Theodore Patrick Fitzgerald was the eldest son of Walter and Rose Brady Fitzgerald. He had two brothers, Walter and John. His mother died while he was in the Juniorate and his father during the early years in community. When Teddy, as his family called him, was six years old the family moved from College Ave. to the Sacred Heart parish in Highbrodge where he came under the influence of the Brothers. George Burke was the principal and Basil Dzikas was successfully the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade teacher. So impressed was he by the Brothers’ teaching, their concern for each student, and their manly piety that, immediately after graduation from the eighth grade, Ted decided to join them, entering the Junior Novitiate at Barrytown in 1945.
Brother Augustine Loes, who was his Director during his Junior and Senior year remembers him as intelligent, ardent, wholehearted and enthusiastic. Brother Eugene O’Gara recalls that he played basketball the way he studies, i.e., intensely. He got his feel for the publication as the editor of his sophomore class year book and then as feature editor of the student newspaper, the Junior Beacon. As his column show, even then he could write a clear English sentence, expressive of his knowledge, his thoughts, his feelings, and his strong convictions.
After graduation, the “Crusaders” of the Juniorate class of 1949 moved at once to the Novitiate where they were joined from the postulates from the so-called “world.” On September 7 of that year, Ted became Brother Aloysius of Mary. Of the 32 young men who on that day had their names, their life style, and their garments changed, ten have remained Brothers to this day, Aloysius being the first to die in the institute. Some Brothers find the novitiate year difficult, but there is no evidence, despite the lack of intellectual stimulation and vigorous athletic competition, that Aloysius ever lost his enthusiasm for his vocation. In the novitiate summer of 1950 postulate Edward Martin had Aloysius as his “guardian angel” to ease him into the novitiate routine. He recalls that Aloysius the Novice proved himself well up to the task of guidance and inspiration, speaking often of the joys of being a Brother, or wistfully of the fine quality of those who had departed from the Juniorate. Ed remembers “My visiting family, not overly reconciled to my strange religious setting, made their first positive remark about my new state of life in terms of the wonderful young man, Brother Aloysius, whom they met.”
During the Scholasticate years in Washington, Aloysius was free again to indulge his penchant for intense academic and physical activity. Waltzing through the difficult challenge of the major in Greek and Latin, captivated by the high level of scholarship modeled by the professors at the university, he was still a demon on the basketball court and a mainstay of the rugged boiler room crew along with the likes of Ben Crofton and Kenny Fitz (no relation). In 1954 Aloysius graduated with a BA degree from Catholic University Summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. After a brief stint teaching 7th grade at St. John’s in Kingsbridge and two years teaching Latin at St. Peter’s in Staten Island, he was back in Washington for graduate study.
Armed by this time with an MA degree in Classics From Manhattan, Ally was well equipped to enter the School of Theology at Catholic University where, after the four years of seminary theology with his classmates who were preparing for ordination, he was awarded the Licentiate Degree in Sacred Theology (STL). It was not theology as such, especially in its static pre-Vatican 11 style, that seemed to attract him, but rather the allure of philological and historical exploration that prevailed in the emerging biblical studies of the time. Never before had a Christian Brother sought a degree in Scripture but the superiors were wise enough to realize its potential. Accordingly, in 1962 Ally was sent to Rome to enroll at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. After two years of intense language and biblical study that took him beyond Rome to Switzerland, Paris and Vienna, he was awarded the licentiate degree in Sacred Scripture (SSL). Then came the pursuit of the doctorate during prolonged residence in Muster, Rome and Jerusalem doing specialized research on the book of Lamentations that necessitated mastery of ancient Hebrew, Babylonian, Phoenician and Ugaritic. Meanwhile he published some articles for learned journals and encyclopedias, including the articles on Hebrew poetry in the New Catholic Encyclopedia and the Jerome Biblical Commentary. Due back in the States in the fall of 1967 he found himself with his doctoral these almost but not quite completed. It was Not until 1983 that he would finally obtain the rare doctorate in Sacred Scripture (SSD) from the Pontifical Biblical Institute. By that time he had already proven himself as an active, serious, and highly respected teacher and scholar in his chosen field.
Returning to New York in 1967, Ally was assigned to Manhattan College where he made significant contributions to the recently opened graduate theology program and as a cheerful presence in the Brothers’ community. By 1969 it was clear that the College was in no position to utilize to the full Ally’s specialized expertise or to provide the climate in which he could develop as a major scholar. In that year, at the urging of Msgr. Patrick Skehan, Brother Augustine, the Provincial, gave permission for him to join the faculty at Catholic University in the Semitics Department where he soon became its Chair. Also a member of the faculty at De La Salle College, Ally found himself in the midst of the turmoil consequent on the changes in the religious life after Vatican 11 and the General Chapters. He never resigned himself to the closing of the university Scholasticate, arguing vainly with superiors and chapters that it be continued. Once the College was closed, Ally moved to the Brothers’ community at St. John’s College High School, where it would not be indiscreet to say he was something like a fish out of water. Neither his lifestyle and schedule not his concerns were comprehensible to the Brothers there. Eventually in 1993 he took up residence with the Salvatorian Fathers near the University until he retires in 1996.
For 27 years, Catholic University was the scene of the greater part of Ally’s teaching and scholarship. He was active in the Catholic Biblical Association, serving as its treasurer from 1981-1996, as an associate editor of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly and Old Testament Abstracts. In 1985 he founded the Old Testament Colloquium, composed of a few selected young scholars who had recently obtained doctorates, to encourage them to become productive contributors to biblical studies. A demanding teacher who hid an inner smile behind his stern exterior, he is remembered by his students for the concern and time he lavished upon them. He was the first to open the musty and smoke-filled Semitics library in the morning and his daily routine was legendary. In addition to his courses, he spent endless hours in proofreading, editing, Bible revision projects, and correcting doctoral dissertations. His former students celebrated their regard for him in the scholarly articles they composed for the Festschrift in his honor published in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series in 2001. Many of his former students have themselves gone on to distinguished careers and it is a please to note that many of them are present, or regret being unable to be present, for his obsequies.
Like everything he did in life, when Ally decided to retire, he retired. Once he moved to the Brothers’ community at Manhattan College in 1996, one would never know that there was such a scholar in our midst. When the editors came to present the Festschrift, he tried unsuccessfully to keep it a secret. It was not until after his death that we found mint copies of his monograph The Lord of the East Wind published in 2002. As far as most of us knew, his time was divided between his morning walks to gather the daily newspapers, his dawn-to-dusk care of the ailing elderly Brothers, his hours spend in planting and pruning to improve the landscaping (punctuated by frequent cigarette breaks), his volunteer work with the minority students at the De La Salle Academy Middle School, and his regular visits to his hospitalized uncle and cousin. He did admit to some of us that he spend an hour a day working on Hebrew. Nor could we fail to notice his regular tutoring sessions in the community lounge with a young doctoral student from Fordham who sought his help with her work on the Pslams.
Psalm 90 reminds us that “our span is seventy years or eighty for those who are strong.” Brother Aloysius at seventy-two was strong in so many ways but no match for the ravages of the fatal stroke he suffered on June 11. As we commend his immortal could to the Lord and his body to the earth on the feast of St. Aloysius, his patron perhaps but more his counterpart than his model, we are consoled by the testimony of his friend Abbot Gregory Polan, OSB: “Brother Aloysius, who so lovingly and enthusiastically taught the word of God, now dwells with the Word in peace and splendor. May he rest in glorious peace.” Luke Salm, FSC