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Welch, Alfred (Bernard Alfred FSC)

 Record Group — Box: 1-2
Identifier: NY-409-2277

Dates

  • Existence: 1908 - 1991

Biographical / Historical

From the Euology delivered by Br. James Walton:

Alfred Edward Welch was born on December 6, 1908. His father, Charles, was a New Englander and his mother, Mary, a native of Glasgow, Scotland. His parents had four other children: Harold, Dorothea (Kienan), Norma and Genevieve who entered the Convent of the Good Shepherd in 1938. Although his father at the time was not a Catholic, the children attended Our Lady of Good Counself on East 91st Street where Alfred and his brother were taught by the Christian Brothers. Influenced by Br. Anthony Buckley, his eighth-grade teacher, Alfred decided to become a Brother of the Christian Schools. In June 1923, he bade farewell to his close-knit family and travelled by the old Putnam Railroad to Pocantico Hills were he entered the junior novitiate. Even in his young years, Al showed a remarkable propensity for mathematics and competence in such competitive sports as baseball, soccer, handball, and ice hockey. On September 7, 1925 he received the religious habit and the name Brother Bernard Alfred as a member of the famed group of the Little Flower. After two years in the Pocantico scholasticate, and two summers practice teaching at the New York Catholic Protectory, he was assigned in 1928 to St. Thomas the Apostle School in Harlem. Br. Alfred started to teach the 7th grade at St. Thomas but was unable to finish the year. He became critically ill with lobar pneumonia, which before the discovery of antibiotics, was often fatal. But God had other plans for him. After his recovery and a summer of recuperation, he fully regained his health and was assigned to teach at De La Salle Institute on West 74th Street. During his four years at De La Salle he took college extension courses and received his BA from Manhattan in 1932. In 1933 he was sent to Washington to join the faculty of De La Salle College. While teaching undergrad math courses to the youngBrothers in the scholasticate, he attended graduate school at Catholic University. After receiving his MA in math in 1936, he was assigned to Manhattan College where Br. Adelphus Patrick was president. The College was flourishing in the pre-war years with a steadily increasing number of students. Like other Brothers living in the close quarters of the 4th floor of the administration building, Brother Alfred's teaching schedule was heavy and his classes large. Besides courses in the math department, he taught two classes in religion each semester and a course in orientation. He just loved it and was content to remain a member of the faculty of Manhattan College for 38 years. During World War II, with Br. Victor Lally as President, Brother Alfred became chairman of the mathematics department. He was thus responsible for the accelerated math courses in the early years of the war. Later on he was the faculty coordinator between the mathematics department and the officers of the Army Specialized Training Program. That program had to be terminated when the army recruits in the college were sent to reinforce the troops engaged in the Battle of the Bulge. In addition to his teaching duties during the war, Brother Alfred was active in the civilian defense effort. Like other faculty members, Al took a Red Cross First Aid course emphasizing the care of victims after anticipated enemy air raids. He also registered with the Office of Civilian Defense and became a member of the Auxiliary Ambulance Corps. Several nights a week he answered 911 calls to give emergency assistance to civilians in life-endangering predicaments. Al had many sad tales to tell his conferes mostly about the elderly he tried to save, but who never survived the ambulance ride to the hospital. During the postwar era, with Br. Bonaventure Thomas as president, Br. Alfred became Chairman of the Metropolitan Section of the Mathematical Society of America and a member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. In addition, he served as head prefect of resident students from 1945 to 1950. In 1963, after being chairman of the math department for 18 years, Br. Alfred was named Fulbright Professor of Mathematics at Al Hikma University on the banks of the Tigris in Baghdad. Despite the visions of a wondrous land of lush gardens in the tales of a "Thousand and One Nights," his letters described Iraq as a country of sandy soil, burning heat, little rain and rampant poverty. He did write, however, that he was content to be teaching advanced math cources to friendly Arabic-speaking young men very anxious to learn and to improve their way of life. After Br. Alfred returned to Manhattan, many of his students, mostly Muslims, wrote to thank him for his generous help and guidance. As Baghdad was being devastated in the recent Gulf War, he often offered intentions at Mass for his former Iraqi students and their families. Moderator of the College's varsity golf team, Br. Alfred's skill at the sport is legendary. At his first MAAC golf tournament at Bethpage, he was paired with Earl Jones, general manager for Spaulding Sports Equipment and a faithful trustee of his Presbyterian Church. Every year thereafter, Mr. Jones was at the first tee to tell the starter: "I want Brother Alfred as my partner. He is always straight and down the middle of the fairway." "Straight and down the middle" is a brief but accurate summary of Br. Alfred's fidelity to the Rule of the Christian Brothers. He showed a great love and devotion for the Founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle, whom he imitated by his abandonment to God's will, his creative apostolic spirit, his commitment to spreading the Gospel and his unyielding support of all the teachings of the Church. To all who knew him he strictly adhered to the last admonition of the Founder to the Brothers before he died on Good Friday in 1719: "Above all, always remain faithful to the teachings of the Holy See." After retiring from teaching, Br. Alfred joined the editorial staff of ViewPoint. One of his unforgettable bulletins entitled "The Queen's Knight," dated October 12, 1982, recounted the life of Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan canonized just two days before by John Paul II. Like the Queen's Knight and the Supreme Pontiff, who made pilgrimages to Marian shrines all over the world, Br. Alfred had an intense devotion to Mary Immaculate. While visiting his folks in Fairlawn, New Jersey, a decade ago, he was struck by a speeding car while on his way to early Mass. Upon regaining consciousness in the intensive care unit of the hospital to which he was rushed, his first words were: "Please, give me my rosary." During his terminal illness, while still at the Christian Brothers Center, Br. Alfred was confined to a wheelchair. In a human sense, it was sad and distressing to see this once vigorous teacher and athlete being wheeled by the Director, Brother John Martin, into the Chapel for daily Mass and the Office. But in a spirit of faith, Brother Alfred was an inspiration to his Brothers and his beloved family during his final heroic bout with lung cancer. At this final juncture of his life Brother Alfred was living out one of his last reflective issues of a ViewPoint he wrote in 1986. "Suffering is an experience that is very real to those who bear it, and often heart-rending to relatives and friends. But suffering can be a blessing to those who meditate on the sufferings of Jesus during his passion and crucifixion, and on the loneliness of His sorrowful Mother as she held in her arms her lifeless crucified son. It is through suffering borne patiently in imitation of Christ that every cross we bear in life acquires a dignity humanly inconceivable. Suffering then becomes a sign of eternal salvation in the vision of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother."

Extent

.75 Linear Feet (2 document boxes: 1 is 5" and 1 is 2.5")

Repository Details

Part of the De La Salle Christian Brothers Archives of the New York District Repository

Contact:
O'Malley Library, Room 200
4513 Manhattan College Parkway
Riverdale New York 10471
718-862-7139