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.