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What is a Brother?

Discovering Brotherhood

Each Brother is an open letter from Christ-a message written, not with ink but in the Spirit of the living God, with a faithful human heart to carry it!

What is a Brother?

As members of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, founded by Blessed Edmund Rice, we are lay religious, who profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. We commit ourselves to a life of ministry and prayer within the community. In Brotherhood, we are called to fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus. In our response we acknowledge both our gifts and our need for continuing conversion. Our way of life leads to spiritual freedom and simplicity through humble service of the poor, in whom we especially find Jesus Christ who is Lord.

For me, the life of a Brother is about relationship-relationship with God through both personal and communal prayer; with my brothers living in community; and with those whom I serve in ministry. - Brother Kevin Griffith, C.F.C.

What are vows?

We promise poverty, chastity, and obedience as a radical demonstration of our faith in the power and meaning of Jesus for a world that often ignores or denies His message. Poverty frees us to live simply and to be giving of ourselves. The vow of Celibate Chastity allows us to live in the "family" of our community of brothers and to love equally all those with whom and for whom we minister. The vow of Obedience calls us to listen to the Spirit in our lives and to meet the needs of the Church. Our profession, received by the Church, commits us firmly to the mission of proclaiming the Good News. It unites us in love and loyalty to all members of the Congregation.
What is the Ministry of the Christian Brothers?

As Christian Brothers, we commit ourselves to Christian education on behalf of the materially poor in the confidence that in all our truly human interactions God is transforming us as well as the people we serve. As apostolic religious we are missioned by the Church for the evangelization of youth, and especially for the education and care of the materially poor. The mission is expressed through a variety of ministries. In each ministry we respond creatively to emerging needs in a changing world.

Teaching is the primary and most effective means available in the Church in order to influence the lives of a given generation. The goal of Christian education is to provide an atmosphere in which our young people can develop a healthy, functioning conscience. - Brother T. Andrew Prendergast, C.F.C.

Why do the Christian Brothers live in Community?

Brotherhood in community is a principal source of our companionship and a privileged context for our personal growth. Our personalities develop as each of us accepts responsibility to make a unique contribution to the life and mission of the community. It is from community that we carry our gifts to others. We in turn are enriched as the lives of others touch our own.

What role does community prayer play?

In our mission of evangelization, revealing and discovering anew our God, we need the constant support of community prayer. We pray together daily using the Scriptures as well as the Liturgy of the Hours and other sources. Living in true Brotherhood, we see such prayer together as central to our life and mission, as we allow the Word of God to shed light on our local situation and on the world beyond.

I just finished Mass and breakfast with the community and I'm getting ready for a baseball game with the school team. A Brother's life is about keeping a balance that rests on that rock foundation, Jesus. It's a blessing to be a Brother because you can find Jesus who is present in your students, in their families, in our neighborhood churches, in our Brothers' communities, and on the streets. - Brother Bill Sherlog, C.F.C.

How do I learn more about the Christian Brothers and experience the Brothers' life?

The Brothers offer opportunities to visit the communities to find out more about the lifestyle of a Christian Brother. The Christian Brothers also sponsor "discernment weekends" where a man interested in finding out more about the Brothers would have an opportunity to live in community for a weekend. The weekend involves special presentations, question and answer sessions, and opportunities for discussion about the vocation of a Brother. There are also opportunities for a man to participate in service programs affiliated with the Christian Brothers' ministry sites. If interested in participating in any of these opportunities, please contact the Vocation Office.

Are there requirements for being a Christian Brother?

The Christian Brothers require that a man be a high school graduate before being able to enter into the Contact Level Program of Brothers' formation.
How do I apply for admission to the Christian Brothers?

The first step is to contact the Vocation Office (contact information below). A candidate to the Christian Brothers will be asked to complete a formal application process. The candidate will also be asked to participate in several assessment interviews and will be asked to submit academic transcripts, an autobiography, a personal profile, two letters of recommendation, baptismal and confirmation certificates, and a letter to the Province Leader seeking admission to the formation program of the Christian Brothers.

¿Que significe ser Hermano?

