Bro. Skip Matthews dies at 77: the face of Christ for others, especially for those in need

bro-skipSince 1994, Bro. Francis “Skip” Matthews, S.M. has been a fixture in the Chaminade family. He has graced the school with his infectious smile, boundless energy, and irreplaceable spirit.

Chaminade College Preparatory is deeply saddened to announce Bro. Skip died on December 14, 2016 in Cupertino, California. He was 77 years-old, with 57 years of religious profession. The entire school family will miss his presence on campus, be it through his work in Campus Ministry, supervisory time in the cafeteria, substituting in the classroom, or to discuss social justice, the Dodgers, or the previous night’s Chaminade basketball game. You could always count on a resounding, “Hello,” if you saw an older, white pick-up truck in the parking lot.

“Bro. Skip meant the world to Chaminade’s Chatsworth community,” says Middle School Principal, Mike Valentine, “To the students he was the official greeter,  the one who woke them up and started their day with an encouraging word and a smile. To the faculty and staff he was a true inspiration, mentor, and  confidant. I can’t think of a single adult on campus from the faculty, to the physical plant crew, to the support staff who didn’t have a special relationship with Bro. Skip.”

A native Angeleno, Bro. Skip was raised in Manhattan Beach. He attended grade school at American Martyrs, and later Junipero Serra High School in Gardena. He professed his first vows in 1959, in Santa Cruz. He studied with the Brothers of St. John of God at their Los Angeles hospital, and learned the fundamentals of nursing and caring for the elderly. In 1962, he made perpetual profession in the Society of Mary.

In his early ministry, Bro. Skip served in health care and directed the Marianist Infirmary in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ten years later, he became a paramedic at a remote facility in Zambia. He served there for 18 years, and also assisted with work at Matero Boys Secondary School, a Marianist school in Lusaka.

Chaminade President Rob Webb reflects, “Bro. Skip traveled the world, taking the charism of Fr. Chaminade with him. He lived a very full life bringing some of the most disenfranchised, disconnected people closer to God. He cherished his time at Chaminade as much as his time anywhere else. We are all blessed to have known him.”

In addition to his ministry at Chaminade, Bro. Skip volunteered at hospice and the Good Shepherd Shelter, a safe house for battered women and children. He also visited Skid Row twice a week to help the homeless and spend time with them. For more than 20 years, from December 1 to 24, Bro. Skip set up a table and offered to write cards to family members and friends of people living on Skid Row. This year, Bro. Skip could not do his usual work, but over the summer he collected clothes for to the Good Shepherd Shelter and cards for the Los Angeles Catholic Worker. The items were recently donated to both organizations by the Marianist Community.

Bro. Skip was honored in 2013 at the Annual Brothers Mass and Banquet with the Annual Brotherhood Award. Archbishop Jose Gomez and Bro. Larry Moen, C.M.F., presented him with the award, “Honoring Bro. Skip’s religious commitment to the service of the Lord as a Marianist Religious Brother and his faithful ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles through education and outreach to the poor and the homeless.”

Kevin Pillar ’07 Nominated for Clemente Award

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Kevin Pillar ’07 in a March 2016 game (photo: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Ever wonder if Apostolic Works stays with you once you graduate from Chaminade? The short answer is, “Yes!”

Alumni often reflect back on cherished Chaminade experiences when they meet President Rob Webb, and these stories more often than not include service projects and their impact. As Mr. Webb pointed out in the spring/summer issue of Chaminade Now, “Many alumni say they continue to seek out service opportunities well after they leave Chaminade because helping others continues to profoundly touch their lives.”

Kevin Pillar ’07 is one of those alumni. The Toronto Blue Jays’ center fielder was recently nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes the  Major League Baseball (MLB) player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Pillar and his wife, Amanda are active with charitable organizations in Toronto. In addition, Pillar has set-up an MLB Action Team at Chaminade, which will help high school students to “plan and organize volunteer events in and around their schools.”

Read more about Pillar and his nomination on the Toronto Sun website.

An Apostolic Works Experience to Remember

By Annelie Rugg P ’20

“Mom, this is fun! When can we do this again?”

Hearing these words from my 8th grade daughter, Hanna, made me smile for many reasons. We were not at a theme park. We were not on a trip. We were volunteering three hours on a hot Sunday, August afternoon as a part of Hanna’s Chaminade College Preparatory apostolic works experience.

Our time was spent at Hopemill’s Assembly Day. Located in Encino, Hopemill’s mission is “to help those who find themselves homeless.” But it is so much more than just another well-meaning organization.

Funded entirely by private donations, Hopemill’s primary service is assembling backpacks (hence, Assembly Day) with essential items, and distributing them to the homeless, as well as to people living in missions and shelters throughout Southern California. On this particular Sunday, our volunteer contingent of about 25 people — including children as young as 6 and adults as old as 70 — carefully and efficiently assembled 400 brand new backpacks earmarked for delivery to a series of shelters near Bakersfield.

What makes Hopemill different, and why will we be back? For Hanna, it is energizing to join side-by-side with adults and other kids, building something that someone really needs. Seeing how a little bit of thought and organization can make volunteer work fun and meaningful. For Hanna and I, it is the detailed thought and care that goes into every aspect of the work that results in assembled backpacks. For starters, all the supplies are brand new: from clothing to food to personal items. We were not just jamming one of each item into the packs and zipping them shut. We were respectfully asked to “pack each bag as though it is a gift,” to convey to the recipient that they are a valued person.

So what did we do? Our cohort divided across about eight different stations, where volunteers carefully packed a pre-arranged selection of items comprising the general hygiene packet, the toothbrush packet, the shampoo packet, the food packet and, in my case, the stationery packet. This latter packet stood out for me: it consisted of a stamped envelope, a notepad or a few sheets of paper, a pen, and a safety whistle. It was included so those struggling to survive could write to family or friends and let them know how they are doing. Thoughtful. It made me see that these people are not just going through the motions. They have put themselves in the shoes of a needy person and imagined what that person could use that no one else thinks of.

I sometimes wonder whether Hanna has any sense of the impact her apostolic works have, or whether it even matters to her. Being part of Assembly Day at Hopemill re-awakened a confidence in the power of our works that we can make a positive contribution, and that there are real people out there who need our help. Hopemill is right in our neighborhood, helping people in our area, doing the simplest of things, and doing it with thought and care. Truly, an apostolic works experience to remember.

The Apostolic Works Learning Program allows Chaminade to educate students in grades 6-12 for service, justice, and peace by helping them engage in a variety of service opportunities. It is not just a Christian Service program, but one that forms Chaminade students into the school’s Catholic-Marianist tradition and challenges them to be agents of change.