SMC Celebrates Brother Camillus Chavez, FSC, at Omega Mass

Brother Camillus Chavez celebrates marking 45 years at Saint Mary’s, 70 years since he took his first vows as a Christian Brother, and his 90th birthday.Saint Mary’s community members gathered in the Chapel for the annual Omega Mass, the last student-led liturgy of the academic year. During the joyful Mass, Campus Chaplain Father Hai Ho ’03, OFMCap, offered a Blessing of the Brains. A tradition at the College prior to finals, the student-focused prayer is an invocation for orderly thinking, a creative spirit in their studies, mental agility, good memory, and calm nerves,

The Sunday, May 19, evening service also acknowledged De La Salle Christian Brother and Psychology Professor Brother Camillus Chavez, FSC, for three significant milestones. Brother Camillus was recognized for marking 45 years at Saint Mary’s and 70 years since he took his first vows as a Christian Brother, and he was celebrated for his 90th birthday. At the conclusion of the gathering, Father Hai led the robust crowd of attendees in a blessing for the beloved Brother and in singing the birthday song Las Mañanitas.

“Brother Camillus is such a unique individual in our Lasallian community,” said Mission and Ministry Center Director Karin McClelland ’90. “While he is known for his welcoming and encouraging spirit among students, and of course that signature fist bump of his, Brother Camillus’ academic focus and research on meditation is really rooted in the founding tradition of prayer and reflection passed on to us all by Saint John Baptist de La Salle.”

“Today, it’s widely referred to as mindfulness. But it’s really important that people recognize how long Brother has advocated for and taught meditation, and made the practice accessible to our entire SMC community,” added McClelland.

Standing in the Chapel doorway and surrounded by community members, Brother Camillus was treated to a special performance by the College’s Ballet Folklorico Guadalupana group. A reception followed with participants enjoying refreshments and three large cakes (including a delicious tres leches) all adorned with photos of Brother. Guests cheered as Brother Camillus, who turns 90 on June 14, extinguished nine birthday candles, each representing a decade, with two hearty blows.

The festive gathering also drew alumni who shared fond memories of Brother Camillus. “He was one of those people that, when I arrived in 1991 and I had never been away from home before, he made me feel comfortable, made me feel cared for,” said “Cynthia Rodriguez ’96. “ I never actually had classes with him, but every time we saw each other, he made me feel loved.”

Joshara Larios ’95 agreed with Rodriguez. “I just remember doing a lot of retreats with him and joining his meditations. He made everybody feel welcomed and enjoy being here at the College.”

Another alumna, Monica Chavez ’93, who attended the Mass but wasn’t aware of the planned celebration, said she felt it was destiny that brought her to the campus that evening. “I have known him since I was 17 years old when I came to the College for one of the recruitment nights, and he encouraged me. I didn’t think I had the GPA to attend here, and he said ‘Just do it; just do it, and see what happens.You never know.' Sure enough, he was one of my first professors in psychology class, and I’ve been blessed to know him.”  

Chemistry major Hansell Miramontes ’20, one of the dancers in the Ballet Folklorico, said she was happy to be a part of his recognition. “He’s an amazing person, and it was a complete honor to be a small part of his birthday.” Miramontes also noted that she wasn’t surprised at the large turnout. “Usually, the Sunday Masses are very full most of the time. But, I would say that a lot of people are also here because it is a day before the week of finals, and you just need a little prayer here and there.”

After taking a series of selfies with former students in the MMC, Brother Camillus reflected on the special night. “It was just wonderful. The blessings in the Church, the dancing, and everything. And people from the past, from ’75, ’76—they heard the news and they came. It brought tears to my eyes. I like to think of myself as a toughie, but tonight, I crumbled.”