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In remembrance: Brother Peter Pontolillo, SM

In Remembrance

April 26, 2022

In remembrance: Brother Peter Pontolillo, SMA funeral Mass for Marianist Brother Peter Pontolillo was celebrated April 22 in Holy Rosary Church, San Antonio Texas. The liturgy, which was livestreamed, can be viewed here.

Brother Pontolillo, 83, died April 12 in San Antonio with 63 years of religious profession.

He was a beloved teacher and a nationally recognized school administrator, superintendent and educational lobbyist who also served a decade as secretary general of the Society of Mary in Rome, Italy.

Early in his career, Brother Pontolillo taught math, languages and religion at Cathedral Latin High School in Cleveland. While in Cleveland, he also earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Western Reserve University.

Brother Pontolillo, a native of Hempstead, Long Island, New York, was born March 20, 1939, the third of four children of the late Salvatore and Philomena (Fensore) Pontolillo. He recalled being attracted to the idea of a religious vocation from an early age. He first encountered the Marianists at Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York, and after graduating in 1956, he entered their novitiate at Marcy, New York.

After professing his first vows in 1957, Brother Pontolillo began his scholasticate studies in Ohio, earning a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Dayton in 1960. He professed his perpetual vows in the Society of Mary at Beacon, New York, in 1965.

In 1966, Brother Pontolillo was named principal of Holy Trinity High School in Brooklyn, New York. Over the next six years, he became an advocate for providing state aid to non-public schools in New York City and was instrumental in expanding educational curricula to better meet the needs of urban students.

He was named executive director of the Catholic School Administrators Association of New York in 1972 and was elected to the executive committee of the National Catholic Educational Association.

In 1976, Brother Pontolillo began serving as principal of Colegio San Jose in Puerto Rico. During this time, he was named to a special commission charged with writing regulations to govern private schools on the island. He also served as advisor to the San Juan Archdiocesan Office of Education through 1982.

After returning to the mainland in the mid-1980s, Brother Pontolillo was named superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Diocese of Victoria, Texas. While serving in this capacity, he led an effort to reverse a 15-year slump in enrollment that revitalized the school systems and resulted in a 5% annual growth through the end of his tenure in 1996. He also guided the schools through an accreditation process and was credited with introducing new computer-based technologies to many local classrooms. These efforts led to regional and national recognition and several awards.

After using his leadership skills to advance Catholic education for more than 30 years, Brother Pontolillo was called to Rome in 1996 to serve with the Marianists’ ministries worldwide. He served two five-year terms as secretary general and was responsible for communications activities.

He returned to the United States and again served in high school ministry in San Antonio and Hollywood, Florida, before retiring to the Marianist Residence Community in San Antonio.

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