Brother Patrick Corr O.H.

Thomas Francis Corr was born the youngest of eleven children on a farm in County Kilkenny, Ireland on April 27, 1914. In addition to working on the farm, young Tom Corr worked five years in town at Nicholas Kenny’s Dry Good Store on High Street. The Irish village tradition of direct caring for one’s neighbor suited his natural concern of the sick and elderly and the roots of his vocation, to care for the sick, the aged and the needy can easily be traced. “When a neighbor got sick, you went and helped him,” Brother Patrick says, “my father had a great love for caring and as I grew up, I wanted to care for the sick and needy as well.”

The spirit of hospitality, the Caritas, which the Hospitaller Brothers adopted as their Grand Motif, was an integral part of his own early experiences. The call to religious life blended with his interest in serving God and neighbor, leading Thomas to become a postulant in the Order of the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God on September 1, 1939. He took the name of Patrick and vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and hospitality when he was 26 years old. The Mission of the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God is to witness to Christ’s healing love as expressed by their charism of hospitality, through a community of faith and a compassionate service to God’s suffering people. The Hospitaller Brothers strive to incarnate the sentiments of Christ towards the sick and those in need and to manifest these sentiments with actions of mercy.

Six years later in Dublin, he received his diplomas in Psychiatric Nursing and Teaching and in nursing the Mentally Handicapped, specializing in childhood psychiatric disorders.

In 1946, thirteen years after entering the Order in Ireland, Brother Patrick was sent to join the Brothers in Los Angeles where the Order was establishing a care center for men with long-term illnesses and incurable diseases. “Los Angeles?” Brother Patrick thought to himself, “Where in the world is that? I’ve never heard of it.” He was immediately welcomed into the busy community at Western and Adams. In fact, soon after his arrival he was given multiple tasks: he was made primary care giver for 6 patients and 8 long-term residents and was named Director of Novitiate. After only 5 years of service, at the Mount St. John of God Sanitarium, the Brothers were being forced to turn any needy men away since they didn’t have room.

The Brothers quickly established a reputation for running a wonderfully caring facility, which in turn won them many valuable friends who responded to Brother Patrick’s requests for financial assistance as the Brothers felt the need for expansion.

While caring for a patient and speaking with her daughter of the financial need, Brother Patrick awakened Miss Crowley’s intent to help. She asked her associate, Conrad Hilton to investigate the need and suggest a response. Hilton and the Crowley family gave a sizable sum to the ministry of the Brothers.

Brother Patrick’s most enthusiastic reminiscences and richest stories are of his encounters with the innumerable Los Angeles’ families, their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends who have supported the work of the Brothers. Name after name of Los Angeles’ best falls from his lips, as he tells of the generous, charitable and caring people, who have given him and the Brothers, the resources to extend their care and expand their facilities to what they are today. Brother Patrick’s personal sincerity, simplicity and directness, reflecting the fidelity and constancy of his community, have helped bring out the best in all.

This experience helped the Brothers and Brother Patrick recognize a larger role for his responsibility and was appointed moderator of the Women’s League of Saint John of God founded in 1942 by Major Superior Brother Matthias Barrett. In 1950, the Women’s League and the Men’s Association held the 1st Dinty Moore Dinner with Mr. Henry Dockweiler as Chairman. Mrs. William C. Brophy and Mrs. Eileen Jeffrey acted as co-chairpersons and 19-year-old V. Richard Cunningham was a member of this first committee. In 1955, the Helpers’ Club was organized, and Mr. Ambrose Unger was elected the first president.

In addition to these auxiliaries many great individuals of Los Angeles helped Brother Patrick realize his vision for building St. John of God Retirement & Care Center. None other than Conrad Hilton was the first of many prominent citizens to help the Brothers make a success at Western Avenue & Adams Boulevard. Eventually the acquisition of this property, a gift from Miss Bernadine Murphy, enabled the Brothers to serve more people. Countess Bernadine Murphy Donohue became an invaluable ally and friend. With her help, the help of Countess Estelle Doheny and that of Mr. Hilton, in 1949 the Brothers built the first wing for 46 beds.

In 1968, Brother Patrick was named Provincial and remained at that post for six years. By 1971, the new construction included the main Assisted Living Center and the Walter & Marite Muller Chapel, donated by Frank Muller, where daily Mass is celebrated.

The history of Los Angeles and the people who made it great are revisited and brought to life through the reminiscences of Brother Patrick. As he noted when interviewed by the Los Angeles Times: “With the help of Almighty God and the wonderful generous souls”, he has inspired to help us in our work, we have created one of the “crown jewels” in this City of the Angels where the elderly are cared for with holiness, dignity and love.” He would network with prominent families, and go door to door pleading with the people of the city, asking each to contribute what they could for this work of God. For the past 60 years, the Brothers were able to expand their services at Western and Adams from 13 patients and 8 residents to over 250 residents today. The opening of the St. Richard Pampuri and the St. Benedict Menni facilities represents the culmination of 65 years of work and planning by Brother Patrick and the Hospitaller Foundation in cooperation with the Brothers of St. John of God.

