Plus - Appreciations

Laughter and learning from teacher, mentor and friend

Rev. Brother Baptist Croos, FSC

A heart of gold stopped beating and a gentle voice was stilled when Brother Baptist Croos of the De La Salle Brothers passed away on March 21, 2009. I first met Brother Baptist in 1961, and over the next 48 years our friendship blossomed and strengthened. He was a true friend who could be trusted implicitly. Here was a man who radiated love and inspired all those around him. His ability to forge everlasting friendships based on mutual respect endeared him to people of all ages and walks of life.

He never hesitated to go the extra mile to help even a stranger. He lived the philosophy, “Never ask, never refuse.”

He reached out to heal hearts and minds. He helped people in the true Christian tradition of not letting the left hand know what the right hand gave. He never spoke of his good deeds, and he expected nothing in return. But to the many he helped, his magnanimity will never be forgotten. Not all the De La Salle Brothers are aware that for the past 25 years Brother Baptist had been helping to support a poor pre-school in Mannar. With the help of donors, he paid the teachers their salaries and provided children of the poorest of poor an education, as well as books, clothes and shoes. Brother Baptist could achieve this because his donors believed in his integrity and vision.

In October 1993, Brother Baptist invited me to set up an institute to train teachers of English. We were the founder directors of the La Sallian English Academy, which commenced operations in Mutwal in January 1994. The institute was fashioned after the 42nd General Chapter of the De La Salle Brothers.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, this vital educational institute that had been running successfully and self-sufficiently for 10 years was forced to close in August 2004.

One of Brother Baptist’s many admirable qualities was to stand up fearlessly against injustice. Brother Baptist believed in partnerships as an effective means of contributing to growth and progress. He would cite the 35 or so La Sallian Brothers in the Philippines who run varied institutes of learning, including universities. Brother Baptist attributed their success to their shared mission.

When he began his third term as the Provincial of the La Salle Brothers in 1997, he set about the task of overhauling a disorganised and creaky administrative system. Brother Baptist could talk on a variety of topics, from religion to poetry and cricket.

He held the word “brother” sacred. More important, he believed that a white heart was more important than a white robe. Here was a humble man of the cloth, a seemingly ordinary man who led an exemplary and extraordinary life.

Soon after his term as Provincial ended in 1999, he served an “obedience” in the Philippines, from 2001 to 2004, despite suffering from diabetes. On his return to Sri Lanka, he was asked to go to war-torn Mannar where, for four years, he carried out his humanitarian mission under the most difficult circumstances.

Conditions in the conflict zone in Mannar were chaotic. He stayed there without complaint, while his health steadily deteriorated. He was forced to return to Colombo for medical treatment, but by then it was too late. He died while undergoing a dialysis treatment.

Brother Baptist was a talented man. He was an eloquent public speaker and a gifted singer. He was also an artist and calligraphist. Those who knew him will remember his radiant and inspiring presence. He cheered us with his charm, compassion and light banter. He combined the great gifts of humour and humanitarianism.

Brother Baptist, you were an instrument of love, laughter and learning. We are proud to have had you as our teacher, mentor and friend.

By Denis de Rosayro

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