April 25, 2019
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DR#: 6 History of the Apostolate As a Response to the Needs of the Time and Place: New Orleans


By the mid 1840s, Brother Polycarp, ever true to the charism of the founder, determined that the time was right for the Institute to establish missions on foreign soil.  Most of the religious congregations founded in France around the same time as Father Coindre founded the Brothers of the Sacred Heart had begun to look beyond France and to establish foreign missions.  Our Institute was part of that movement.  Brother Polycarp captured the spirit of Fr. Coindre in his Rules of 1843: “It is in conformity with their vocation to go and stay in whatever region of the world where there is greater possibility of serving God and fostering the salvation of children.”  (Chapter 1, Article 3).  By 1846 the Statutes of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart clarified that the Institute was meant to be worldwide: “The Institute is not confined to one diocese nor even to France but rather goes anyplace in the world where Divine Providence directs it, granted that it has the approval of the ordinaries of those places and that the Brothers can fully observe the Rules and Constitutions.”

After careful study, Brother Polycarp narrowed the possibilities for his Brothers’ missionary endeavors either to North America or to India.  Bishop Michael Portier of Mobile, Alabama, contacted Brother Polycarp in 1846 asking for missionary Brothers.  To plead his cause, he sent Monsignor John Bazin, who was born in Lyons and familiar with the works of the Brothers there, to meet personally with Brother Polycarp.  Monsignor Bazin was at the time Vicar of Mobile and afterwards the Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, who later welcomed the Brothers into his own diocese.  After their conference, Brother Polycarp decided in favor of North America over India.  Bishop Portier was seeking Brothers of the Sacred Heart to take over the Catholic boys orphanage in Mobile.  Brother Polycarp hesitated somewhat because up to that time the Brothers had never worked in orphanages as such, even though the Pieux Secours was not really that different from an orphanage.  Brother Polycarp explained to Monsignor Bazin that the Brothers’ primary work was in schools, not orphanages, but in response to the urgent request of Bishop Portier regarding the needs young boys in Mobile and in keeping with Coindre’s missionary charism, Brother Polycarp consulted with his council and agreed to send five Brothers to Mobile.

From this first foundation in Alabama, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart spread over the years into Iowa, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, New York, Texas, and into Canada sending foreign missionaries to several countries in Africa: Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho.  While most of the Brothers foundations were elementary schools, several were orphanages and some were houses of formation.  Others were large farms, sometimes attached to an orphanage or house of formation.  Few in the early years were high schools.  An appendix lists most of the foundations opened and closed by the Brothers of the New Orleans Province, formerly the United States Province which included the present New York Province from 1900 to 1960, and before that the American Province which until 1900 included New England and Canada.

In this section, the participant will read about the first three foundations in Mobile, Alabama, Dubuque, Iowa, and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  Taken together they illustrate well the various types of foundations that the Brothers established, the hardships they endured, the obstacles that they overcame, and the reasons that some foundations succeeded and others did not.  

Through this experience, the participant will:

  • gain an appreciation of the missionary spirit that is part of the Brothers’ charism;
  • learn how the Brothers adapted their ministry to the needs of youth of the time and place where they were called to serve; and
  • reflect on how they as leaders in schools today can best respond to the gospel challenge to evangelize youth in the spirit of André Coindre.
  • Part One:  Humble Beginnings in North America:  Mobile, by Bro. Xavier Werneth, S.C.
  • Part Two:  Early Expansions:  Two More Foundations, by Bro. Xavier Werneth, S.C.
Options for Additional Readings
  • Part Three:  Further Expansion and Division, by Bro. Xavier Werneth, S.C.
  • Part Four:  Missionary Endeavors, by Bro. Xavier Werneth, S.C.
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. Father Coindre and Brother Polycarp balanced the needs of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart with the urgent needs of the Church as presented to them by bishops and pastors.  How do you continue to maintain balance in your apostolate between the mission of the Institute and the urgent needs of the local Church / community?
  2. The first Brothers in America and their foundations faced many challenges.  As a school leader, how do you respond to the challenges your school community faces today?
  3. Name someone in your school community who has taken a risk to stand up for Gospel values.  What risks have you taken in your role to further the mission of the Institute and, therefore, Gospel values?  How can you as a leader, inspire others to take such risks in our educational mission?  
  4. In both Mobile and Bay St. Louis, the Brothers had “tuition-based” schools subsidizing free schools for the poor.  How is being of service to the poor a priority for your school? for you as a leader?  Be specific.

Lord, our God and Brother, as teacher you instructed your apostles to go out to all nations, to follow your example and to teach all people: to bring them the good news of your love and redemption.

You inspired Father André Coindre and Brother Polycarp to live in your love and to send out missionaries in France and America to spread your love and compassion to others.  We are most grateful to be beneficiaries of their rich charism.  Help us to strive in our own lives to be bold in spreading the gospel, to be willing to take risks on your behalf, to set aside our comfort zones when the needs of youth beckon to us.  

