The journey of Holy Cross Brother Jacob Eifrid has been shaped by community life.
Born in Fort Wayne, Brother Eifrid was immersed in religious practice and surrounded by loving family from the very beginning. The second oldest of six children, Eifrid was baptized at St. Vincent de Paul Parish and attended grade school there. When his family relocated during his high school years, they switched to St. Charles Borromeo Parish. Throughout these formative years, daily Mass and family prayer remained a constant in his life. He recalled that it was as early as three years old that he first felt an interior desire to serve the Lord with his life. He stated, “It was something that was on my mind from a very young age.”
While a high school student at Bishop Dwenger and participant in the LifeTeen youth group at St. Vincent’s, Father Andrew Budzinski personally invited him to seriously consider the possibility of a call to the priesthood. Eifrid continued to prayerfully ponder that vocational call as he began collegiate studies at Holy Cross College. At Holy Cross, he met religious brothers for the first time and saw the family spirit of the Congregation of Holy Cross, whose spirituality is modeled on the Holy Family.
“Between the Holy Cross priests and brothers I met, I was struck by their prayerfulness, joyful community, and strong spirit rooted in the constitutions of Holy Cross,” Brother Eifrid said.
As an undergraduate, he learned about legendary Holy Cross figures, including St. Andre Bessette, Blessed Basil Moreau, and others. He also participated in a pilgrimage to the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, the largest church in the world dedicated to St. Joseph, which was built through the efforts of St. Andre. As a sophomore, Eifrid lived in an on-campus men’s discernment community run by Holy Cross Brothers, which further deepened his love for community life.
“Over time, I discerned that God was not calling me to the priesthood, but to the religious life in itself,” Brother Eifrid said.
This vocational path continued as he entered Moreau Seminary in 2017 and then, following the completion of his novitiate, took temporary vows as a Holy Cross Brother in 2019.
Now, this calling has become permanent, as Brother Eifrid professed final vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross on Saturday, August 26, alongside nine other men – eight seminarians (who were ordained to the transitional diaconate the next day) and one other religious brother, Brother Matthew Rehagen.
While there have been fewer new religious brothers in the last several decades, there has been a resurgence in recent years. For Brother Eifrid, who is part of this renewal, the apparent lack of other religious brothers his age was not a deterrent to pursuing this call.
“That was a reality, but it did not affect my own call to it,” Brother Eifrid said. “I looked to the role models I knew – the saints, the ones I became friends with through prayer. I saw this as something I could do too, and thought ‘Why wouldn’t I do it if they had done it?’ And in the past six years, since I have joined, we’ve had six men profess final vows as Holy Cross Brothers.”
While the identity and mission of a priest are well understood throughout the Catholic world, many often wonder what exactly the role of a religious brother is within the Church. Traditionally, the Holy Cross Brothers have been teachers at the high school or university levels. They have also served as laborers in various capacities, reflecting the spirit of their patron, St. Joseph, who embraced work as a pathway to deeper sanctity.
One of these laboring brothers was Brother Columba O’Neill, who spent his life serving the community around Notre Dame as a humble cobbler and promotor of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. One of Brother Eifrid’s pastoral experiences included working in the Holy Cross archives, where he assisted and learned from Brother Philip Smith, the postulator for Brother Columba’s beatification cause.
“Holy Cross emphasizes the importance of being modeled after the Holy Family,” Brother Eifrid said. “In addition to St. Andre, who had such a profound love for St. Joseph, encountering Brother Columba, someone who lived closer to me in both time and geography, and seeing his love for Jesus and Mary, was something very important and personal to me.”
These heroic examples of faith from years past, as well as those in the congregation today, have confirmed Brother Eifrid in his call.
“I have come to see Holy Cross primarily as a family – the family that God has created me for,” Brother Eifrid said. “In our diverse brotherhood, we find unity in sharing prayer, meals, and fellowship. We share the joys and sorrows of life with those engaged in the same mission. We are educators who seek to make God known, loved, and served. By living like and imitating the Holy Family in our community life, we aspire to model here on this earth what our lives in heaven will be. By our example of fraternal life, we hope to show a divided, individualistic world that authentic communion is a real possibility both here and in the kingdom to come.” He added, “A joyful life in community, sustained by prayer, all for the mission, is what Holy Cross is all about.”
Brother Eifrid, who earned a bachelor’s degree in theology and liberal studies from Holy Cross College and master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame in theology and french, is living a call to service in multiple ways as a brother. His primary ministry assignments for this academic year are at the University of Notre Dame as Assistant Rector of Stanford Hall and Visiting Teaching Professor of French.
“I studied French at Bishop Dwenger and developed a love for the language,” Brother Eifrid said. “As part of my religious formation, I spent a summer in Montreal learning more about French literature and culture. Now, I have the blessing to teach French at the university as a member of a congregation based in France, which seems surreal!”
Brother Eifrid, who highly valued his time in formation, said he is excited to have the opportunity to again live in a dormitory and serve as a spiritual guide and support to the young men living in residence at Notre Dame.
“It is such a gift to share in their studies, in their extra-curriculars, in their faith, in everything they do,” he said. “The love Christ has for me is so great that my joy comes not only from receiving His love but also from sharing it with others in my ministry.”
“Additionally, in a special way, I feel a certain closeness to those who are poor, both materially and spiritually,” Brother Eifrid continued. “While I love my ministry in the residence hall and classroom, I hope to spend a considerable period of my religious life in direct service to the poor, to those whom Christ has special preference.”
Brother Eifrid added: “The love of God is a concrete reality in this broken world. It is possible to live in this world in a way that reflects how all will experience the love of God in heaven. Heaven is real, and we get a foretaste of it on earth through our experiences of prayer, community, and authentic service to one another. The vocation to religious life comes with the responsibility to imitate and model God’s love in a real, explicit way. It is certainly not easy, but the grace I have found through living the evangelical counsels helps me remain humbly and simply close to Christ, Who gives me the strength for a more perfect life.”
Brother Eifrid also exclaimed to those who are pondering their own call from the Lord, “Do not be afraid!” and to approach the idea with “fearless prayer and community with others.”
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