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St. Agnes Alumnus declared Venerable by Pope Francis: Brother Norbert McAuliffe lived Christian virtues in a heroic way

By Sr. Maureen Foy, OP

On November 18, 1895, the two McAuliffe brothers, William (age 11) and John (age 9), arrived at St. Agnes Home for Children in Sparkill, NY after the death of their parents. The boys joined fully in the rhythm of life at St. Agnes and, as the saying goes, they “grew in wisdom, age, and grace.”



L: Brother Norbert McAuliffe. R: St. Agnes Home for Children in Sparkill, NY.

When Sacred Heart Brother Stanislaus came to speak with the boys about a religious vocation to the brotherhood, John followed his heart and answered God’s call. He joined the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, a community that focused on missionary work. He was given the name Brother Norbert and made his first vows in 1903. He had great success in his studies at Loyola University in New Orleans. The Brothers always credited his scholarly achievements, his spiritual growth, and his athletic ability to his years at St. Agnes Home with the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill.

Brother Norbert’s desire to be a missionary was realized when he arrived in Uganda in, 1931 and established their first mission in Gulu. He became known for his charity, patience, and humility, and for the fatherly care he showed toward the Brothers in their illnesses. It was the community’s routine that the Brothers would rest each day after the noon meal. But Brother Norbert spent his “hour of rest” in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Deeply devoted to the Blessed Mother, he made frequent visits to the chapel for the recitation of the Rosary as he had been taught when he lived at St. Agnes. The African people called him Dano Ma Lego, which has two translations: “the man who prays” or “the man who walks with God.” Brother Norbert spent most of his religious life in Uganda where he died in 1959.

In 1971 correspondence between the Sacred Heart Brothers and the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill began because Brother Norbert’s cause for canonization was in process. This spring the Sisters were delighted when Brother Martin Hilton, the Superior General of the Sacred Heart Brothers, called to share the wonderful news that on May 19, 2018, Brother Norbert McAuliffe had been declared Venerable by Pope Francis, the first major step in the sainthood process.

This is certainly proud news for the Sparkill Congregation and the St. Agnes school community! We will share future developments as the process moves forward.


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