University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Brother Aidan's Extracts


"The death, early Monday morning of Brother Columbkille, ended Forty-four productive years in the service of God. Like St. Joseph, who is the patron of the Brothers of Holy Cross, Brother Columbkille was a carpenter. And like St. Joseph, too, he was ever spending his talents -- and exceptional talents they were -- in the service of God.

"As Patrick Fitzgerald, he entered the Community of Holy Cross on August 4, 1890. He was then 34 years of age, and had already in his native New Brunswick and at Prince Edward Island mastered the trade of ship builder. When he entered the Community he was aptly given the name of Brother Columbkille, after the famous Irish Saint, Saint Columba or Columbkille, whose name means dove of the churches, and who had been so named because of his intense efforts in Christianizing, and building churches for the picts of Scotland.

"Like his namesake, Brother Columbkille was happiest in spending his talents in the house of God. While still in the Novitiate he showed his zeal for God and his skill as a cabinet maker and carver in making the Novitiate altar.

"All the older buildings on the campus of Notre Dame contain altars, the result of his skill and of his intense desire to build the most fitting tabernacles for Christ here at Notre Dame, the 'City of the Blessed Sacrament.'

"His altar work, including a reproduction of the Bernini altar built for Holy Cross College, Washington, D.C. had to be done in his spare time after shop hours. The lights in his private shop often burned long into the night, but never once was he known to be late for work in the morning.

"His ability wasn't restricted to altars and cabinet work, however. He had the ability to draw plans and blue prints, and to supervise the entire construction of buildings. Moreau Seminary and the present Community Infirmary are his products for plans to the building complete.

"Daring and fearless, he always led the way in the more dangerous phases of erecting buildings and of repairing them. Never, however, would he permit any of his carpenters to endanger themselves. For example, you all have gazed up at the towering flag pole. Once the pulley at the top needed repairs, and no one could be found on the campus willing to undertake the job, until Brother Columbkille himself, although advanced in years, fixed up a contraption of ladders and pulley, and to the alarm and admiration of a great crowd, went up and fixed the pulley.

"Hardly sick a day in his life, Brother Columbkille worked to the very end until stricken with a coronary thrombosis last December 30, he was forced to go to the Community Infirmary. Although suffering intense pain, he maintained his temper throughout and was careful lest he be any inconvenience to his doctor or nurses.

"Just before his death, he wrote a note to his superior: 'I am feeling my time is short. I am feeling that this week is as much as I shall see, and I am not hoping for any more. The sooner I get off now, the better I will like it!

"His wish was granted Monday morning. Let us be sure that St. Joseph welcomed him with joy, and presented him with pride and love to Christ, the carpenter's son . . . . " RELIGIOUS BULLETIN, January 25, 1938

"See ASSOCIATE April 1938"

(Columbkille and Willibrord) "Innumerable Alumni will hear with genuine sadness of the death of two Brothers of Holy Cross who gave long years of service to the University and the students. Brother Willibrord and Brother Columbkille.

"The reputed inventor and the chief producer of the famed N.D. buns, Brother Willibrord, 65 years old, was head of the University bakeries from 1900 until the new dining hall was opened in 1927. His buns ran well into the millions and their fame in song and story, circled the earth.

"As a University carpenter, Brother Columbkille, 82 years old, was a familiar campus figure to generations of students. His skill in designing, building, and repairing was traditional." ALUMNUS, 9:156, 1938

‹— Brother Aidan's Extracts —›