1908 – 1999 (March 31)
George Joseph Phillips, son of Dennis P. Phillips and Elizabeth Ahn, was born on October 16, 1908, in Philadelphia, PA., and was baptized on November 15, 1908, in the Church of Saint Gregory. After he received his grammar school education in Philadelphia, he cared for his mother and worked in maintenance. On July 1, 1947, he entered the lay brother program at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York, with the name ‘Brother Michael’. He spent two years as an oblate and then six months as a postulant. On July 26, 1950, Brother Michael entered the novitiate of Our Mother of Good Counsel, New Hamburg, New York, professed first vows on July 27, 1951, and then was assigned to the Parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Staten Island, N.Y., where he worked as sacristan and facilities manager. On October 26, 1954, Brother Michael professed solemn vows, and two years later he received an assignment to Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, where he served the community in a number of capacities, especially sacristan and care of the property.
On September 3, 1963, he was assigned to the parish of Saint Mary, Lawrence, Ma., where he spent the next twenty-nine years, an example to both the Augustinian community and generations of parishioners. In 1992, Brother Michael was transferred to Our Mother of Good Counsel Monastery, North Andover, Ma., and in 1994, to the Health Care Unit of Saint Thomas of Villanova Monastery, Villanova, PA.
Brother Michael was a quiet, unassuming man known for his sense of humor, reliability and dedication to the various responsibilities he held. He fully appreciated the camaraderie of his fellow religious as well as the care he received upon retirement. Always prompt and thorough in fulfilling his duties, he was especially faithful to his vow of obedience and loyalty to his superiors. On one occasion, when his layman assistant was away, a friar asked in jest, "Brother, how are you doing, now that your boss is on vacation?" Without hesitation Brother Michael responded, "I have only one boss, and he's at the other end of this table." On another occasion he was asked why he selected "Michael" as his religious name, rather than retain his baptismal name. Without a moment's delay, he answered, "I got tired of hearing people say, 'Let George do it.'" While he resided in the Health Care Unit of Saint Thomas Monastery, a nurse brought his breakfast and through habit addressed him as "Father." She corrected herself and said apologetically, "Oh, Brother, I'm sorry, I forgot who you were." In his usually quick style Brother responded, "I know who I am. That's all that matters!"
Toward the latter years of his life, Brother returned to the use of his baptismal name. He passed away on March 31, 1999 at the age of 90. On Monday, April 5, 1999, a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated in Saint Thomas of Villanova Church with interment the following day at Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, PA.