The Brothers live in two communities: the Saint Mary’s College Community and the Joseph Alemany Community. Why two? By the early 1970s the original Saint Mary’s College Community had grown to almost 40 Brothers and it was at that time that the Joseph Alemany Community was founded. This latter community is named for the first Archbishop of San Francisco who built Saint Mary’s College in 1863 and turned it over to the Christian Brothers in 1868.
The Christian Brothers were founded 320 years ago by Saint John Baptist De La Salle, named the Patron Saint of Teachers by the Catholic Church. He was a young French priest of the 17th century, born to an aristocratic family, with a doctorate in theology from the University of Paris, a considerable fortune, and prospects for a bright future. Quite by accident, De La Salle met a man who needed help starting a school for poor boys. It became De La Salle’s true calling. Abandoning his fortune and his future, De La Salle gathered together a small group of simple men to educate the sons of the poor and working-class in the city of Reims. Today there are approximately 4,000 Brothers in 77 countries around the world, joined by 850,000 students, and 84,000 men and women in their life-changing educational mission.
Some call it bumper-sticker theology—the notion that God never gives us more than we can handle. But in Brother Mel Anderson’s memoir, “Years of Yearning,” it’s clear he was tested repeatedly during his 28 years as president of Saint Mary’s College. Brother Mel reflects on the milestones that took place under his leadership.
Brother Michael Avila came to the Christian Brothers in a most unconventional way. He likes to say he was “left like Moses—in a basket at the Brothers’ door.” In reality, his mother asked the Brothers in Berkeley to take two of her three sons in the wake of a difficult divorce. Brother Michael was enrolled in Saint Mary’s College High school as a boarder from the 3rd grade through his junior year and was deeply touched by the selflessness of Brothers who taught him.
Brother Dominic is an easily recognizable presence on the Saint Mary’s campus. People know him for his big smile, his friendly ways, and the interesting way he gets around. Check out how the “Bromobile” came into existence and see what a day riding around campus with one of Saint Mary’s best spokesmen is like.
Brother Glenn Bolton had a huge appetite for learning when he was a child, traveling for six to eight weeks every summer with his eclectic family of seven to explore a wide range of interests. As an adult, his drive and curiosity held true as he acquired an education that included numerous graduate degrees, something that ideally suited him for his work now at Saint Mary’s.
Brother Kenneth has taught the sharp minds of Integral Program students, ridden in a cattle drive, and stared down the muzzle of a gun—all in the interest of education and service.
Lifelong passions can be sparked by simple things. When he was a boy, Brother Camillus developed an interest in altered states of consciousness. At age 11, he ordered a 10-cent book on hypnosis, hoping to tap into the mysteries of the mind. Although he admittedly "wasn’t too successful” at hypnosis as a child, Brother Camillus never gave up his pursuit of the deeper self.
In the face of uncertainty, Brother Ron—who earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s in 1969—draws from advice he received almost two decades ago: stay deeply spiritual and keep your sense of humor.
He’s a man who wears many hats—hardhats included. Brother Christopher is a builder, a pilot, a locksmith, and fire chief—just to name a few of his jobs since becoming a Christian Brother in 1968. With a unique skill set, Brother Christopher has spent most of his career as an administrator or facilities director in high schools from Washington State to Southern California.
Some children grow up hearing fairy tales. Brother Charles heard yarns of a different kind. His father shared stories of student life at Saint Mary’s College and of the Brothers who influenced him there. Some 40 years later, Brother Charles is an expert on medieval manuscripts, history and the papacy. He is currently in charge of the Cummins Institute for Catholic Thought, Culture and Action at Saint Mary’s.
Brother Thomas juggles several jobs, applying his experience and deep academic preparation in psychology to helping troubled Saint Mary’s students cope with stress and identify the resources for support available to them. He says being a resident director for sophomores is one of his most satisfying duties.
Brother Richard is a study in contrasts—a committed bookworm and a passionate outdoorsman. You might expect the latter in someone who grew up hunting and fishing in Wisconsin. The book-loving part of his personality has been hard at work for past 35 years in the Saint Mary’s library, where he focuses on reference, collection development and instruction.
Brother Bernard LoCoco, FSC, President of the School of Applied Theology in Berkeley 1999–2008, President of Christian Brothers University 1973–1980, Spiritual Advisor, Retreats, Workshops and Spiritual Advisor
More than six decades into life as a Lasallian, the connection with God is stronger than ever for Brother Bernard. Like a pilgrim on the path toward enlightenment, his days in semi-retirement are spent leading retreats/workshops, giving spiritual direction and prayer. It’s important, he says, because it is the foundation of his vocation and his ministry.
Brother Mark, like his fellow Christian Brothers, has traveled the world to carry out his Lasallian mission, and he has been at Saint Mary’s for 12 years helping students expand their horizons in a similar way. “The three smartest things I ever did,” says Brother Mark, “were learn Spanish, join the Brothers, and finish grad school. Those things opened doors all over the world.”
Brother Brendan is a dreamer. Twice a month, he attends dream interpretation groups that encourage self-discovery and reflection. But it’s his “day” dreams that have led to his biggest discoveries. Brother Brendan is known for being one of the founders of the Career Center at Saint Mary’s College—an idea he came up with as a graduate student at the school in 1979.
Brother Michael is a busy man—teaching theology, serving as director of the Brothers’ Community, and conducting “Haunted Saint Mary’s” tours, to boot, all with wit and a caring attitude. He has a devilish sense of humor. It’s a trait he says he’s always had, and admits it probably drove the nuns at his elementary school crazy. “I was second only to Satan,” he laughs. “And I’m still a demon!”
Brother Michael teaches linguistics in the Department of World Languages and Culture, and is resident director to 46 students in the Sabatte Townhouses. “The De La Salle Brothers have a presence in 77 countries. There are so many opportunities to serve God as an educator.”
Brother Raphael was a prankster as a student at Saint Mary’s and has applied the same sharp wit and curious mind to his long teaching career, his interest in College history and a lifelong passion for trains. For years he wanted to be a railroad engineer. “It’s a little kid’s craziness,” he admits. It’s also the kind of thing you’d expect from a man who enjoys adventure and the romance of history.
Brother Stanislaus Sobczyk, FSC, Retired, School of Education, President of Christian Brothers University in Memphis 1999–2005, President of the School of Applied Theology in Berkeley, 2008–2010, SMC Board of Trustees
Brother Stan has overcome profound obstacles in his life and was drawn to teaching and service by the sure presence of God in his life, he says. He’s traveled the world, met amazing people and witnessed key moments in the civil rights movement. Through 50 years of being a Christian Brother, he says he never has a day of regret. “I could have never imagined where God would take me. I’ve been around the world— literally—engaged in wonderful ministries and meeting talented students.”
Brother Martin is passionate about music, sports and teaching. In fact, Martin Yribarren was an athlete long before God called him to be a Christian Brother at Saint Mary’s College. Tall and slender, he played basketball and baseball as a boy in Fresno and dreamed about being a hoops star. But at the age of 10, music began to strike a chord. A known stress reliever is sneaking into the Chapel to eavesdrop as he practices on the 3,649-pipe organ.