Brother Paul J. Feeney, C.F.X.
Brother Paul at the 2007 “In Harmony Small Things Grow” Gala.
XAVERIAN BROTHER HONOREE
Bro. Paul Feeney, C.F.X.
Walking across the campus in his long black cassock and white collar, Brother Paul Feeney is proof that the Xaverian principles are alive and well at Saint John’s High School.
His presence at school Masses and as a revered guest lecturer in senior religion classes is a tangible connection to the school’s past, when the Saint John’s faculty was comprised exclusively of Xaverian Brothers, and students experienced the integration of the Xaverian philosophy in their studies. Saint John’s is blessed by the community of Xaverian Brothers who live on our grounds and continue to act as role models for the integration of faith into daily life.
A native of Dorchester, Massachusetts, Paul J. Feeney entered the Xaverian Brothers in 1950, after graduating from Boston College High School. His father, John, was a New England Telephone employee for 44 years; his mother, Gertrude, a homemaker. His sister, Marion, with whom he is extremely close, is a retired Canton elementary school teacher.
A Jesuit priest at Boston College High, Father Frank Scannell, fired up Paul’s imagination and planted the seeds of a religious vocation by frequently extolling in class the good works of the Xaverian Brothers. The first and best Xaverian Brother he ever met, Brother Peter Kelly, then stationed at Mission High School in Roxbury, became an inspirational influence in his life.
Brother Paul entered the Sacred Heart novitiate in September 1950, taking the religious name Brother Antoninus. He was educated at the Catholic University of America, where he received his bachelor’s degree in U. S. history and his master’s degree in theology. He pursued further graduate studies at Boston College, the University of Manchester (U.K.), the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, California, and King’s College, London (U.K.). Because of the profound influence of a wonderful Worcester priest, Father Bernard Gilgun, he abandoned the study of history for Biblical studies.
In 1956, he was assigned to Saint John’s Preparatory School (as it was then called) on Temple Street in Worcester, where, over a five-year span, he taught religion, Latin, English and modern European and American history. While on the faculty at Saint John’s, he co-authored a children’s book about the life of a heroic Spanish Dominican missionary, Father Luis Cancer, who made a valiant yet unsuccessful attempt to convert, by nonviolent means, the brutalized Native Americans of Florida. Brother Feeney shares Father Luis’ philosophy of peace and nonviolence, for which he was recognized with the John Leary Peace Award in 1989.
Following his years at Saint John’s, Brother Paul taught at Keith Academy in Lowell and Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, where for three years, he served as vice-principal. For several years, he taught Old Testament at Xaverian College of Silver Spring, Maryland, and at Emmanuel College of Boston, in its graduate school program.
Adult religious education has been the most important focus of his years of ministry. While teaching high school religion during the daytime, for almost 30 years, Brother Paul spent his evenings as instructor of Old Testament in the Permanent Diaconate Program of the Archdiocese of Boston, and 22 years teaching Old Testament in both the Archdiocesan Master Teacher Program and the Institute of Ministry Program.
A sabbatical year spent in Manchester, England, in 1986-87, proved to be “the pause that refreshes.” Brother Paul lived in community with English Xaverian Brothers and worked with university and college graduates volunteering a year of their lives in service to the poor of Manchester. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he served the Congregation as the vice-provincial and then as the provincial of the American Northeastern Province of the Xaverian Brothers. He retired from full-time ministry in 1999, after serving as the director of religious education for the secondary schools of the Archdiocese of Boston.
In recent years, Brother Paul has traveled to Kenya to teach and give retreats to the Xaverian novices and postulants, and he has served several times as an instructor in a spiritual renewal program for the Congolese Brothers. Currently, he lives in the Brothers’ community here at Saint John’s, among his many friends and former students who continue to seek the counsel of this engaging, intelligent, and compassionate Brother, who remains joyful living his life in accordance with Xaverian principles.
Brother Paul continues his involvement in directing retreats for permanent deacons, participating in the Cursillo for men and women at the Holy Cross Retreat House in Easton, and this year, conducting a fall and a spring Bible study at St. Anne’s Parish in Shrewsbury, where 50 years ago he taught 7th and 8th grade CCD classes on Saturday mornings.
Along with being a longtime member of the Catholic Biblical Association, he has also been associated with the Catholic Peace Fellowship and the Pax Christi Center on Conscience and War.
In addition to teaching at Saint John’s on Temple Street, Brother Paul has also served the school for 22 years as a member of its Board of Trustees, where he continues to guide Saint John’s High School in accordance with the Xaverian educational model.
Headmaster Michael Welch ’78 regards Brother Paul Feeney as one of Saint John’s treasures, stating that “Brother Feeney has a wonderful mind and a beautiful soul. Perhaps his greatest gift is his ability to communicate his love of the Catholic faith to generations of students and laity.”
From the “In Harmony Small Things Grow” Gala Program Book, 2007.