Los Hermanos Cristianos somos religiosos laicos. Profesamos los votos de castidad, pobreza, y obediencia. Nos comprometemos a vivir una vida dedicada al servicio del Senor y de su pueblo, en un espiritu de oracion dentro de una comunidad. Compartimos el espiritu de Edmundo Rice, nuestro Fundador, por la educacion cristiana. Ser "hermano" significa vivir y compartir un amor fraternal. Por eso, nuestra vocacion es de mutualidad e igualidad. Como hermanos proclamamos que somos unos con todos, en el trabajo, en la alegria, y en la compasion.

Prayer for Vocation

Creator God, life is your gift to me.
Through Baptism, you invite me to share the gift of my life in service to others.
Be with me as I choose each day to show your presence in our world.
Give me the courage and generosity to respond to your love, to your call.
I pray especially for those who serve you as priests, brothers, sisters, deacons and lay ministers.
Keep them close to you.
Open the minds and hearts of many other men and women that they might accept your challenge to build the kingdom.

Discovering Brotherhood

Brothers are lay religious, who profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They commit themselves to a life of ministry and prayer within the community. Below is a brief overview of the process of becoming a Brother.
North American Initiation Formation Program
  • Contact - The Contact Program is a phase of application and formation during which time a man comes into contact with the Congregation and we with him. It is a non-committal vocation program, under the direction of the North American Vocation Promoters, for high school students, college students, and older aspirants interested in the Christian Brothers.
  • Candidacy - The Candidacy Program is the initial phase of formation of the North American Provinces of the Congregation of Christian Brothers. Its purpose is to enable the Candidate to grow in prayer, in the knowledge of how God works in his life and in his relationship to the Church. In addition, it helps the Candidate become acquainted with the spirit of the North American Provinces and the Congregation. *
  • Residency - The Residency Program follows the Candidacy Program. There are two distinct phases of Residency: *
  1. Phase One: Formation Community Residency - a live-in experience to take place in the Waterford Formation Community in Mt. Vernon, NY for college students and older aspirants interested in the Christian Brothers. The WFC serves as the North American pre-Novitiate community.
  2. Phase Two: Mission Community Residency - a live-in experience to take place in a local Brothers' mission community following the Waterford Formation Community experience. In order to move from the Waterford Formation Community Residency to the Mission Community Residency the individual must have completed his college studies.
The purpose of both phases of Residency is to assist the Resident to grow in the Christian life in a community setting, as well as to enhance the Resident's prayer life. During Residency, the Resident is invited to share in the apostolic activity of the Brothers.
  • Novitiate - The Canonical Novitiate takes place in Chicago, IL under the supervision of the North American Novice Director. The purpose of the Novitiate is to encourage and foster the Novice's personal growth within the context of the Congregation. Participation in the Chicago area InterCommunity Novitiate Program, theological study and reflection at Catholic Theological Union, and an experience in the developing world will all serve to enhance the Novitiate year.
  • Annually Professed - Initial Formation continues for the Annually Professed Brother during the period of annual vows prior to final vows. The purpose of the Annually Professed Program is to assist the Annually Professed Brother in his continued discernment of God's plan for him in his call to mission in the Church. The program allows for collaboration among the Annually Professed Brother, the local community, and the Director in Initial Formation. *
* The Candidacy, Residency, and Annually Professed Programs take place under the supervision of the North American Initial Formation Director.

Discovering Brotherhood

The following personal witness by Brother Jim Hamilton, C.F.C, was given on January 13, 1998, at the Vocations Awareness Seminar on Consecrated Life, held in the Archdiocesan Center of the Archdiocese of Newark. Over one hundred high school students participated and heard Brother Jim's witness. It is reprinted here with the hope that it will help others to discover how God is calling them and with the permission of the Archdiocese of Newark.

Personal Witness of Brother Jim Hamilton, C.F.C.

