Posted by Br Bill Firman
on 23 April 2019
When asked to deliver a tribute to Brother Julian, I found myself confronted by a paradox: I felt privileged to be asked to speak about someone whom I esteem so highly but how could I say anything adequate to describe such a great but unassuming and humble man, especially when I have been absent from this Malvern community for almost a decade? I am grateful that Brother Pat Lynch who knew Julian so well as a younger man in New Zealand, is here today to share this task of recognition of one of our 'Saints'.
I was also encouraged by the fact that I have always found Julian a most supportive and balanced man in those times when we have lived in community together, have met or corresponded. I have valued Julan as a listener, a mentor and a very wise friend. Indeed, wisdom is the word that most immediately comes to mind when I think about Julian. One of my favourite passages is from the Book of Proverbs where it states: 'The tongue of the wise man brings healing'.Julian was such a wise man with a healing tongue. A deeply spiritual man, he was always positive and supportive, gentle if he needed to point out something that could be done better but a healing and unifying presence in any situation.
He personified being a Brother to all, loyal, faithful, totally reliable and helpful. Indeed he would put himself out unobtrusively for others when he felt they needed it. When I was Principal at De La Salle, he sometimes accompanied me to Jan Juc for a few days here and there, more I suspected because he knew it was good for me than to meet any need of his own. Julian was a self-contained man at ease with himself and God. Self-contained, yes, but never selfish. I have met no person more generous.
I know that in his younger years, especially, he was often utilised by e Brothers as a 'Mr Fix-it', the Brother who could be sent into deal with sensitive situations, with balance and calmness, to resolve stand-off issues or simply defuse matters of discord or tension. At times I think a succession of Visitors would have wished they had at least ten clones of this quiet man with even temperament but steely disposition when it was required. Beneath that constantly charitable persona was a man of conviction and deep faith, a person whose judgement you could trust.
When I was elected as a young Visitor, I asked Damien Harvey to assist me especially in care of the older Brothers. I recall Julian encouraging me with words that it was a good idea and I had picked the right Brother. Damien was a very good friend of Julian as were all the Brothers of that generation who knew the depth and quality of the man. That was one of my better decisions. I am not sure if I ever told Julian he would have been my next choice.
A few years later the then new Visitor with far fewer grey hairs that he has today, David Hawke, did ask Julian to take on the same responsibility. Julian once again rose to the challenge not only of being an energetic contributor to the mission and ministry of the Brothers but in being a supportive Brother to all. Eventually, he endured to become the doyen, the oldest Brother, in our District the man sometimes referred to as the 'opening bat'. We are blessed to have had such an 'opener' and a quality 'First Eleven' to emulate.
During all of the latter period of his life, unseen and unnoticed in the confines of his room, Julian continued a new personal mission of translating many Institute documents from French into English. It was an extension of his disposition to be of service to others
Julian was a mentor for us all, a man of total integrity as envisaged by the psychologist, Eriksen, when he spelt out his theory of eight stages of psycho-social crises to be faced as we journey through life. Julian enjoyed the esteem of everyone in his beloved community of De La Salle Malvern where he lived out his senior years. We were all affirmed and encouraged by him. We admired his grace, wisdom and integrity, a man of holiness and wholeness totally faithful to the legacy of St John Baptist de La Salle
He enjoyed a long life and was blessed with good health for most of it. I was not here for his final couple of years of failing health but I know he would wish me to thank all those who cared for him and supported him during this time as he prepared to meet his maker. Thank you sincerely. We are all the richer for having intersecting life journeys with this genuine and faithful servant of God. May Julian rest in peace.
- Br Bill Firman fsc