Give us your vision, O Lord, so that as followers of Coindre we may view things from a new perspective that will enable us to see the needs of the poor and oppressed around us, that we may form those in our care to respond generously with open hands and hearts to their fellow Brothers who need their love, their understanding, and their assistance.

Brother Polycarp put his name at the top of the list to come to America.  Let us, as leaders, be the first to show the way, not just by words, but by concrete actions that reveal the love of our hearts and minds.  Give us the strength, O Lord, as you gave to the first five missionaries to Mobile, to overcome whatever obstacles stand in the way of our ministry of love in action.  Trusting in your unconditional love for us, we go forward with new vitality and courage to evangelize the youth of today who are caught up in a world of ambiguity and confusion.  Let us be beacons of light leading the way to your heart so that these generous young people may set the world ablaze with your love.  


Rule of Life – Community in the School Setting

Part One:  Humble Beginnings in North America:  Mobile,
by Bro. Xavier Werneth, S.C.

On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 19,1846, Brother Polycarp wrote a long circular to the Brothers to announce this first missionary endeavor.  Much of the circular is printed in Workbook 2, Brother Polycarp (pp. 56-58).  The following excerpt, however,  is not, but it is included here since it bears on the Institute’s  response of the needs of the time and place as well as Brother Polycarp’s vision for the Brothers in North America: 

For a long time, this diocese east of the Mississippi River, including the states of Alabama and Florida, has hoped to receive our missionaries.  Monseigneur Portier was named bishop of the area in 1829.  Already within the diocese there were more than 15,000 Catholics and he was happy with the excellent progress made from year to year in religious practice.  Twelve priests as well as some Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul and Sisters of St. Francis de Sales re-enforced his efforts and labored to snatch from the devil as many souls as they could.  The goals of this holy priest summon us.  First, he wants to hand over his orphanage to our Brothers in order for them to learn English, as well as to make themselves useful for the glory of God.  When these five Brothers believe they are strong enough in English to open schools in Mobile, a new group will be sent for the direction of the orphanage and these in turn will be replaced by others to the degree each group of missionaries speaks English well enough to open other schools in the cities of his large diocese.  Therefore those whom the good Lord does not choose for this first missionary effort should not be discouraged.  In three or four years we will have the honor of welcoming the Bishop of Mobile among us.  He hopes that our enthusiasm will not be exhausted after this first sacrifice.

In response to Brother Polycarp’s appeal, a good number of the 100 members of the Institute in 1846 volunteered for the mission, and Brother Polycarp, whose five-year term as superior general was due to expire in September, put his own name at the top of the list.  His council, however, quickly removed his name, foreseeing that the upcoming General Chapter would no doubt name him superior general for life.  The five Brothers chosen included Brothers Alphonse Bernard, Athanasius Faugier, David Boussage, Placide Alleil, and John Baptiste Ronchaux.   Bishop Portier met these first five missionaries personally when they arrived in Mobile on January 11, 1847, exactly 111 days after they had left LePuy, 70 of those days upon the water.  The arduous voyage served as a preparation for the many hardships to follow as the Brothers set about adapting to a strange, new environment.  We are all well aware of the difficulties presented by the semi-tropical climate which brought not just the heat and humidity, but hurricanes and sicknesses such as yellow fever, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.  The bishop himself helped the Brothers learn the new language since most of the population spoke only English and there were very few French-speaking parishes in the city of 30,000 inhabitants, most of whom were Protestant.

Bishop Portier situated the Brothers in a small cottage on Franklin Street across from his own residence.  There he instructed them in English in the mornings and had one of his assistants work with them in the afternoons.  Since the school year was well underway, the Bishop suggested that the Brothers wait until the next semester to begin their work, but they were anxious to get started.  Not waiting until they learned English, the Brothers moved into a rented house on the corner of Warren and St. Francis streets.  There they took charge of 18 orphans who helped them learn the language and customs of the area.  In the meantime, a larger and more commodious house was being prepared, one more in keeping with what Brother Polycarp had mentioned in his circular: “A piece of ground as large as that of Paradis and a splendid house where forty orphans will be assembled.”  Had Brother Polycarp exaggerated or had he been misled into believing that the accommodations would be ready for the Brothers upon their arrival?  In any case, the Brothers adapted, took things in stride, and hid their initial disappointment.

