Brother Henry Spencer serves Brebeuf College for 25 years and counting

By  Luc Rinaldi, Youth Speak News
  • October 23, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Twenty-five years ago, the Presentation Brothers became involved at Brebeuf College, introducing the all-boys high school to the most “Christ-like man it’s every seen.”

Brother Henry Spencer is a great influence on the school’s students and staff, said gifted and enrichment teacher Michael Da Costa of his former teacher and now co-worker. 

Spencer has been involved with the school since 1984, when then Archbishop Gerald Emmett Carter invited the Presentation Brothers, a religious order founded in Ireland in 1802 by Edmund Rice, to continue the vocation the Jesuits had begun at Brebeuf College. Although Spencer retired from teaching 12 years ago, he still volunteers, providing a religious presence at Brebeuf daily.

“The Jesuits did great work at Brebeuf, and the Brothers continued that,” said Spencer, recalling his entry into the school as a Latin, English and religion teacher.

He eventually became the head of chaplaincy, and continues his role in the school voluntarily.

Since arriving, Spencer has organized and been involved in service in and out of the school. He is an active volunteer in programs such as Out of the Cold and Day of Service, efforts to help and feed the homeless, and serves as a pastoral representative with parents and teachers involved in the Toronto District Catholic School Board’s Catholic School Advisory Council. 

However, it is his work inside the school, with students, that has made him one of the most highly respected members of the Brebeuf community. From his earliest days he has led Les Donnes, “The Givers,” a group that helps its peers in spiritual and liturgical life and reaches out to elders in the community. He prepares the daily liturgy held in the Brebeuf chapel every morning, and from there, continues on to lead the prayers over the announcements.

Though he recently celebrated his 77th birthday, Spencer still attends student retreats.

“If you ever want to talk to him about anything... you can,” said Andrew Cichoki, a Grade 12 student who knows Spencer well through his work with Les Donnes and involvement in the Brebeuf Youth Ministry, which Spencer oversees and is actively involved in.

Though no longer officially a member of the guidance department, Spencer has no reservations when given the opportunity to counsel students, whether it be in spiritual matters or for simple support.

“I used to love working in the guidance department,” said Spencer. “I was there for any student who needed spiritual advice or help in school.”

Spencer’s calm nature and genuine modesty reflect the three vows that members of the Presentation Brothers take: chastity, poverty and obedience. His work in the school with its students also embodies the mission of the order, “Forming Christ in the Young.” 

Rob Gregoris, a fellow member of the chaplaincy team, describes Spencer as “an inspiration and role model from a faith perspective.”

But Spencer humbly says about Brebeuf, “(It) is a great school with great students and teachers, and I am happy to contribute to the school community by being a witness to Christ and His Gospel.”

(Rinaldi, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Brebeuf College.)

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