We Are SI
The Unseen Brother
Sam Bernstein '14
Ever wondered who the smiling man pushing the mail cart down the first-floor hallway is? If so, you’ve seen Brother Le, a fixture in the community for “about 155 years” as Mr. Guilbeaux jokingly puts it.
Brother Lee hasn’t always lived in our beautiful Bay Area; he was actually born in Singapore, where he lived until arriving alone in San Francisco at the age of 27. While at home he lived through Japan’s occupation of Singapore, which occurred during World War II. For those unfamiliar with it, the occupation lasted four years and claimed the lives of tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese. Br. Lee explained, “Everything was rationed. You could see the hardship there.” He then added, “Out of all that, I learned a lot: how to be patient, what fear is all about.”
Yet Br. Lee didn’t allow hardship take a toll on his love and appreciation of life. Before coming to San Francisco, Br. Lee was a Buddhist and Taoist, more out of his culture than anything; however, while taking evening classes at USF, he encountered the Jesuits for the first time. Inspired by role models such as Br. Ferril, he became Catholic in 1961 and joined the Jesuit Novitiate in 1966. He cited how “[The Jesuits] were so simple and kind to me,” adding, “That is not something common.”
In the years between his initiation into the Society of Jesus and time at SI, Br. Lee experienced one of the most defining moments in both his life and faith. “When I pray nothing bothers me,” Br. Lee says, and nothing characterizes that freedom more than his experience before a shrine of Our Lady of Fatima during a retreat in Los Altos. A moment of transcendence and peace enveloped him and affirmed his belief that “God id light.”
In 1967 Br. Lee first came to SI to work in the print shop. He explained “I accepted this role simply in obedience; I knew nothing about printing.” Yet Brother approached the job with his signature diligence. Since then he has occupied jobs in the bookstore, on the court as a tennis coach, and in the mail room. In addition to these responsibilities, Brother Lee visits Little Sisters of the Poor’s St. Anne’s Home to minister to the elderly.
Guilbeaux describes Br. Lee as “everything people love about SI— maintaining that tradition with care that is synonymous with St. Ignatius.” Brother exemplifies generosity of spirit through actions.
He led senior retreats with Fr. Allender ’62 and created the CLC, Christian Life Community. Few can claim the impact Br. Lee has made at SI over the last forty years.
Br. Lee still possesses a vibrant personality and lives a life full of joy and happiness. Times have changed as Brother can now laugh in delight at his access to modern luxuries such as his own computer and cell phone. He loves to read spiritual works, attend daily Mass, and, of course, continue to play tennis. He coached boys and girls tennis for nineteen years, and both the program and sport will always hold a special place in his heart. As Mr. Guilbeaux says, “I’m looking forward to challenging Brother Lee to a match in about fifteen years when I improve my skills.” And for some reason, I still think I’ll be putting my money on the wisdom, talent, and irrepressible smile of Brother Lee.
SI's beloved Brother Lee tirelessly works behind the scenes for the SI community.
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