Learning English proved a little more difficult than the French Brothers had imagined, so Brother Polycarp’s plan of opening schools did not pan out quite so quickly as he had envisioned it.  But by September of 1847, the Brothers and their orphans had moved to a lot near St. Vincent’s Church on the corner of Massachusetts and Lawrence streets.  There the Brothers set up the orphanage as well as a permanent residence and a foundation that served as their headquarters, novitiate, and school.  The following excerpt from Plus Fifty clearly shows how the Brothers responded to the needs of the young boys in Mobile in their efforts to realize Brother Polycarp’s dream:

A primary reason that Brother Polycarp sent Brothers to Mobile was the bishop’s assurance that they could open Catholic schools in the diocese.  On September 1, 1847, the Brothers moved with the orphans to the corner of Massachusetts and St. Lawrence streets near St. Vincent's Church.  In three months St. Vincent’s Orphanage, as it was then called, cared for 35 orphans.  In October 1847, the Brothers opened their first school in the sacristy of the church.  In 1848 with the help of two novices, they opened a free school for the poor on the corner of Conti and Claiborne streets.  And in 1849 they also staffed the new Cathedral School.  (Plus Fifty, p 9)

The new Cathedral school which was constructed in 1849 was a two story brick building, a half of block from the old school, on Claiborne Street.  There the Brothers conducted one class on each floor, and the school soon flourished.  The tuition that the Brothers earned helped support their other ministries: two classes at the orphanage and another class at St. Vincent’s free school.  The Brothers in Mobile faithfully responded to the needs of the youth there, and their work prospered even during the Civil War years.  On August 16, 1866, a newspaper article about the Brothers appeared in the Mobile Sunday Times.  In it the editor commented that the Brothers went about their work so quietly that very little was known about them and that he was inspired to write about their work since the Mobile community deserved to know of their accomplishments.  Following a lengthy description of the founding of the Brothers in France and their various houses and schools in Mobile, the writer summarized well the impact the Brothers had on his community in response to its needs: 

Let anyone consider for a moment the benefits conferred upon a community by the existence, in its midst, of a society like this.  Here, for instance, in the case of this city, are some 400 poor, homeless, helpless orphans, taken care of: well fed, raised up with cleanly habits, every care taken of their health, educated normally and religiously, as well as for the business life, and their whole training being calculated to make them good Christians.  They are sent forth into the world with the most favorable chances of living the life of honest men and good citizens.

With the establishment of three schools and an orphanage in Mobile within just three years of their arrival, the Brothers were firmly rooted there and ready to expand in other parts of America.

From these humble beginnings in Mobile, the Brothers gradually spread out in several directions.  Another French bishop, the Most Rev. Mathias Loras, invited them to Dubuque, Iowa, in 1850.  And the Rev. Stanislaus Buteux, a French pastor, called them to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in 1854.  The French Brothers had difficulty recruiting members among a predominantly English-speaking population, but many more missionaries came to America to help the newly established colony.  In fact a total of 163 missionary Brothers came from France to the American Province to work in the United States and Canada between 1847 and 1900.  With recruits from the United States and, especially, French-speaking Canada, the Brothers’ work spread extensively.  (Plus Fifty, p 9)

Another excerpt from Plus Fifty helps to put the Brothers’ work in a larger context, showing how as they lived out their mission expressed so elegantly in their Rule of Life they also participated in the larger educational mission of the Church: 

"to believe in God's love,

to live it, and to spread it;

. . to contribute as religious educators

to the evangelization of the world

particularly through the education of youth." (Art. 13)

When the first five Brothers of the Sacred Heart arrived in Mobile in 1847, they became part of a great missionary movement of European religious to America.  In keeping with their charism of evangelization through the education of youth, the Brothers’ first mission in the United States focused on an orphanage and elementary school associated with St. Vincent’s Parish in Mobile, Alabama.  The early French Brothers spread out to other small parish schools, worked among struggling immigrants, and often lived in deplorable residences provided by pastors of poor parishes.  These Brothers of the Sacred Heart played an important role in implanting the seedling immigrant Catholic Church into the landscape of a well-established white Anglo-Saxon Protestant society.  (Plus Fifty, p 196)

Part Two:  Early Expansions:  Two More Foundations, by Bro. Xavier Werneth, S.C.

Dubuque, Iowa, Second Foundation

By the end of January 1850, the Brothers in the Mobile numbered ten — the five founding missionaries;  three more Brothers who arrived from France; and two novices, both Irishmen, one in his thirties and the other in his forties.  Besides minding the orphans, the Brothers were teaching five classes in their three schools.  In September three more missionary Brothers arrived from France in response to a request for Brothers from Bishop Mathias Loras of Dubuque, Iowa, another French bishop with connections in Lyons.  Brother Polycarp allowed three Brothers to go to Dubuque, the first foundation outside of Mobile, in spite of his usual policy of keeping houses and schools in clusters within a radius of about eight miles from a principal center.  In a letter rejecting an invitation from the Bishop of Bayonne, France, he explained that such a policy allowed for “quick transfers, short journeys, and also frequent visitations, which is not a little important, for maintaining discipline, watching over interests, and preserving the family spirit among all the members of the association”  (Brother Polycarp Workbook 2, p 54).  More than a thousand miles from Mobile, the trip by paddle steamer from New Orleans to Dubuque on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers took at least two weeks.  

The Brothers in Dubuque not only felt isolated, they felt deceived by the bishop whose diocese was too poor to build them the promised residence.  For five years they were guests in his house while teaching at St. Raphael Academy.  In a letter dated November 27, 1851, Brother Polycarp tried to encourage the Brothers in Dubuque to “bear the yoke of the Lord with cheerfulness and joy.”  He held up Job and Tobit as models for them, and the Brothers made heroic sacrifices while living in dire circumstances.  Then in 1852 Brother Polycarp sent nine Brothers to Dubuque to carry out another vision — one in response not so much to the needs of youth but in response to circumstance.  On September 7, 1852, the Brothers in Dubuque purchased a farm of 251 acres at a cost of $6 per acre.  This ill-fated project, called New Paradise Grove, was looked upon by many Brothers in France as the New Paradis in the event that the Brothers would be expelled from France.  Brother Polycarp tried his best to make the project succeed.  He wrote to Brother David, director, in March, 1853: “Among the Brothers we will send are Brother Placide, a carpenter who will be the treasurer; Brother Jean-Claude, a baker who will be good at all other work; then a wheelwright who will make your carts and other farm implements and even nice wooded shoes if you want to wear them; a tailor, who can, if necessary card wool, comb hemp, perhaps even make cloth; then one to care for the cattle; and finally, I hope, two good farmers, of whom one is a good vine-grower, and the other a good gardener and florist and cultivator of fruit trees.”

Brother Athanasius, later provincial of the Brothers in America, wrote in his journal, “In Dubuque, the year 1853-54 was spent by the Brothers at Paradise Grove, in cutting logs and splitting rails to fence the property.  Brother Jean-Claude said that the place had no comforts.  The building was a log house devoid of furniture.  When the Brothers reached there, they enriched it with the mattresses and blankets they had traveled with.  Their life was one of poverty and hard work.  It did not appeal to the young Brothers, and therefore very few recruits joined them.  If any did, they did not stay long.”  One Brother stationed there commented that he joined the Brothers and came to America to teach young boys, not to work on a farm.  If he wanted to be a farmer, he would have stayed in France, he said.

Things kept getting worse in Dubuque, and early in 1856, the General Council decided to close both establishments there.  “But, at the General Chapter held that year, Brother David (one of the original five missionaries), delegate from America and director at Dubuque, pleaded his cause so well that, not only was the decision to close revoked, but authorization was given for the erection of a novitiate and a boarding school on the farm.  However, because of lack of money, these two projects never materialized.  The rare aspirants who appeared there were received in the school if they had some education; if not, they were put to work on the farm”  (Superior Generals I, 1821-1859, p 99, Brother Stanislaus).  Not long before he died in 1859, Brother Polycarp empowered Brother Alphonse, provincial in America, to close the establishments at Dubuque.  Finally in April of 1860, the Brothers left Dubuque and assumed direction of St. Thomas Asylum, a large farm of 160 acres near Bardstown, Kentucky.


BAY ST. LOUIS, MISSISSIPPI, Third Establishment

While things in Dubuque did not go well, the Brothers’ second foundation outside of Mobile did extremely well.  In fact, St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is the oldest existing establishment of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in America.  Unlike Dubuque, Bay St. Louis was not so far from the Brothers’ headquarters in Mobile.  Plus, the school flourished because it met a real need of young people, and it had the full support of the pastor who wisely let the Brothers take over the school completely.  “Father Stanislaus Buteux, pastor of Our Lady of the Gulf Church in Bay St. Louis, had built a classroom for boys behind his church in 1852 and engaged four Christian Brothers to teach there.  But in September of 1853, three of the four died from yellow fever, and the other withdrew.  In June of 1854, Father Buteux wholeheartedly welcomed three Brothers of the Sacred Heart.”  (St. Stanislaus, 150 Years, 1854-2004)  The Brothers lived with Father Buteux in the rectory which was large enough for the Brothers to take in a couple of boarders who attended the school.  The Brothers had asked for and received from Father Buteux a written contract which set the salary for the two Brothers teaching about 30 local boys at $18 and which allowed them to collect fees from resident students whom they minded.

In the fall of 1854, Father Buteux traveled to France to ask Brother Polycarp directly for more Brothers to build and staff a boarding school in Bay St. Louis.  He pledged to donate half of the cost of the property if the Brothers would build their own school.  He returned in January of 1855 with four Brothers, and in February he helped the Brothers buy a strip of land 140 feet wide south of the church.  The land stretched from the Bay about 1.5 miles.  In a bold move, Brother Alphonse, provincial, bought the 40 arpents of land for $4,000 and mortgaged it back to Mr. Robert Clannon of New Orleans, agreeing to pay him $1,000, plus 6% interest, every six months for two years.  In addition, he signed four promissory notes for $1,000 each whereby Father Buteux loaned the Brothers $4,000 at 6% interest to finance building St. Stanislaus Academy.  Brother Leo Maligne designed the new school and built it with the help of Br. Lucius Ramond and a few local workers.

Brother Alphonse sent Brother Athanasius from Mobile to take charge of the new school which opened its doors for the school session of January 1856.  The building was 80 feet long, 30 feet wide, and two and one-half stories high.  The first floor consisted of three classrooms and a parlor, the second a dormitory and infirmary.  The attic served as living quarters.  The simple but pleasing structure had galleries on the front and back.  With the four French Brothers brought back to the United States by Father Buteux, who helped teach them English, the staff totaled seven Brothers.

For sure, the Brothers suffered many hardships including sickness, hurricanes, fires, and even a Civil War, but their mission of teaching young boys kept the Brothers’ spirits high.  Brother Athanasius proved to be a great character builder and a vigorous administrator who advertised widely.  The school’s reputation grew rapidly since it filled a real need not just for local boys but for boys from the sugar cane plantations in Louisiana who needed a boarding school.  In 1869 in response to the needs of the very poor who could not afford St. Stanislaus Academy, the Brothers opened a Free Day School in Bay St. Louis.  During its almost 100 years of existence it was called by various names such as the Back School, the Sorbonne, and Rip’s School.  In this small school house, the Brothers educated and formed hundreds of poor boys in Bay St. Louis.  

Thanks to very capable administrators who boldly adapted to the needs to the time, free from parish or diocesan constraints, St. Stanislaus Academy continued to grow and was chartered by the State of Mississippi in 1870 as St. Stanislaus Commercial College, certified to grant college degrees.  By this time the campus had greatly expanded.  The Brothers had purchased more land and constructed new facilities.  St. Stanislaus became the life-blood of the province. 

Undaunted by the fire of June 1903 which totally destroyed the school, the Brothers opened in make-shift quarters in the fall and rebuilt an even better facility which the students moved into by Easter of 1904.  Nothing stood in the way of the Brothers’ mission.  They rented summer cottages and used them to house the boarding students during the construction process.   The pattern of death and resurrection had once again repeated itself at St. Stanislaus, and would continue to do so in the future following Hurricane Camille in 1969.  

In 1923 the Brothers dropped the college courses since the need for them no longer existed with the appearance and growth of so many state and private colleges available throughout the South.  St. Stanislaus focused on the high school since that is where the greater need was following World War I.  The school also retained some of its elementary grades as well as its residency department which met a real need of students for a wide variety of reasons ranging from learning disabilities to less than ideal home situations.  

In 2004 St. Stanislaus College celebrated its 150th anniversary.  For the occasion, the school published a pictorial history St. Stanislaus, 150 Years, 1854-2004 which chronicles the development of the Brothers’ ministry in Bay St. Louis from its humble beginnings in 1854 to the present.  

Options for Additional Readings

Part Three: Further Expansion and Division, by Brother Xavier Werneth, S.C.

Space does not permit a complete history of the Brothers’ apostolate in the New Orleans Province in this brief reading.  It is suggested that the reader refer to A Century of Service and Plus Fifty for such readings.  In general the Brothers’ foundations were established following an urgent request either by Bishops or by pastors.  Most establishments fell into one of the following categories which were illustrated in the Brothers’ first few foundations in this country: grammar schools attached to a parish church; orphanages with grammar grades taught on site; large farms with a high school or grammar school nearby where some of the Brothers taught; houses of study and formation; and finally high schools.  The focus was almost always on the needs of youth and their evangelization through education and formation.  Even with the case of the large farms, one of the purposes was to grow food to sell to raise money for educational endeavors.  Such farms usually did not work out well unless they were directly attached to a school or house of formation such as the farms in Bay St. Louis and Metuchen, New Jersey.  In most of the areas where the Brothers worked, they took in boarders to help defray their expenses since most parishes were too poor to pay the Brothers a living salary.  In general before the shortage of vocations to the religious life which began in the late 1970s, whenever the Brothers had to withdraw from an area, it was usually because of inadequate housing or insufficient stipends to make ends meet, not because of a lack of personnel.  The Brothers insisted on a written contract whenever possible because experience taught them that promises of bishops and pastors, while made with good intentions, were often not fulfilled and led to disappointment and disagreements.  Money was often an issue, and unfortunately the Brothers, just as the women religious, were frequently looked upon as a cheap source of labor.  Even in locales where the Brothers owned their own schools, such as in Bay St. Louis, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge, they were restricted severely in fund-raising by strict parish and diocesan policies.

By 1900 the American Province was large enough to be divided between the United States and Canada.  In the 53 years since their arrival, the Brothers had opened 28 schools in the United States, 18 of which were still open at the turn of the century.  After the creation of the Canadian Province, four schools in French-speaking New England went under Canadian jurisdiction, leaving the Brothers in the United States Province with 14 schools.  Of the 109 Brothers remaining in the United States Province after the division, all but 17 had made final vows; many were old and sick.  There were no houses of formation and no recruits.  Discouraged but not daunted, the Brothers renewed their efforts at recruiting and opened a large house of studies at Metuchen, New Jersey.  

By 1947, their centennial year, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in the United States Province numbered 228 members and administered 19 establishments:  one of them was a house of formation, two were orphanages, and three were mission schools in Africa.  By 1949 the United States Province numbered 245 professed members, 15 novices, and 60 postulants.  The Brothers staffed 16 schools and two houses of formation in the United States where they ministered to 4,834 day students and 641 boarders.  In addition, 14 Brothers taught in four schools in East Africa.

From 1949-1958 during the administration of Brother Martin Hernandez as provincial, the Brothers in the United States experienced phenomenal growth, both in personnel and in establishments.  By the end of Brother Martin’s term as provincial, plans were already in the works to divide the province again.  In 1960 the United States Province counted 288 professed Brothers and 27 establishments, including the Brothers and schools in Africa.  In 1960 after the division finalized by the general council, the province of New York counted 98 professed Brothers with nine novices and 25 juniors within the United States.  The Province of New Orleans had 167 professed Brothers, 17 novices, and 37 juniors.  The following excerpt from Plus Fifty lists details of the division:

The newly created province of New York accepted jurisdiction in the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia.  Thus, the New York Province assumed administration of eight establishments, four of them parish elementary schools in New York City: 

1. St. Luke’s Elementary School, Bronx, NY

2. St. Philip Neri Elementary School, Bronx, NY

3. St. Joseph’s Elementary School, Bronx, NY 

4. St. Rose of Lima Elementary School, Brooklyn, NY

5. Msgr. McClancy Memorial High School, Queens, NY

6. Coindre Hall Elementary and Boarding School, Huntington, Long Island, NY

7. St. Francis Elementary School, Metuchen, NJ

8. St. Joseph’s House of Studies, juniorate and novitiate, Metuchen, NJ


The province of New Orleans received the states in the South and all states west of the Mississippi River except Minnesota, which the New England Province had obtained upon its establishment in 1945 when the St. Hyacinthe Province in Canada divided.  Thus, the New Orleans Province maintained administration of 14 establishments:

1. Catholic Boys’ Home Orphanage, Mobile, AL

2. D’Evereux Hall Orphanage, Natchez, MS

3. St. Stanislaus College, Bay St. Louis, MS

4. Menard Memorial High School, Alexandria, LA

5. Catholic High School, Donaldsonville, LA

6. Thibodaux Catholic High School, Thibodaux, LA

7. Catholic High School, Baton Rouge, LA

8. St. Aloysius College, New Orleans, LA

9. Cor Jesu High School, New Orleans, LA

10. St. Francis de Sales High School, Houma, LA

11. McGill Institute High School, Mobile, AL

12. St. Aloysius College, Vicksburg, MS

13. Sacred Heart Scholasticate, Spring Hill, AL

14. Sacred Heart Juniorate, Daphne, AL  

Plus Fifty, p 58

As the Brothers schools prospered, so did their alumni who in turn wanted to send their children to the Brothers’ schools.  Through the course of time, as the Catholic immigrants to America became more mainstream, the students in the Brothers’ schools became more affluent.  Brothers began to question if they were still working with the poor.  Provincial chapters directed that each school set aside money to help poor families afford the ever-increasing tuition.  By the 1970s with the decline in religious vocations, the number of lay people working in the schools had increased significantly, causing a larger portion of the schools’ budgets to go towards salaries.  In the 1980s the Brothers in the New Orleans Province first published its landmark document Educational Mission and Ministry as a first step in forming the lay faculty in the charism of Father André Coindre in order to assure that his spirit continue to be the driving force in the schools.  The Brothers did not want their schools to be just for the elite since their charism stressed a preferential option for the poor.



Another way in which the Brothers apostolate reached the poor directly was through its missions, both foreign and domestic.  In 1931 in response from a call by the superior general the Brothers from the United States Province founded its first foreign mission in Gulu, Uganda.  During the late ’20s and early ’30s Pope Pius XI had made urgent appeals to the religious of the world to sent missionaries to Africa to evangelize that continent.  Inspired by the many missionaries that had come from France to found schools in the United States, the American Brothers responded very generously to the requests.  Brother Geoffrey Kerwin outlined the work of our Brothers in East Africa in his book Reflections: East Africa — The Harvest, 1931-1981.  During those 50 fifty years, more than 60 missionary Brothers from the United States Province and later the New Orleans and New York provinces ministered in more than 16 different foundations, educating the youth in Uganda, Kenya, and the Sudan.  When the vitality of the foreign missions dwindled, caused by more than 30 years of terror during the disastrous reigns of Milton Abote and Idi Amin, the Brothers in the New Orleans Province looked to establishing home missions, lest the missionary spirit of the province die.

Home missions were not exactly a new concept when the Brothers went to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1986.  Brother Maurice Chatras, known by the Indians as the “Little Cherokee,” had established a foundation in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 1903 in response to an urgent plea from the Vicar Apostolic of Indian Territory to set up “a commercial college where boys could be sent from all parts of Indian Territory and Oklahoma, for there is no boarding school for boys except at the Benedictine Fathers at Sacred Heart, and this is out of the way…” (Century of Service, p 299)   For 50 years, the Brothers operated first Nazareth College and then St. Joseph’s College in Muskogee.  The school served not just the Indians from five different tribes and the Western whites, but a large number of “Creek Citizens,” the name given to African Americans with some degree of Indian blood — all of them quite poor.

What made the project in Montgomery different was that it was in response to a call from the Brothers themselves in provincial chapter rather than from a bishop, pastor, or superior general.  Thus, a search committee was formed to determine where the Brothers, with their limited resources and personnel, might best focus their home mission activities.  As a result of the province’s communal discernment, four Brothers went to St. John the Baptist, an all-black inner city elementary school in Montgomery.  The Brothers mission there was to stabilize the school whose enrollment had dropped to 127 students, only 17 of whom were Catholic.  None of the faculty members were Catholic and the school was suffering financially.  The Brothers remained in Montgomery for eight years, bringing the good news of salvation to disadvantaged youth until the end of the 1994 school session.  By then, St. John’s had merged with a more stable school to form St. John-Resurrection ensuring a steady enrollment, a qualified faculty, and a sound financial base.

About the same time that the Brothers left Montgomery, another missionary project was emerging, that of St. Anne’s Navajo Indian Mission in Klagetoh, Arizona.  Groups of students and Brothers participated in evangelization efforts by organizing regular trips there during holiday periods to deliver clothes and toys and to help out as needed.  In 1994, Brother John Hotstream began full-time ministry at St. Anne’s.  Then in 2002 following another communal discernment, the New Orleans Province sent Brothers David Landry and Dwight Kenney, who had lived at St. Anne’s the previous two years and taught in a public school system, to establish a local community along with two volunteers at nearby St. Michael’s, Arizona, and to teach at St. Michael Catholic High School.  Both St. Anne’s and St. Michael continue to attract high school students from around the province who go there for a mission experience.  These projects are funded and supported by the province and the schools in a realization that the missionary call is an essential part of evangelization of youth and therefore an essential element in remaining true to the charism of Father André Coindre.

Further Readings for Part One: Mobile

Brother Polycarp, Workbook 2, C: Missionary Enterprise in America, pp 55-58 

Century of Service, Chapter III, Mobile: First Foreign Mission, pp 18-24

Plus Fifty,  pp 9-10; pp 196-198

Further Readings for Part Two: Bay St. Louis:

St. Stanislaus, 150 Years, 1854-2004, Brother Xavier Werneth

A Century of Service,  pp 122-146

Plus Fifty,  pp 333-349

Further Readings for Part Three: 

Each participant should read the chapter pertinent to his or her place of ministry.

New Orleans:  St. Aloysius: Century of Service: IX, p 185-213; 

Plus Fifty: Chapter 17,  pp 248-257

Cor Jesu: Plus Fifty: Chapter 18, pp 258-262

Brother Martin HS: Plus Fifty: Chapter 19, pp 263-276


Baton Rouge Catholic High Century of Service: Ch XII, pp 239-248

Plus Fifty: Chapter 24, pp 311-323

Thibodaux Thibodaux College Century of Service: Ch XIV, pp 265-274

E D White High School Plus Fifty: Chapter 23, pp 298-310


Mobile McGill Institute Century of Service: Ch III, pp 113-117

McGill-Toolen HS Plus Fifty: Chapter 13,  pp 209-220


Houma Vandebilt Plus Fifty: Chapter 25, pp 324-332


Further Readings for Part Four:

African Missions Reflections on East Africa—The Harvest: 1931-1981

Century of Service, Chapter XXI, pp 344-360

Plus Fifty, Chapter 36, pp 396-403

Montgomery Plus Fifty, Chapter 16, pp 239-248


Klagetoh Plus Fifty, Chapter 10. p 171



Institutions Where Brothers Ministered

in the New Orleans and New York Provinces (Year Founded, Year Closed)

Catholic Boys' Orphan Asylum, Mobile, AL  (various name changes) 1847 1970

St. Vincent's Academy, Mobile, AL 1847 1919

Cathedral School, Mobile, AL 1848 1869

St. Raphael's Academy, Dubuque, IA 1850 1858

New Paradise Grove, near Dubuque, IA 1852 1860

St. Stanislaus College, Bay St. Louis, MS 1854

St. Thomas Asylum, Bardstown, KY 1860 1872

Cathedral School, Louisville, KY 1860 1863

Annunciation Parish School, New Orleans, LA 1864 1865

Lafayette St. Industrial Gardens, Mobile, AL 1864 1870

D'Evereux Hall Orphan Asylum, Natchez, MS 1865 1966

Cathedral School, Natchez, MS 1865 1935

St. Stanislaus Asylum and Novitiate, White Sulphur, KY 1866 1870

St. John's School, Indianapolis, IN 1867 1929

St. Joseph's School, Mobile, AL 1867 1868

St. Aloysius School, Frankfort, KY 1868 1880

St. Mary's School, Mobile, AL 1868 1909

St. Aloysius College, New Orleans, LA 1869 1969

St. Joseph's Institute, Indianapolis, IN 1870 1889

Free Day School/Back School, Bay St. Louis, MS 1870 1969

St. Patrick's School, Indianapolis, IN 1870 1875

St. Francis Xavier School, Vincennes, IN 1872 1876

St. Patrick's School, Augusta, GA 1875 1903

Central Catholic School, Charleston, SC 1877 1886

St. Aloysius High School, Vicksburg, MS 1879 1968

St. Joseph's Commercial Institute, Donaldsonville, LA 1886 1954

St. Anthony's Orphan Asylum, Detroit, MI 1887 1889

St. Mary's School, New Orleans, LA 1887 1895

Catholic High School, Baton Rouge, LA 1894

Thibodaux College, Thibodaux, LA 1891 1965

Menard Memorial High School, Alexandria, LA 1892 1967

St. Joseph's Novitiate/Postulate, Metuchen, NJ 1901 1963

St. Joseph's College, Muskogee, OK 1903 1955

Sacred Heart School, Meridian, MS 1904 1924

St. John Berchman's College, Mansura, LA 1906 1915

Our Lady Star of the Sea,  Far Rockaway, NY 1909 1940

Nazareth College, Muskogee, OK 1910 1916

St. Rose of Lima School, Brooklyn, NY 1919 1967

St. Simon's School, Washington,  IN 1919 1932

Laneri High School, Fort Worth, TX 1921 1928

Gibeault High School, Vincennes, IN 1924 1935

McGill Institute, Mobile, AL 1928

St. Louis College, Gulu, Uganda, Africa 1931 1940

St. Willibrord's School, Verdun, Quebec, Canada 1933 1948

Coindre Hall Boarding School, Huntington, Long Island, NY 1940 1971

St. Aloysius College Nyapea, Uganda, Africa 1940 1973

St. Luke's School, Bronx, NYC 1943 1982

St. Thomas More Normal School, Gulu, Uganda, Africa 1944 1945

St. Joseph's School, Gulu, Uganda, Africa 1946 1961

Sacred Heart Intermediate School, Okaru, Sudan, Africa 1948 1959

St. Joseph's School, Bronx, NYC 1948 1964

Nyeri Secondary School, Nyeri, Kenya, Africa 1948 1972

Sacred Heart Scholasticate, Daphne, AL 1848 1950

St. Philip Neri School, Bronx, NYC 1949 1964

Sacred Heart Juniorate, Daphne, AL 1950 1965

Sacred Heart Scholasticate, Spring Hill, AL 1950 1969

St. Francis de Sales School, Houma, LA 1952 1965

Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate, Alokolum, Gulu, Uganda, Africa 1953 1972

Ascension Catholic High School, Donaldsonville, LA 1954 1968

Cor Jesu High School, New Orleans, LA 1954 1969

Teacher Training Center, Palotaka, Sudan, Africa 1955 1959

Msgr. McClancy Memorial High School, Jackson Heights, NYC 1956

Sacred Heart Intermediate School, Palotaka, Sudan, Africa 1959 1959

Nkubu Secondary School, Nkubu, Kenya, Africa 1960 1992

Bishop Dunne High School, Dallas, TX 1961 1976

St. Joseph High School, Metuchen, NJ 1961

The Novitiate in Belvidere, NJ 1963 1969

St. Peter's College, Tororo, Kenya, Africa 1963 1967

Houma Central Catholic High School, Houma, LA 1965 1966

Thibodaux Central Catholic High School, Thibodaux, LA 1965 1966

Vandebilt Catholic High School, Houma, LA 1966

E.D. White Catholic High School, Thibodaux, LA 1966

Brother Martin High School, New Orleans, LA 1969

Comboni College, Lira, Kenya, Africa 1969 1972

Kitgum Secondary School, Kitgum, Kenya, Africa 1969 1971

New Orleans Province Prenovitiate, New Orleans, LA 1970

New Orleans Province Novitiate, New Orleans, LA 1971 1980

Lacor Seminary, Gulu, Uganda, Africa 1973 1990

Materi Girls' Centre, Tharaka, Kenya, Africa 1973

Pius X Seminary, Nkubu, Kenya, Africa 1973 1975

Phillipsburg Catholic, Phillipsburg, NJ 1973 1990

Interprovince Novitiate, New Orleans, LA 1981 2002

St. John the Baptist School, Montgomery, AL 1986 1991

St. Augustine of Canterbury, Kendall Park, NJ 1988 2001

St. John-Resurrection School, Montgomery, AL 1991 1994

Brother Norbert Centre, Alokolum, Uganda, Africa 1990 1997

St. Anne's Mission, Klagetoh, AZ 1994

St. Clement, Pope, South Ozone Park, NY 1998 2004

St. Michael Indian School, St. Michael's, AZ 2002

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