My name is Brother Jim Hamilton, and I am a member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers. Presently, I am the Vocation Director for the Eastern American Province of the Christian Brothers. My responsibilities involve going from school to school, diocese to diocese, spreading the word about "vocation" and about the specific call to brotherhood as a Christian Brother.
Our congregation has an interesting history. We were founded by Blessed Edmund Rice, a wealthy businessman in southern Ireland. Edmund was born in 1762, but it was not until 1802 that he officially founded the congregation. In those previous 40 years, Edmund assumed the responsibilities and ownership of his uncle's merchant business in the port city of Waterford. Edmund, despite persecution against Catholics in Ireland, was able to receive an education and was able to develop his business skills as well as his personal wealth. He married, and his wife had a baby daughter. Edmund's life was going very well until his wife died in a tragic accident, leaving Edmund a widower at a young age. He was left with many unanswered questions about his life, and he spent much time reflecting and praying about his future. Edmund Rice was always involved in the various charities of Waterford, and he always believed in the power of education. These beliefs led him to abandon his life as a wealthy businessman and to embrace a life of full-time service to the poor.

Other men soon joined him, and the Christian Brothers began to spread out to the point where today there are over 2,000 Christian Brothers in over twenty-seven countries, bringing the Gospel of Christ to the world through evangelizing communities and the mission of education. We Christian Brothers are vowed laymen who live in community and serve the others in the traditions of Jesus and Edmund Rice. We pronounce the vows of poverty (simplicity), chastity, and obedience. In the vow of poverty, we live simple lives in community as we try to be poor in "spirit" and in fact. By our vow of chaste celibacy, we promise to love all equally, and we celebrate our family through our brotherhood to each other and to others to whom we minister. Our vow of obedience calls us to be open to God's Spirit in our lives and to be attentive to the needs of the Church regarding where and how we serve. Our vows do not constrict us, but they help us to grow and develop spiritually and personally.

Brothers are not ordained ministers as priests and deacons are. The vocation of brotherhood is very different from that of an ordained minister in the Church. Whereas ordained ministers are called to minister to the Sacramental nature of the Church in the spirit and traditions of Jesus, brothers are called to evangelize through our vowed lives in community and through our mission of Christian education, especially for the poor.

My own personal story dates back to when I was a freshman in Bishop Kearney High School in Rochester, New York. It was here that I met brothers for the first time, and I was immediately impressed by their love for life and for their care and concern for us students. Although we did not see their communal prayer life firsthand, we certainly did witness the results of their communal living and community prayer, as evidenced, day in and day out, in their spiritual nature. They were men of tremendous faith, who thoroughly enjoyed serving others for the sake of the Kingdom. I felt that I wanted to be a part of that, and, when one of the brothers asked me to think about joining the congregation, I said "yes."

At the time, my feeling was that I could never match up to my "heroes", but that I would at least give it a try and see if the life of brotherhood was for me. That was in 1978, and I have never regretted my decision to enter the Christian Brothers. I would not be telling the truth if I said that I never had any doubts or challenges. I believe that these challenges are a part of any life, and they are really opportunities for growth and commitment. It has been a blessed life, and I have really enjoyed my life in community and my life ministering in Catholic schools as a Religious Education and Spanish teacher and as a coach and moderator - I wouldn't trade it for anything!

But, how do people know if God is calling them? I believe that it is not a matter of if we are called, for all of us are called by God to serve others and to bring the Gospel of Jesus to today's world through our own thoughts, actions, and words. The challenging part is to determine how God wants us to live out our vocations. It would be very easy if we, like Saul, were knocked to the ground and were spoken to directly by God. This is not the experience of most persons, but God does speak to us!

I like to tell the story of Blessed Edmund Rice and other Saints because their story is our story. God does speak to us through the persons and events of our own lives, just as He has spoken to the people of Scripture and to the people of the Church for the past two thousand years. Listen to God speaking to you in your own heart! Listen to God speaking to you through prayer and the sacraments! God is calling - how are you going to serve? Listen, and God will show you the way. And do not be afraid, for God is with us and will never give us anything in our lives that we can't handle.

In conclusion, I use the brief prayer adopted by Edmund Rice to conclude all of the Brothers' prayers and activities: "Live Jesus in our hearts - forever!"
For More Information


Br. Peter L. O'Loughlin, CFC
Formation Office
Callan Novitiate
5120 South Kimbark Avenue
Chicago, IL 60615-3910