Brothers build community on the Hilltop

As a Holy Cross campus, St. Edward’s University is home to many brothers. While most students are aware of the brothers in St. Joseph Hall, many are unaware of another building of brothers on campus. Between the on-campus apartments and satellite chiller plant is the Brother Vincent Pieau Residence, a home for the senior brothers.

This residence was designed in 1999 to provide the appropriate environment and support for brothers to continue to be active and independent after retirement.  The facility has space for 20 brothers, and there are currently 15 of them living there.

The Brother Vincent Pieau Residence has a gym, as well as a room with comfortable chairs, a big screen TV to watch Notre Dame football and Netflix, and a piano you can hear down the hall when Brother Gerald Muller plays music.  From the window in the kitchen, the brothers have a nice view of bluebonnets, coyotes, rabbits, and even biology students working on projects.

Each brother in the house has different ministries and tasks.  Brother Thomas Frey’s jobs include being the sacristan at the residence, helping with services and the Blessed Sacrament at St. Ignatius down the street, taking communion to brothers who are in rehabilitation and to a 104-year-old woman in a nursing home. 

Because of his particular area of ministries, Frey is often the last person to see a brother before he dies.  He thinks that since 2007 they must have had 30 brothers die.

 “The reality is our brothers are involved in the ministry of education and all the rest, and when they come to the end of their life they’re looking forward to heaven, I mean that’s it. It’s not like oh my gosh – I’m going to die it’s all over. No, no, it’s just beginning,” Frey said.

Frey encourages them to stay upbeat and happy about their future and tries to make it as pleasant of an experience as possible. 

Brothers from Brother Vincent Pieau Residence have led full lives. For example, 20 years ago Brother Daniel Lynch, a former biology professor, took an interest in the piece of land between St. Edward’s street and Oltorf which is now Blunn Creek. He went to the city of Austin and said, “I think the city should buy this property and make a park out of it.” And they did. Now school buses often take students to visit the Blunn Creek park. 

Another brother used to do maintenance for St. Edward’s, and did all the curbing in front of Main Building. Now, he collects and brings copper wire to the recycling center. Everyone has a job from recycling to taking care of the flowers that helps their community living. 

That is not to say that they are all work and no play. There is a birdhouse outside for the purple martins that fly around the house. The brothers have a competition to see who can guess which will be the first day the purple martins of the spring will be spotted. 

When Frey came to St. Edward’s in 1951, things were different. He lived in Sorin Hall, and what is now the NCAA soccer field was cattle pastures and farms. 

When he was training to be a brother, there were 90 other men in the same position; now not many men become brothers. 

Frey said there have only been around five new brothers in the last 20 years.

“The brothers here are elderly, generally happy and they know that this is the end of the line, that they are preparing for an entrance into heaven, and that’s what it’s all about,” Frey said. 

Frey leads the rosary at the Grotto on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m., and said that students are always invited to join.