30, 1910 - November 11, 1987)
Rotunno worked as a bank teller for fifteen years prior to entering
our Marist Brotherhood in January 1944. His investiture took place later
that year in Poughkeepsie, New York and he made his perpetual vows in
1950. For many years Rock served the students of Mount Saint Michael
Academy and the province as a teacher. he also taught at Saint Ann's
Academy, New York City, and St. Peter's, Haverstraw, New York. He died
suddenly in Miami, Florida where he was retired.
John Herrmann delivered Roch's eulogy at Mount Saint Michael Academy,
Bronx, New York.
first met Brother Roch in the Summer of 1962 when I was a scholastic.
We visited Taconic Lodge Camp in Cold Spring for a day; he talked enthusiastically
about his experiences that year as a fifth-grade teacher here at the
Mount. I soon perceived that he was a caring, disciplined, and at times
worrying kind of person; his students were always uppermost in his mind.
From that time until 1972, we met only now and then, but, on each occasion,
my initial impression remained true.
Roch died on November 11, the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. The Entrance
Hymn for the Mass of that day is very applicable to Roch: "I will
raise up for myself a faithful priest [brother]; he will do what is
in my heart and in my mind, says the Lord." Fidelity to the Lord
was a daily conviction that Roch lived out. Note also the Communion
Antiphon of that day's Mass: "I tell you, anything you did for
the least of my brothers, you did for me, says the Lord." How often
in later years, these words fell from Roch's lips with a raised gesturing
finger, as if to warn all of us that this was the very purpose of our
actions and activity.
in today's Mass Paul writes to the Thessalonians: "You know very
well that the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night. .
. . Let us not be asleep like the rest, but awake and sober!" Or,
consider the Alleluia Verse: "Be faithful until death, says the
Lord, and I will give you the crown of life." It is amazing to
reflect how appropriate scriptural texts for the Mass on the day of
his death and this Funeral Mass are when applied to Brother Roch. Like
a thief in the night, death came suddenly. But, he was awake and about
the Lord's business that morning. He was faithful in prayer and brotherliness.
Moreover, "he will do what is in my heart and in my mind, says
was in the heart and mind of the Lord for Anthony Rotunno many years
ago? His call to religious life back in the early 1940s was unique in
a way. He was already a young man in his thirties, secure in his bank
position, happy and devoted to his family, and, seemingly quite successful
in life. However, Christmas Eve of 1942 marked a change in his life.
Brother Roch told only a few how, after working late that evening in
the bank, he arrived home fatigued. For the first time in years he told
the family that he would not accompany them to Midnight Mass as was
their custom: he would attend Mass the next day instead. Before the
family left for Midnight Mass, Brother Roch was already asleep. During
the night, he awoke, and partly dreaming, partly conscious, he thought
he saw Our Lady and himself surrounded by small children. When he opened
his eyes wide, the vision was gone.
experience stayed with Brother Roch and tugged constantly at him. What
did it mean? He finally shared the experience with his confessor who
interpreted it to mean the Lord through his Mother was calling him to
religious life. The confessor suggested that Roch become a Brother so
he could teach young children. Since Our Lady seemed to be calling him
and he already prayed daily to her, the confessor advised that Roch
should enter the Marist Brothers because they are dedicated in her name.
And so in 1943 at the age of thirty-three (the same age as the Lord,
he would quip) he entered the Novitiate of the Marist Brothers in Poughkeepsie.
Later, Roch and his superiors discerned that his apostolate of teaching
would be at the elementary level for twenty-eight years: three at St.
Ann's Academy in New York City, three at St. Peter's Elementary School
in Haverstraw, New York and twenty-two years here at the Mount as fifth-grade
I arrived here as principal in 1972, Roch had retired from active classroom
teaching. He asked me to assist him in finding work that would be fulfilling,
needed, and compatible with his waning energy level. Together we settled
on his taking over as Moderator of the Mission Collection. He was given
a display case in the cafeteria and exhibited there many mission projects
and letters from missionaries, archdiocesan mission officials, and benefactors.
Daily he recorded the mission homeroom collections and if the result
for a specific class for that day was low, he would fling open the door
and announce, "This is the Lord's need, not mine. Dig deep,"
as he proceeded around the room. In one year he raised the mission collection
total to $5,000, a 75% increase.
1977, wishing to serve the needs of the poor, Brother Roch joined us
as a member of the founding community at Sacred Heart Middle School
in the South Bronx. There he diligently kept accurate attendance records,
and assisted with supervision of the yard at lunchtime in both the middle
and primary schools. In addition he served meals weekly at the senior
citizens center, where for many, he often told us later that evening,
it was their main or only meal for that day. He also visited weekly
two shut-in gentlemen; this ministry left him both sad and joyful at
times for he was a caring and loving person.
was here at Sacred Heart that I finally gained an insight into his deep
prayer life. By this time, when alone, he would often speak aloud and
could be overheard, even with the door closed. "0 Lord, help those
persons; they need your love." "Lord, it's your work here,
not ours; come and assist us." If you asked him to pray for an
intention, your name was immediately entered into his little black book
and you were prayed for daily. Once at Sacred Heart I asked him to pray
for something very important. About a month later Roch asked me if the
intention had been granted. When I responded, "Yes, thank you for
the prayers," he sighed, "I wish you had told me sooner; there
are so many others to pray for." Then he permitted me to glance
at his little black book. The list of persons and intentions was at
least two pages long.
in 1978, Roch brought this same devotedness to prayer and to others
to Marist High School in Chicago. He devotedly assisted Brother Lawrence
in the computer lab doing "little things," in his words, and
receiving and caring for visitors to the community. He always had a
warm welcome and handshake, a high hearty laugh, a sincerity, a worried
yet loving concern for others. In his simplicity and fidelity to the
Lord's calling, he was a true son of Father Champagnat, our Founder,
and through his Beloved Lady, a blessing as Brother to us. The Communion
Verse of today's Mass: "I tell you solemnly, whatever you ask for
in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,
says the Lord," is again so appropriate for Roch's life. And so,
dear friend, Brother, now it is our turn to pray: "Lord, may he
rest in your eternal love and peace forever. Amen."