian Brothers and the Church were graced and strengthened by the variety of gifts with which God blessed each of them, and us.     

Gene got to know the variety of personalities and talents among the Xaverian Brothers as a student at St. Joseph’s School in Somerville’s Union Square. Like Guy, then he spent his high school years at the Juniorate in Peabody, receiving a diploma from St. John’s Prep, as was the custom, and made his way to Old Point Comfort in Virginia where he was officially accepted as a postulant on February 15,1946. about a week after arriving there. Six months later, on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he received our religious habit and the name Brother Edgar, the name honoring his father. Gene and his classmates received their formal training under Brother Kevin’s direction as Xaverian novices for a year there, and then moved to the scholasticate in Silver Spring, Maryland, to begin their college studies. On August 16, 1948, the novices made their profession of religious vows, then continued their collegiate studies at Washington’s Catholic University of America.  Gene’s program was interrupted in early 1949 when he was assigned to the Leonard Hall School in Leonardtown, Maryland, for a semester, teaching middle school students.   

Gene received his bachelor’s degree in English from Catholic University in 1952 and was then assigned to Mt. St. Joseph’s High School in Baltimore where he managed to take courses at Loyola College in addition to his teaching and prefecting duties. Three years at St. John’s Prep and at Keith Academy in Lowell allowed him to receive his Master’s degree in English from Boston College in 1960, specializing in Shakespearean studies.    

Gene’s early teaching years in Baltimore, Danvers, and Lowell were followed by busy years at Notre Dame High School in Utica, New York and St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey, after school delighting to coach tennis or Glee Clubs. His longest teaching assignment was thirteen years back in Utica where he and Guy were members of the small community there.  His final official ministry was at Xavier High School in Middletown, Connecticut, where he coordinated teachers’ audio-visual needs for five years.  He remained in retirement in Middletown for another fifteen years, finding pleasure as a volunteer at St. Francis of Assisi Parish there and in assorted musical ventures. Gene was also able to take advantage of numerous travel opportunities to visit and learn from other states and countries, becoming a Xaverian Roads Scholar – Roads spelled  R O A D S !

Gene arrived in Danvers in 2017 to join the Xaverian House community. and enjoyed being of service to the Brothers – reading and serving at Mass, helping with the clean-up after cocktails and meals and, especially, in assisting the community’s liturgical needs with his years of musical experience. His artistic skills enabled him to produce beautiful greeting cards for family members and friends. He was also able to enjoy participating at St. Mary’s Parish here in Danvers as a lector and member of the choir. For most of Gene’s seven years, his physical strength allowed him to go for walks and to enjoying leaping two steps at a time down our staircases, to the horror of the rest of us. Gene’s slowing down indicated a need for more than regular medical attention. Cancer was found in several parts of his body, and consultation with his Primary Care doctor, Brent Fryling, and Xaverian House’s long-serving nurse Robin Rowell, enabled Gene to recognize that further tests and exploration were not worth the discomfort. He entered and enjoyed hospice care at Xaverian House, continued his greeting card efforts, welcomed family members, and maintained his long-time schedule of prayer and time for eucharistic adoration. Gene’s safety after several falls made it necessary for him to join our Brothers at Mary Immaculate Health Care Center in Lawrence. Gene celebrated the seventy-eighth anniversary of his entrance in the Congregation on February 15. He had been the oldest member of the Xaverian Brothers for several years and leaves behind a grateful world of Brothers, relatives, former students and friends.  We know that he has already joined the heavenly choir, singing praise and thanks to God as he did during life.  May he rest in peace. 

Prepared by Brother Robert J. Green, C.F.X.

Funeral Arrangements

Saturday, June 1, 2024
St. John’s Preparatory School Chapel
Viewing: 10:00am
Funeral Mass: 11:00am

A luncheon will follow after burial
St. John’s Prep Campus Ministry Center
Xavier Hall

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