Br. Brice Byczynski '67 will celebrate 50 years as a Marist Brother during events held in New York June 16-17. Get to know more about him and his vocation.
1. What made you attend Marist as a student?
I initially came to Marist only because it was a new Catholic High School just five miles south of where my family lived near 67th and Pulaski.The announced opening of Marist for the fall of 1963 was made. I took the test along with some 300 other boys in the basement of St. Cristina School in Mt. Greenwood, and I became one of the members of the Charter Class of 1967. It proved to be one of the best events of my life.
2. What did you do after Marist?
After Marist I entered the Marist Brothers formation program “for a year,” with four other candidates to live, study, pray, and work out of an old Archdiocesan mansion on 48th and Ellis Ave.Three of these guys were also graduates of Marist H. S. Class of ’67.One had been the valedictorian at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY.That year we all commuted daily to either DePaul or Loyola Universities in downtown Chicago.The five of us were invested with the Marist Brothers habit in August 1968, and then moved to the second phase of our training as Brothers, at the Novitiate in Cold Spring, NY. Returning to Chicago in the summer of 1969 as a vowed Marist Brother, I returned to DePaul University to complete a B. A. in English and Theology so that I could go teach in a Marist Brothers’ high school in the fall of 1971.
3. How did you come to know you were called to be a Brother?
In April of 1967, my senior year at Marist H.S. I had responded to the invitation of Brother Myles “Eric” Anderberg, to “try it for a year.” That year stretched out for some eight years as I lived, worked, and played like a young Brother, through college and my first four years of teaching, three at Central Catholic H. S. in Lawrence,Mass., and one at the Holy Rosary Mission High School in Pine Ridge, S. D.The maturing experiences of living in community with a variety of younger and older Brothers, the challenging work becoming a Marist teacher of high school students, the deepening of my Marist prayer and spirituality, and solidifying sense of my call to this way of life with the input of others, helped me to choose to take “final vows” in October of 1975.
4. What draws you to the Marist mission, spirituality?
I know that I was originally drawn to the Marist mission and spirituality by the spirit of the men I met at Marist High School from 1963-1967.They were active, faith-filled, intelligent and fun.They seemed to love the things that I loved as a teen-aged boy: learning, sports, music and helping others.In addition, my experience living with them showed me how to put my faith in action in practical ways, as Marcellin did. I was drawn to their lifestyle of brotherhood and community.The influence of Mary goes back even further than the Brothers, as my earliest God-memories include being introduced to Mary by my Polish grandmother and my mother’s own devotion to Mary.The Marist Brothers complemented this early influence.
5. What have some of your other assignments been for the Brothers?
The next 43 years were full of rich and varied experiences of teaching high school students [and a variety of other roles] in Massachusetts, South Dakota, Oregon, and New York. I also enjoyed being part of a parish ministry team for three Native American Catholic churches on the western end of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, 1977-1980. [After retiring from teaching in 2003], for the next 12 years I worked out of Esopus, NY, doing retreat work and spiritual direction and eventually learned to manage the Marist Brothers American Province Archives which I did until August of 2015.I was then offered the opportunity to return to Chicago and to live with the Brothers while working again at Marist High School.Since then I have thrived while working with students with special needs in the A.R. C. testing room.I also get to help campus ministry run Sophomore retreats at the Chicago Catholic Charities food bank (pictured in red) as well as provide Kairos retreat experiences for Seniors.
6. What do you hope the students of Chicago get out of seeing Brothers working in the building?
I would hope that the students at Marist at least wonder about who these Marist Brothers are, and that they somehow connect us to the reason that Marist was founded and still exists.At best, I’d love to see some young men find the spirit of Champagnat so alive through their experience at Marist, that they’d someday in their future, give our lifestyle a try, “for a year, or so.” But even before that, I’d hope students at Marist are influenced for good by whatever contact they have.
7. What do you enjoy in terms of hobbies or interests?
Personally, the activities I enjoy most these days are walking and biking around our beautiful Beverly neighborhood, or the nearby forest preserve trails. Swimming is also possible at a nearby health club, which I try to get to regularly each week. More sedate interests include reading American and British poetry, and listening to live or recorded blues and jazz for which Chicago provides plenty of opportunities. I’m a big fan of Marist cultural events such as our excellent band, theater and choir offers. And though I’m hardly a “Rowdy” I do follow the RedHawks’ boys and girls teams throughout the year.
Send Br. Brice a congratulatory note!