Remembering Brother Xavier O’Neill

The Brothers of Mercy Clarence congregation’s longest serving member, Brother Francis Xavier O’Neill, passed away on Monday, March 18th on the Brothers of Mercy Campus, at the age of 94. Brother Xavier served in the Brothers of Mercy Mary Help of Christians for 75 dedicated years.

Brother Xavier, right, at his First Vows Profession in 1945.

Brother Xavier’s work touched countless lives, spanned the generations and took him around the globe. He cared for newborn infants, the sick & dying, and everyone in between. Born Donald Arthur O’Neill in Wyandotte, Mich., one of seven children, he joined the Brothers of Mercy after graduating from high school without ever visiting the community. He professed his first vows on Sept. 8, 1945, and his final vows on Sept. 8, 1951. He studied at the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, becoming a registered nurse and later a certified registered nurse anesthetist, which he considered to be his proudest accomplishments.

He first worked as a private duty nurse, making medical house calls day and night by bicycle. By the late 1940’s, the Brothers of Mercy had garnered a pristine reputation for compassionate healthcare, and their services were in high demand. Br. Xavier would work around the clock administering care, by providing pain relief and medications, as well as bathing and grooming his patients – all part of what the Brothers considered to be their ‘privilege to serve’. His compassion for his patients was boundless, and he always made it his mission to go above and beyond in any way that could, in his own words, “make them happy or touch their hearts”.

While caring for his aging mother, he was a nurse anesthetist in Detroit for 13 years, specializing in newborn care. In the 1960s, he served in a Brothers of Mercy Hospital in Africa. He also supervised a 100-bed Brothers of Mercy retirement home in Kansas City, Mo., and twice was a Brothers of Mercy Nursing Home Supervisor in Oklahoma City, Okla. From 1959 to 1963, he was Provincial Superior of the Brothers of Mercy North American Province in Clarence.

After retiring at the age of 91, he continued to enjoy fishing and travelling. Brother Xavier also spent much of his time praying for people and volunteering at Sacred Heart Home; some of whose residents can fondly recall him providing manicures there. An avid watercolorist, many of his beautiful paintings can be found throughout the Brothers of Mercy Campus.

Brother Xavier, left, with the Brothers of Mercy Clarence Congregation in 2018.

His seven decades of dedicated service helped shape and evolve his sense of wisdom, knowledge and understanding of the world and others; though two things that never wavered were his good heart and dedication to helping others. Br. Xavier truly exemplified the mission statement of the Brothers of Mercy: “The Charity of Christ Urges Us On”. Survivors include two sisters, Rose Celine Cowan and Mary Ann Kowalski; a brother, Pat; nieces and nephews; and his fellow Brothers of Mercy.

Friends may call Friday, March 22 from 2-4 and 6-8 pm at the Brothers of Mercy Residence, 4540 Ransom Rd., Clarence, NY. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 am on Saturday, March 23 in the Brothers of Mercy Sacred Heart Home Chapel, 4520 Ransom Rd., Clarence. Friends and family are invited, and flowers are gratefully declined. If desired, memorials may be made in Brother Xavier’s memory to the Brothers of Mercy Mary Help of Christians Community, 4540 Ransom Rd., Clarence, NY. Arrangements made by Amigone Funeral Home. You are invited to share your condolences at www.amigone.com.

Some of Br. Xavier’s beautiful watercolor paintings, which can be found throughout the Brothers of Mercy Campus

A recent photo of Br. Xavier taken by Br. Kenneth