Rooted in a Catholic mission to honor Christ by serving those most in need, the Brothers of Mercy was founded in Hadamar, Germany in 1856. For over 160 years, professed brothers have dedicated their lives to serving the sick and elderly all over the world. One such brother carrying on this legacy of compassionate care is Brother Xavier O'Neill.
Brother Xavier's work has touched countless lives, spanned the generations and taken him around the globe. He has cared for newborn infants, the sick and dying, and everyone in between.
Born and raised in Wyandotte, Mich., Brother Xavier realized he had a vocation to the brotherhood when he was in 11th grade. He joined the Brothers of Mercy after his high school graduation, without ever having visited the community. In 1943, he professed his first vows and has since enjoyed dedicating the past 75 years of his life to serving the mission of this unique Catholic congregation.
Brother Xavier recalls working as a private duty nurse in his early years with the brothers. Since 1924, The Brothers of Mercy had been providing residence for sick and dying patients at their Cottage Street infirmary in Allentown, but they were best known for making medical house calls.
In their first 20 years in Western New York, this small community of brothers made a remarkable 76,000 house calls. Brother Xavier, along with many others, traveled by bicycle in the rain or snow (day or night), and provided around-the-clock care to patients from all different backgrounds.
Hours on end were spent providing pain relief, administering medications, bathing and grooming their patients - all part of what they considered to be their "privilege to serve." Referring to his patients, Brother Xavier said, "Any way you could make them happy or touch their hearts meant so much to them!"
These charitable acts were administered to anyone in need, at any time. Payment was accepted in many forms, including fruits, animals, a "pay what you can" method and sometimes nothing at all.
In addition to serving in Buffalo, Brother Xavier worked in his home state of Michigan as a nurse anesthetist, where he specialized in newborn care for 13 years. He spent time in the 1960s at a Brothers of Mercy mission hospital in Africa that was established by five Dutch Brothers. He ran the Brothers of Mercy's 100-bed retirement home in Kansas City, Mo., and on two occasions served as a nursing home supervisor in their facility in Oklahoma City. He also served as provincial superior of the Brothers of Mercy North American Province from 1960 to 1963.
After over seven decades of full-or part-time work, Brother Xavier is now retired. He resides at the Brothers of Mercy Clarence headquarters, which since its founding in the early 1950s, has grown to include skilled nursing, rehabilitation, assistive living, independent living, respite, hospice and home nursing services. There he spends time praying with residents, and also giving back in another way - providing residents with manicures each week. He considers becoming both a registered nurse and a certified registered nurse anesthetist as his greatest accomplishments.
Brother Xavier's 75th Jubilee was celebrated in a special commemorative Mass at Brothers of Mercy's Sacred Heart Chapel on Sept. 9, 2018. He renewed his vows in front of family, friends and fellow brothers. A reception to celebrate the occasion followed at the brothers' residence.
Though his wisdom, knowledge and understanding of the world have evolved through his more than seven decades of service, two things have never wavered - his good heart and his dedication to help others. Brother Xavier truly exemplifies the mission statement of the Brothers of Mercy: "The Charity of Christ Urges Us On."
To learn more about the Brothers of Mercy and their mission, visit www.brothersofmercy.org.