In baseball terms, he’s a relief pitcher. In business terms, a fixer. Officially, Holy Cross Brother Thomas Giumenta is a learning assistance counselor.

Whatever the title, Brother Thomas helps struggling University of Portland students up their grades. A veteran teacher who speaks English and Spanish, he carries out his ministry with concurrent firmness and tenderness. His model? St. Joseph.

“Joseph portrays for us religious brothers a kind of spiritual paternity as a foster father,” said Brother Thomas, an educator for 50 years who has spent the past 12 at U.P. “This is the role we see ourselves in with students. You are a spiritual father.”

Whether helping freshmen with reading comprehension, working on exam skills with a shaky upperclassman or chatting about the mysteries of life with a frightened senior, Brother Thomas is there, and not just from 9 to 5. He lives in a dormitory and warmly welcomes guests.

“We want students to know that someone sees in them Christ himself,” Brother Thomas said.

In his personal devotions to St. Joseph, he focuses on the saint holding the child Jesus, an unusual task for a male before recent decades. Brother Thomas tries to hold students in his heart.

“Joseph had a relationship with Jesus,” Brother Thomas said. “He wasn’t just the guy who earned the money.”

Brother Thomas, 71, was inspired by the Holy Cross Brothers who welcomed and taught him as a boy at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, New York.

He’s been a teacher and youth minister in New York, Maryland, the nation’s capital, Michigan, Chile and Peru. He also worked in social services, first in upstate New York and then the Bronx.

Now, his most public role is as chaplain of U.P.’s men’s soccer team, where he uses both English and Spanish. As always, his guide is St. Joseph, aka San José.