Religious brother was a savvy media point-man for Anchorage Archdiocese

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For a quarter century — 1979 to 2004 — Brother Charles McBride was a fixture at Catholic community events across the Archdiocese of Anchorage. At ordination Masses, parish summer camps, Good Friday Faith Walks — there on the fringes was a religious order brother with a camera. He was a big guy with glasses and straight, neatly combed hair.

On July 14, Brother McBride died in South Bend, Ind., where he had spent the last 11 years, living in community with his fellow religious brothers in the Congregation of Holy Cross. At age 76 he had struggled with recent heart and respiratory health issues.

In June Brother McBride marked 57 years since taking his religious vows.

A native of Chicago, he joined the Holy Cross Congregation in 1954 after a year at Holy Trinity High School in Chicago. He was the last high school graduate of the Brothers’ Juniorate program in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1957.

He made his first vows in 1958 at St. Joseph Novitiate, Rolling Prairie, Indiana. 
Over the years Brother McBride served in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Anchorage.

In Alaska, he was the archdiocese’s official photographer for more than two decades, departing in 2004 to return to his provincial headquarters in South Bend, Ind., where he could live and experience the graces of community life with his fellow religious brothers.

Throughout his time in Alaska, Brother McBride took tens of thousands of photos from across the archdiocese. He also served as communications director for the archdiocese, head archivist, chairman of the CREDO ecumenical cable channel, Webmaster, coordinator of the supply priest schedule and editor of the archdiocesan directories and the weekly announcements sheet. He also ran the archdiocese’s former fund-raising program and edited the weekly Catholic Commentary newsletter.

Brother McBride initially came to Alaska in 1979 to work at St. Theresa’s Camp, the summer youth camp on the Kenai Peninsula. But then-Archbishop Francis Hurley tapped him to be the media point man for the event that to this day is still regarded as the largest gathering of people ever in Alaska: Pope John Paul II’s visit to Anchorage in February 1981. Brother McBride was communications director after that, a position he described as mostly “feeding and comforting the press.”

“It was a pleasure to work with someone like Brother Charles who really knew his job

and did it well,” said Maria Downey of KTUU Channel 2 in a 2004 interview with the Catholic Anchor. “I have worked on stories with him since the early ‘80s … and every time he has been helpful and courteous even when the story wasn’t necessarily positive for the church.”

The clergy sexual abuse scandal made his media role more difficult, Brother McBride once told the Catholic Anchor, but he noted that for every negative story there were dozens of positive ones about the local church.

Brother McBride maintained that the key to good relations with the media is honesty.

“As a publicist, I have to show the archdiocese in the best possible light, but I also have to be honest about it,” he said. “If you can go to (the media) and say, ‘This happened,’ you’ll get a lot less negative publicity than if they find out about it and have to come ask you about it.”

When Brother McBride arrived in the Anchorage Archdiocese, there were “only about six people, including the archbishop” in the pastoral center.

Over the decades, Brother McBride witnessed tremendous growth in terms of programs, personnel and parishes. But in 2004 he highlighted the need for growth in the number of priests to match the expanding archdiocese.

Since leaving Anchorage, Brother McBride served as the communications director for the Holy Cross Congregation’s Midwest Province. He also rekindled a former passion for sports photography at the University of Notre Dame, the Holy Cross’ flagship university in South Bend. He started taking photos for the university in 1968 and shot hundreds and hundreds of events there. His images still appear in university publications, and sometimes in Sports Illustrated, which once courted him in vain.

A wake and funeral Mass for Brother McBride was held July 20th on the campus of Holy Cross Village at St. Joseph Chapel in Notre Dame, Ind. His remains were buried in the Brothers of Holy Cross Cemetery on the grounds of Holy Cross Village.


'Religious brother was a savvy media point-man for Anchorage Archdiocese'
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