On Feb. 15, Archbishop José H. Gomez honored Brother Adam Benedict Becerra of the Friars of the Sick Poor as Brother of the Year at the Annual Brothers Mass and Banquet. Sponsored by the archbishop and the Council of Religious Brothers, the banquet has united brothers from across the archdiocese for more than 25 years.
“The award is given to a brother who has done some kind of outstanding work in the archdiocese,” says Brother Larry Moen, a Claretian Missionary who serves as chair of the Brother’s Council and has known Brother Adam for six years. “Brother Adam’s name really jumped out.”
Brother Adam, 37, was born and raised in Baldwin Park and Los Angeles by parents of Mexican descent. He joined the Friars of the Sick Poor of Los Angeles in 2006 and professed his final vows in 2010.
Brother Richard A. Hirbe founded the Friars of the Sick Poor in 2001. Their mission is to give themselves to God in the service of the sick, poor and marginalized, and to help them find meaning in their suffering.
The friars’ home parish is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, but they “live in the midst of the world,” rather than in a monastic community. Each brother lives independently and is expected to participate in the life of the community in which he resides.
The friars profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but add a unique fourth vow. They promise to be self-sufficient, meaning that they will manage their own finances and not rely on the community to provide for them. The friars experience the daily struggle for survival in Los Angeles, and thus can relate to the poor whom they serve.
Brother Adam lives in the midst of the world through his role as director of Mission Integration and Ministry at Chaminade College Preparatory, where he has worked since 2004. Chaminade is a Catholic middle and high school founded in 1952 by the Marianists and located in West Hills, California.
He works closely with the school’s senior administration to ensure that all decisions are made in accordance with Catholic and Marianist philosophies and values. He trains and forms all faculty members in Catholic teaching, and helps them implement the Marian charism into their curriculums.
Because he is also in charge of ministry, he is directly responsible for the students’ spiritual formation, which he carries out through liturgy, retreats and one-on-one conversation.
According to Brother Adam, the Marianist tradition of education is very practical: educators should model Mary in order to form Christs in the students. For Brother Adam, striving to establish these characteristics is the key to his mission.
Brother Adam cites the school’s size as a practical impediment. The school has 220 faculty members, 700 middle school students, and 1,350 high school students across two campuses.
Brother Adam says he is also challenged by the question of how to create initiatives for innovative formation and continued education in order for these characteristics to be a lived reality at the institution.
“There is a lot of discernment and thought that must go into that,” he says, “so it is a challenge, but not impossible.”
“I’m not just satisfied with the status quo,” claims Brother Adam. “We need to stick with our tradition, but move our tradition forward in innovative ways.”
Brother Adam is a pianist and organist and, prior to Chaminade, served in this capacity at archdiocesan parishes such as St. Genevieve and St. Francis of Assisi. He continues to assist parishes by providing formation to parish ministers through workshops or days of recollection.
He also teaches systematic theology at the Instituto de Pastoral y Evangelización, a program sponsored by the archdiocese to spiritually form Hispanic ministerial leaders. His course covers liturgy, sacramental theology, Christology and pastoral counseling, enabling his pupils to incorporate theology into the programs they direct at their parishes.
To further improve his efforts in this ministry, Brother Adam is completing a doctorate in ministry from Barry University, a Dominican school in Miami. In harmony with Brother Adam’s vow of self-sufficiency, he is funding the degree entirely through his own efforts.
But how does Brother Adam’s prolific work fall under the charism of the Friars of the Sick Poor?
“Hope is the foundation for everything that I do,” said Brother Adam. And not simply hope in the face of suffering, he clarified, but “hope in being a better Christian, a better witness to the Gospel. To be a person of inclusivity, who respects people’s human dignity and other faith traditions.”
Brother Adam was initially drawn to the friars by their patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, but ultimately his decision was inspired by an experience in his past. At age 15, Brother Adam’s biological brother passed away. In the devastation that followed the tragedy, he found hope and solace through his family.
“Because that reality resonated in my own life, I wanted to be hope for others.” When he discovered that the Friars of the Sick Poor had hope as the foundation of their charism, Brother Adam knew that he had found his home.
Brother Adam’s devotion to spreading hope did not fail to have an effect on Brother Larry, who commented on his enthusiastic and inspiring character.
“He’s a very outgoing and very joyful person.”