Religious order- Brothers of the Sacred Heart, and Order of Christian Educators founded in 1821 in Lyons, France by Fr Andre Coindre, a diocesan priest. The order has three houses in Kenya, a scholasticate in Lang’ata for young brothers doing their studies; another at the United States International University for Bro Vincent teaching Spanish their; and a third at Nkubu where Bro. John lives.
Born: December 1939 in New York City, Citizen: American, Parents: Irish born mother and Polish born father, Family: parents + 3 boys and a sister. Brother John is the second born, NY/home neighborhood: Mostly lower middle class, immigrant community of Irish, Italians, Germans, Jews, Afro AMERICANS and Spanish.
Eight years of primary school, taught by the Dominican nuns and brothers. Four years of high school, taught by the brothers in a Juniorate or Seminary.
University: Undergraduate B.SC Education
Graduate: A.A Theology
Jesuit trained throughout university studies.
Entered Juniorate/Form One at age 13 in New Jersey. Did novitiate in 1957/58. Pronounced vows (Poverty, chastity and obedience) in August 1958.
First volunteered to be a missionary in Africa in 1959 when a first year in university. Had to wait seven years before coming to Kenya so that he could finish studies and get some teaching experience in America. Taught for five years in two Brother’s High school (Boys) in the USA.
First assigned to Nyeri High School for four months (Aug-Nov 1966) to teach English, Maths and Physics.
In December 1966, Bro John moved over to Nkubu High School, also then run by Sacred Heart Brothers to teach English, Maths and CRE. Later Bro John became Headmaster in mid-1968.
He resigned from headship in1973 to go found with FR Andrew Botta, Materi Girls Secondary School, then the first and only girls’ high school since creation in Tharaka, in April 1973. The first Form One class had 24 girls. In the mornings, Brother John taught at St Pius X Seminary and in the afternoons at Materi. Materi Girls’ was first located within Matiri Catholic Mission (Chiakariga) before moving after one year to its present site near Tunyai in order to have an ample supply of water, now drawn from the Kithino River.
Over the last 35 years, Materi has developed into a centre as he tried to meet some most pressing needs of local Tharaka community. Today, it boasts six schools with its 65-acre campus. Presently, Materi has a staff of 106 men and women, many teachers and non-teaching staff have served for more than 20 years.
Financing the centre
Presently, the annual budget is Sh54million.
Over the years in Kenya, Bro John has raised some Sh1.4billion for capital and recurrent expenditure. At Nkubu High School, he added science labs, staff houses, classroom and two dormitories. At Materi, everything, including essential vehicles and student sponsorship/scholarship schemes.
Bro John doesn’t ask for nor get any allowance at Materi. He supports himself from the ‘brothers’ annual subsidy and gifts from well-wishers.
His future plans
To stay healthy and alive. Not to add any new major ‘schools’ at Materi, but definitely to try and improve the quality of existing schools and to build up an endowment fund for future needs. He also tries to be an advocate for Tharakan and Meru improvement and developments, especially in the areas of health, water and roads etc.