In memory: Brother Peter Pontolillo, sm

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A funeral mass for Marianist Brother Peter Pontolillo was celebrated April 22 at Holy Rosary Church in San Antonio, Texas. The liturgy, which was streamed live, 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 nationally recognized school administrator, superintendent and education lobbyist who also served for a decade as General Secretary 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 remembers being drawn 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 in Marcy, New York.

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

In 1966 Brother Pontolillo was appointed principal of Holy Trinity High School in Brooklyn, New York. Over the next six years, he became an advocate for state assistance to New York City’s nonpublic schools and was instrumental in expanding school curricula to better meet the needs of needs of urban students.

He was appointed 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 appointed to a special commission charged with drafting regulations to govern private schools on the island. He was also an advisor to the office of education of the Archdiocese of San Juan until 1982.

After returning to the mainland in the mid-1980s, Brother Pontolillo was appointed 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 decline in enrollment that revitalized school systems and resulted in 5% annual growth until the end of his term in 1996. He also guided schools through an accreditation process. and has been credited with bringing new computer technologies to many local classrooms. These efforts have 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 in Marianist ministries around the world. 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 of San Antonio.

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