Brother Matthew Kirwan, MM
Born: January 4, 1926
Oath: June 16, 1956
Died: December 18, 1988
Brother Matthew Kirwan died on December 18, 1988 at St. Teresa’s Residence. He was 62 years of age.
Joseph Vincent was born in Brooklyn, N.Y on January 4, 1926, only son of Edward Vincent and Anna McGinnis Kirwan. He attended St. Stephen’s Elementary School, one year of high school at the Brooklyn Technical H.S. and a year at Brooklyn Academy. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, 1943-46, as a Naval Corpsman. Discharged in January, 1946 he then became a member of the N.Y. City Police Dept. Gradually his desire to help people in the physical and social needs of life grew into a strong to help in their spiritual needs as well.
At the age of 27 he entered the Maryknoll Brothers’ Novitiate in Brookline, taking the name of Matthew. He took his Permanent Oath on June 16, 1956. His first assignment was to maintenance at Brookline Development House. During five years there he studied and took high school courses to make up his credits, pursuing engineering courses in oil burners and steam boilers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, obtaining a 2nd Class license for heating, ventilation and electrical equipment at Peterson’s Heating Institute, Boston.
Brother Matthew was a remarkably talented person and for that reason he was transferred to the Center in 1958 as Supervisor of the Physical Plant. For 20 years in that position he served under three administrations. Besides teaching 9 hours a week in the Brothers’ Training Institute he was also in charge of the maintenance of heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical and other equipment. He carried a heavy load and developed a capacity to delegate authority and responsibility to others. One of his superiors wrote of him: “Bro. Matthew is endowed with many natural qualities of intelligence, leadership, ideas, a sense of responsibility and strongly influenced by a spiritual outlook.” He was excellent in living in community and faithful in his prayer life. Another superior wrote: “He is a teacher at heart; his record shows that he had an unusually high IQ of 140 plus, with a gift of teaching.”
During his years at the Center he was consulted by other people because of his expertise and knowledge. The Sisters called upon him for guidance in building a new wing on their motherhouse building. He recommended many changes that saved thousands of dollars. He made a favorable impression on architects and engineers with whom he dealt on many projects, such as the first renovation of St. Teresa’s Residence, and the residence in Los Altos. As a hobby he became a voracious reader of the latest books on all sorts of subjects in his engineering field, in works on psychology and theology. He read rapidly and retained what he had read. In 1970 he was named Administrator of the Center and in 1972 a member of the Central Salaried Personnel Board.
In 1975, at the age of 49, Matthew was assigned with the first group of seven Brothers to the new Brothers’ Mission Unit in Western Samoa. There he was named as their representative for the Unit. He guided the construction of the Society house in Apia and also aided Cardinal Pio in various diocesan projects. He was elected Delegate of the Brothers in the seventh General Chapter in 1978. He was requested by Cardinal Pio to help establish a local Brothers’ community in Samoa. As a preparation for this, when he returned to the U.S. in 1982 he began special studies at New Rochelle College. He participated in the 1983 ICSA as the Brothers’ representative and in the 1984 General Chapter as a non-voting member. After that he enrolled in Empire State College, White Plains, for further studies in spirituality and counseling, planning to return to Samoa after graduation. While continuing his studies he volunteered to serve as assistant Director of the New York City house.
In November, 1988, Brother Kirwan fell ill and did not fully recover. On Tuesday, December 13, he returned to St. Teresa’s and died five days later.
Wake services were held at St. Teresa’s and the Center on Tuesday evening, with Bro. David Bercelli reading the Biography. A concelebrated Mass was offered in the Center Chapel on the 21st, with Fr. William Boteler as principal celebrant, with Bro. Wayne Fitzpatrick giving a Gospel reflection, and Fr. Thomas Kirchmyer conducting the graveside services in the Maryknoll Cemetery.