Brother Patrick said, “At times it was very difficult and I wondered if there was any future in this ministry here; you had to depend on faith. I have learned from experience that if you work for a work of God, nothing will be easy. I realized that if I do my best, God would fill in. I’m convinced in my heart that it’s God’s will for me to do my part, to bring his presence, to care for others,” he says, “what greater charity is there than to help our fellow man, especially the poor, sick and needy? They are given to us so we may practice the virtues of charity. We don’t do that with our cars, our TV sets. In taking care of the poor and sick, you take care of Christ himself. It should permeate our entire being. Many of our residents here are lonely, away from their families and loved ones. We are the ones in their families’ place, and what we do for Christ in serving them requires great patience. But there is great joy as well and it is a privilege to build a place like this where we can care for these people, because Christ himself is present in those we serve.”

“Now and then,” he continues, “our resources start to run low and we wonder, what to do? We pray, and Almighty God always comes through. Whatever God’s will is, we will accept it. The extension of God’s kingdom, you see, necessitates that we all have a cross to carry. When you accept that, it makes it easier to proceed.”

“Including the young who,” he notes, “are tempted by the pleasures of the world – money, cars and so forth... you have to be motivated; you have to be convinced that what God says is true. I’m here to do what God wants done. And Christ and Our Lady, Queen of the Angels will take care of us.”

“It’s much more difficult raising funds than taking care of people. It gives you a challenge every day. You’re going to be turned down, so when you ask, you have to be prepared for that. I may be turned down, but I have made a connection. And then in time that will pay off. The most important thing is to build relations, stressing your good cause. Once people realize you are not asking for yourself, they often come around. You’re plowing ground and planting a seed. The most difficult part is just asking. You don’t know what to anticipate. I just plowed along, and here I am. If I got rejected, there would be another day. That’s the time to hold on and be happy with what we get rather than saying, ‘I should have a lot more.’ I’m proud of being able to get the people together and make so many friends. It’s a great joy to see what has been accomplished with all these great people. This place is wonderful now. The people who supported it should be delighted as much as myself. It’s just marvelous.”

Brother Stephen de la Rosa, O.H. recalls: “In our old constitution we always had the custom that the Brother Superior had to be present and available to the patients. On Saturdays and Sundays when we were usually short-staffed and irritability was at its height, I recall Brother Patrick coming on the ward and making beds. This was always quite impressive to a young Brother observing a Superior labor along the ranks of the staff even though at the end of the day the staff and I had to remake many of the beds made by him. From the perspective of the Brothers, Brother Patrick is a man driven by an inner vision of compassion and determination. His faith tempers these gifts and in this manner he has developed a sense of possibilities and a future for St. John of God Retirement and Care Center. For those of us who have been the beneficiaries of many of his stories of collecting funds, his efforts are truly a testament of hope despite struggle and encouragement despite rejection. His purpose as a Brother of St. John of God has always been clear and focused: To serve Christ in the person of the poor and sick.”

On April 27, 2014, Brother Patrick celebrated his 100th birthday in Los Angeles. He is to this day grounded in the notion of Charity to God and Neighbor. This mission keeps him going even though now it is primarily in prayer for his friends. Someone once said, “Don’t fight the day, just let it be. Get up and be positive.” This attitude along with a prayer that goes like this, “for the success and blessing of all that is going on here” has kept Brother Patrick youthful in his centenarian phase of his life. He now prays for all of you and your families and is grateful for his life’s blessings.

Awards received

June 22, 1986

For 40 years of dedicated service at St. John of God
City of LA - Dave Cunningham - Councilman 10th District
From President Ronald Regan
From Pete Wilson - US Senate
From George Deulmejiar

June 22, 1988

32nd Medallion of Merit
Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick

November 15, 1990

Certificate of Appreciation
Mayor of LA - Tom Bradley

April 7, 1991

On 50 years as a Brother of St. John of God:
City of LA - John Ferrero - Councilman 4th District

June 11, 1997

Recognition of Brotherhood Award
Roger Cardinal Mahony

September 28, 1997

Our Lady Queen of Angels Award
Roger Cardinal Mahony

April 18, 2006

Citizen of the Year Award
Knights of Columbus Council # 621

April 18, 2006

Proclamation of “Monumental Angelino”
Council Member Tom LaBonge

November 30, 2007

Hospitaller Lifetime Achievement Award
Hospitaller Board of Directors and the Brothers of St. John of God

June 19, 2014

Arthur DiSpirito Award
Helpers Club of St. John of God