February 23, 2017
Brother Alexander Gussio, S.J. was called to eternal life on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. He died at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in White Rock, TX, after suffering a massive heart attack while in Dallas visiting his sister. He was 78 years old and a Jesuit for 55 years.
He was born on February 14, 1939 in Chicago, IL. When his family moved to Texas, he attended grammar school at John Henry Brown (1945-50) and Belle Station Junior High (1950-52) in Dallas TX. He entered the Society at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, LA on July 18, 1961 after the normal period of postulancy. He pronounced First Vows on July 31, 1963. His Tertianship was in Tampa over the two summers of 1972-73 in the Brother’s Tertianship Program directed by John Edwards, S.J. He pronounced his final vows on February 2, 1974 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Antonio, TX.
Brother Gus was the son of Italian parents who immigrated from Cefalu, Sicily and who moved around in the U.S. quite a bit before settling in Dallas.
He came to the Society with a good heart and a desire to serve God, but little
in the way of education. He had completed one semester of high school and his courses were mainly in shop. Thus, his postulancy was extended to a year, which he spent at the Colegio San Alfonso in El Paso, TX, under the tutelage of Fr. Ignatius Fabacher, S.J. At the time the Colegio was the site for a brothers’ tertianship but the building would soon become Jesuit High School in El Paso. During his year in El Paso, Gus worked on the basics of grammar school education and began learning various skills such as painting and carpentry. In all this, he had a strong faith and desire to serve God; Fr. Fabacher notes “He is extremely tenacious in his desire to be a Jesuit.” After postulancy, he moved to Grand Coteau to begin his novitiate, take vows, and continue as a junior brother to learn Jesuit life and more of the skills that he would use in living out his vocation.
In 1966, he became a member of the New Orleans Province Brothers Work Crew, which moved to various places in the province to complete specific projects. In two years, he worked with the crew in New Orleans, Grand Coteau, Mobile, Atlanta, and Houston. In the summer of 1968, while working in Houston, the Provincial asked him to go to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Antonio, TX to help out for a month. He was to remain there for almost fifty years.
Brother Gus loved being at Guadalupe, and the people there loved him. He was a gentle giant (6’3”), and he loved the fact that the parish was situated among the poor, for whom and with whom he desired to work. While there he added to his skills, learning, by one account, electrical, air-conditioning, automobile repair, watch repair, and not least of all, fundraising.
With this last, he supported a number of projects and scholarships. At one point, Fr. Marty Elsner, S.J., the pastor at the time, noted that “he developed a list of friends among welders, auto mechanics, transmission people, candy makers, building supplies men, Polish Sausage producers, plumbers, heating & AC people. He asks them for help with services or materials or festival prizes or dollars, and they have been generous.” Over the years, by one estimation, Gus brought in around a million dollars to support the Community of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Fr. Elsner also noted that Gus’s friends and benefactors often would tell him their problems and “he listens to them…his empathy for them is sincere, and his advice is true.” This suggests Ignatius’s emphasis on spiritual conversation as a crucial apostolate of the Society. Brother Gus was an example of how it could be exercised by one who might not have a lot of learning but who did his best to listen to the Spirit and had a big and kind heart. It is also a reminder of how Jesuit brothers like Gus often are available to some that Jesuit priests don’t often encounter, except perhaps in the confessional. Theirs is a ministry of presence that is genuine and profound in its own way.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Sam Gussio and Angie Piraino Gussio/ He is survived by his sister, Mrs. Josephine Roppolo.
Arrangements are as follows:
Services: Monday, February 27, 2017
Visitation 9:00 AM
Funeral Mass 10:00 AM
St. Rita Catholic Church 12521 Inwood Rd.
Dallas, TX 75244
Burial: Jesuit Cemetery, St. Charles College
Messages of condolence can be sent to his sister:
Mrs. Josephine Roppolo
6916 Rockview Lane
Dallas, TX 75214
We remember with gratitude all that God has done through Brother Gus’s life of service to God and God’s people. All members of the USA Central and Southern Province are to offer a Mass for him. Members of the St. Charles College community are to offer an additional Mass as well.
Sincerely in Christ,
John F. Armstrong, S.J. Socius