Holy Cross Brother Ronald G. Whelan, 83, who was among the early members of the core staff at André House, died at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Indiana July 4.
His name will be remembered nationally for belonging to the largest class of Brothers — five — to make their profession. The record still stands.
Locally, he will be remembered for his 17 years of counseling work in the neo-natal intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the ‘70s and ‘80s followed by his service at André House, which offers food, clothing, companionship and an array of other services to largely homeless guests.
The Holy Cross brother was born Oct. 17, 1932 in Canada to Henry and Theresa (Dunn) Whelan, but moved to the Detroit with his family by age 2. That’s where he later attended Visitation grade school and Catholic Central High School.
Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Fr. Jerry Whelan, CSC, he entered the candidate program at Holy Cross Seminary, Notre Dame in September of 1950. A year later, Br. Ron entered Sacred Heart Novitiate and made his first vows in 1952.
Br. Ron served a brief tour of duty in the Notre Dame Bookstore before joining the maintenance staff at the Provincial house in 1953. He helped open Notre Dame High School in 1956 where he built the football stadium and helped a priest start the swim team, among other roles. Br. Ron spent three years serving at the college level before spending another two at the high school.
The Holy Cross brother transferred previous course work from Loyola University in Chicago to Notre Dame where he earned a degree in sociology in 1972. Br. Ron blazed a trail of Holy Cross men at Casa Santa Cruz in Phoenix. While living there, he connected with St. Joseph’s Hospital and was later named “Employee of the Year.”
Aleda Richter West once worked with Br. Ron at the hospital and later attended services at Casa Santa Cruz. She described him as “a wonderful representative of men and of the Catholic Church” in his obituary’s online guest book.
Br. Ron served on the core staff at André House from 1988 to 1992. The hospitality center across the street from the county’s Human Services Campus serves over 500 meals almost nightly, among other outreaches.
Holy Cross Brother Richard Armstrong said Br. Ron was very popular during his time at André House. “His strong point was, he had a great smile and he was able to greet the guests,” Br. Ricard said.
When their ministry opened St. Joseph the Worker — now its own nonprofit — Br. Ron served there too. He served five years as director of an André House in Oakland, California that, in response to guest need, offered more furniture than food, Br. Richard said.
Later outreach brought the Holy Cross traveler to California State University in Hayward where he served as campus minister followed by six years at a chapel-turned-church in downtown Portland, Oregon. It was there that the National Association of Brothers named him Brother of the Year. He returned to Phoenix in 2006 before moving to Holy Cross House last year.
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Preceding him in death are his parents Henry and Theresa Whelan, and brothers Donald Whelan and Fr. Gerald Whalen, C.S.C.
Surviving are brothers Francis “Duke” Whelan and Fr. Edgar Whelan; sister-in-law Jan Whelan, as well as many nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews.