April 25, 2017
 
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DR#: 7 History of the Apostolate As a Response to the Needs of the Time and Place: New York

Introduction

The founding of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart did not take place in one of the major power centers of the 19th century nor through the auspices of a power broker such as a bishop or cardinal.  Rather, the institute was founded by a country priest who listened to the call of the Lord and the cry of the poor in Lyons, France.  From humble beginnings, the institute grew into a world-wide organization.  In retrospect, it is easy to look at 19th century Lyons and proclaim that the Spirit of the Lord was present simply because of the seemingly inordinate number of religious orders that were founded in that era.  Father André Coindre did not have the luxury of looking at his time period through two hundred years of history.  He listened and responded.

Schools by their very nature tend to be insular institutions.  The younger the students in the school, the more insular we become.  It takes a great deal of effort to look outward.  It takes even more effort to actually develop a school culture that goes beyond its own borders.  By looking at the history of the Brothers in the New York Province, we see a group of men who started and sustained numerous schools that did just that.  They followed the example of their founder and were guided by the whispers of the Spirit.

Our schools and their vibrant cultures as they are currently configured did not just appear.  They grew and evolved under the guidance of the Spirit through the charism of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.  We are not insular entities.  We are part of an ever growing and evolving chain.   As school leaders, by reviewing the past and appreciating the “whispering of the Spirit,” we gain a perspective on our institutions and our own roles in the Spirit’s plans.

Through this experience, the participant will:

  • explore the rich history of the Brothers of the New York Province and appreciate the guidance of the Spirit in helping the charism grow;
  • appreciate the roles of our current institutions in the history of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
Readings
  • The History of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in the New York Province, by Mr. Larry Walsh
Options for Additional Readings
  • The Brothers of the Sacred Heart in North America, published by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, 1993.
  • Plus Fifty Another Half Century of Service 1947-1997, Brother Xavier Werneth SC, Dolphin Press, 1996  (excerpts pp. 5-195) and pp. 362-389.
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. Describe which characteristics of your leadership reflect those of our predecessors in the charism.
     
  2. Creative solutions are part of the history of the New York Province – a place for displaced French Brothers, a loan for construction, and many other examples.  What creative solutions have you found to make the charism live for a new generation?
     
  3. Identify some challenges that prevent you from responding to the “whispering of the Spirit” in your personal and/or your professional life.
Prayer

 

O Lord, to lead an upright life and to be a leader in a Catholic school requires close attention. We need an alertness to help us see the movement of God in the daily events of our lives.

In Matthew, Jesus tells us “stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” 

Lord, you spoke to Isaiah not in the majesty and power of the storm but in a whisper.

We often wait for you to make a dramatic announcement in our life to guide us on the correct path.  But you were born in simple surroundings, in a small town to an unknown Jewish woman.

André Coindre founded a religious order of men to care for the poor and downtrodden, those no one else wanted but your children nevertheless.  He began his mission in a town far from the limelight in simple surroundings. 

The early Brothers who came to America were armed with only their faith.  The Brothers who led our early school communities and who helped them expand into new areas did not have easy tasks.  Most went into areas that were poor and out of the way.  Like André Coindre they sought you in areas that others stayed away from.

Lord, help us to remember that you are with us now and that the signs of your presence are everywhere.  We must only recognize them.  Help us to be vigilant to your movements in our lives and in our roles as school leaders.  Reflecting on how you have guided the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in the past gives us hope for our future.

Adapted from 150 Opening and Closing Prayers by Carl Koch

 

Readings

The History of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in the New York Province,
by Mr. Larry Walsh

After their arrival in Mobile, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart quickly expanded into areas along the Mississippi.  Another expatriate French Bishop, Bishop Loras, invited them to Dubuque, Iowa.  The Reverend Stanislaus Buteux invited them to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.   The Brothers work carried them into Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia.  In 1889, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart (then known as the American Province, covering the United States and Canada) established a parish school in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Other schools quickly followed in Nashua, N.H and then in Haverhill, MA.  

Events in Europe would prove to be pivotal in the growth of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in the New York area.  In the 1890’s the French Government seized the assets of the religious orders working in France.  The Brothers in France faced a dilemma: stay and face secularization or immigrate to a new land.  Many French Brothers went to Spain, Belgium and Italy while others came to the United States.  The order began to look for a tract of land that could sustain a farm to allow the Brothers arriving from France time and a place to learn a new language and culture.  The Brothers found such a tract in Metuchen, New Jersey in a resort that once housed the training camp of former heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan.  They moved there in 1901 quickly establishing a farm, vineyards and a house of formation.

By 1900, partly due to the influx of the French Brothers, the American Province was large enough to be divided between the United States and Canada.  One hundred and nine Brothers remained in the United States in 19 establishments.  It must be remembered that the New England states were part of the Canadian Province at this time.

As the farm grew and prospered the Brothers established a novitiate (for formal canonical training for vows) in Metuchen and recruited young men from the New York and New England area.  Eventually they established a juniorate for high school students wishing to be Brothers and a scholasticate for continuing formation and advanced studies.  In 1909 the Brothers established a parish school in Far Rockaway, Queens.  Later, in 1919, the Brothers manned St. Rose in Brooklyn.  In the 1940’s the Brothers began staffing elementary schools in the Bronx.  St. Luke’s was the first followed by St. Phillip Neri and St. Joseph’s on Tremont Ave.  Coindre Hall opened in 1939 in Huntington, Long Island as a boarding school for 120 boys, 5th through the 8th grade.  The school grounds also served as a summer camp for 5th - 8th grade boys.

Interestingly, the Brothers in New York area were actually asked to take over a school in Canada.  The Brothers in Quebec were mostly French-speaking and they staffed a school, St. Willibrord in Verdun, a suburb of Montreal.  St. Willibrord’s newly installed pastor, Fr. Reid, wanted English-speaking Brothers teaching in his school since it was in an English-speaking part of Montreal.  The Metuchen Brothers, still a part of the American Province, responded and staffed the school which eventually became Verdun Catholic High.  They were there from 1933 to 1948 when they moved out because of manpower needs in the New York / New Jersey area.

By 1947, the centennial year in America, the Brothers in the US province numbered 228.  They had 19 establishments, a house of formation, two orphanages, and three mission schools in Africa.

In 1946, the Brothers purchased a tract of land in Jackson Heights New York with the hopes of eventually starting a high school.  Brother Josephat, at that time Superior General, remarked that if the area could start and sustain a high school then that area could become a province.  In 1953 the Brothers, responding to the call of the local pastor, Monsignor Foley, began teaching at St. Francis Elementary School in Metuchen NJ.  They maintained a presence in the school located less than a mile from the St. Joseph’s Metuchen residence until 1980.

In the 1950s, the Brothers experienced what has been referred to as “the Golden Age of the Institute in the United States.”  It was an era of unparalleled growth in regards to both the number of Brothers and in the number of new schools.  In 1954, construction began on a high school in Queens, NY which would become Msgr. McClancy High School.  Interesting enough the funding for Msgr. McClancy School came via a convoluted arrangement with Immigrant Bank of New York.  The Bank would loan money to religious organizations if they held property in New York within a 50-mile radius of New York City.  The Brothers owned Coindre Hall on Long Island and St. Joseph in Metuchen, NJ.  They used Metuchen as collateral for the building of the New York School.  In 1957 the Brothers opened Monsignor McClancy High School, named after the former Brooklyn Superintendent of Schools.  Brother Clement SC was its first principal.  In the 1950’s Archbishop McEntagert of Brooklyn started many new diocesan high schools.  One was Bishop Reilly in Fresh Meadows, NY which he asked the Brothers to staff.  They responded to his call and served, from 1962 until 1975 when the school’s operation was handed over by the bishop to the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn.

In 1960, the United States Province was divided into the New York and the New Orleans Provinces.  The Provinces of Canada had already divided 8 times creating the Provinces of Arthabaska, Montreal, Granby, Quebec, New England, Ottawa, Rimouski and Sherbrooke. 

In 1961, the Brothers in the New York Province approved the creation of another high school in their province at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, NJ, the site of the novitiate.  Brother Ronan was the first principal.

In 1962, St. Joseph became a day high school for local boys.  Classes were held in the Brother’s residence and in the novitiate buildings until the “main building” of the school was completed in 1964 through the auspices of Immigrant Bank.

In 1960, the newly formed New York Province began looking for property to build a new novitiate because St. Joseph Metuchen was about to become a day school.  They purchased 83 acres of land for $90,000 in Belvidere, NJ.  The tract of land included a large mansion and several other smaller buildings.  In 1961, the novitiate was officially transferred form Metuchen to Belvidere.  Today, the Brothers run “Belvidere” as a retreat center. 

The 1960s and 70s were years of social upheaval and changing societal values.  The societal changes also affected the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.  Many Brothers left the order.  Novices were fewer in number.  It was increasingly difficult to staff the numerous educational establishments that the Brothers served.  In New York, the Brothers withdrew from three elementary schools in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn, as well as Bishop Reilly H.S. in Fresh Meadows, NY. 

Today, the Brothers and their lay colleagues direct two high schools in the New York Province in the charism of Fr. André Coindre: Msgr. McClancy in Queens, NY and St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, NJ.  They also support two mission schools in Kenya.

Many thanks to Brother Eric Goguen, S.C.,
first Provincial of the New York Province
and to Brother Aldric Smith, S.C.,
who were interviewed for the bulk of this reading.

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