April 25, 2019
Previous Table of Contents Next

DR#: 9 Major Influences on the Mission and Apostolate in the U.S. Provinces


John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in his book The Age of Uncertainty, “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time”.

Each era has provided an abundance of such anxieties. In our lifetime, whether it was the conformity of the 1950s, the massive upheaval of the 1960s and ‘70s or the post-modern individualism that has followed, each period has presented unique challenges to those directing the life and apostolate of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

During that span of years, the Brothers moved from a religious life that emphasized discipline and regularity to the era after Vatican II when all aspects of their life would change: daily schedule, dress, prayers in common, and most especially, the Rule of Life itself. Discipline and regularity were replaced by greater freedom, a new acceptance of individual differences, and a new way of understanding obedience. As never before, religious authority was questioned, challenged, and held accountable to right reason, the common good, and the good of the individual.

Ironically, throughout the turmoil of these changes, the schools conducted by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart prospered. Gradually, however, the Brothers came to realize that yet another difficult adaptation was needed. What became clear was that their mission to evangelize through education was meant to be shared with the laity and that as Brothers they were called upon to help lead formation of new generations of teachers to carry on the ministry of education. 

During the last half century, the United States provinces have been blessed with the outstanding leadership to deal with all this change. Each provincial in turn has responded when called upon to implement the adaptations necessary to confront the major anxieties of his time. 

Through this reading, the participant will:

  • Examine how some of our leaders have responded to the Spirit’s call through the needs of the time and place with “clearsightedness, good sense, and boldness.”
  • Brother Martin Hernandez (1949-1958)
  • Brother George-Aimé Lavallée (1954-1963)
  • Brother Eric Gougan (1960-1966)
  • Brother Hubert Bonnette (1964-1970)
  • Brother Daniel Devitt (1966-1973)
  • Brother Ronald Dupuis (1970-1976)
  • Brother Ivy LeBlanc (2000-2006)
Options for Additional Readings
  • A Century of Service
  • Plus 50
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. What leaders have been major influences on your life in mission and apostolate? What was it about them that affected you? What were their outstanding qualities? How did they confront seemingly overwhelming issues? What do you hope that you brought forward from your relationship with them?
  2. Oral narrative is one of the most effective means for transmitting culture. In mentoring potential leaders, what stories do you use as examples of those who have responded to implacable situations with clearsightedness, good sense and boldness? What is it in these particular stories that speak to you? What “pearls of wisdom” from these stories or your own do you think are important for mentoring future leaders in the charism?
  3. From your reflection on leaders who responded in trying circumstances, what do you believe you need to do to further develop your own “clearsightedness, good sense and boldness?”


O Lord, in the turbulence and the loneliness of living from day to day and night to night, keep me in touch with my roots, so I will remember where I came from. 

Keep me in touch with my feelings, so I will be more aware of who I really am. 

Keep me in touch with my mind, so I will see your wonder revealed in your creation. 

Keep me in touch with my heart, so that I may feel your presence there and send your love forth to the world. 

Keep me in touch with my dreams, so I will grow toward where you want me to go. 

O Lord, deliver me from the arrogance of judging others; and deliver me from the timidity of presuming I know too little to help others.

O Lord, deliver me from the illusion of claiming I have changed enough, when I have only risked a little in conforming myself to your radical call.

Help me to experience a sense of gladness for your kingdom, which comes in spite of my fretful pulling and tugging. 

Nurture in me the song of a lover, the vision of a poet, the questions of a child, the boldness of a prophet, the courage of a disciple.



Brother Martin Hernandez, S.C. (1949-1958)

A Golden Era

For many Brothers, Brother Martin's appointment as provincial in 1949 presaged a new day of progress. They were not disappointed; at the end of his term nine years later, many Brothers looked back on it as a "Golden Era" in the province, as a period of phenomenal growth. The scholasticate building was completed. Significant capital improvements were made at existing schools throughout the province. And construction of three new community-owned high schools, one in New Orleans, one in New York, and a new Catholic High in Baton Rouge, crowned Brother Martin's building achievements. 

At the beginning of Brother Martin's administration, the United States Province (now the New Orleans and New York Provinces) numbered 245 professed members, 15 novices, and 60 postulants. In addition to the 231 Brothers working in the States, 14 Brothers from the province staffed four mission schools in Africa.

One of Brother Martin’s major concerns was recruiting and formation. Especially during his first term in office, he not only wrote about encouraging vocations, he got personally involved in the recruiting efforts. He spoke to classes to encourage vocations, he saw young men off to begin studies in Metuchen, and he provided encouragement while they were there. "He was so full of energy," recalls Brother Matthias, one such recruit, "I could feel it. He made his influence felt." 

Religious Discipline 

In September 1950, Brother Martin brought together the directors of every school and local community of the province, both North and South, for an all-day conference with the provincial council. It was the first such meeting ever, and Brother Martin expressed his desire that it be an annual affair. Its purpose was "to establish more uniformity in the conduct of the respective houses and to ensure greater cooperation among the faculties of the various establishments." (Province Monthly, 4: 1, p. 1) Some Brothers considered this meeting as one of the first of Brother Martin's many efforts to instill more religious discipline and order in the province, a movement back to basics. 

To Brother Martin, the Rule was everything. It was an expression of God's will regarding the duty of a religious and it was not to be softened in any way. During his first year in office, Brother Martin wrote to the Brothers about what he called mitigations of the Rule. "I am of the opinion," he wrote, "that gradually during the course of the last century certain practices, substitutions, customs, traditions-at least, these are the terms which we use-have taken root among us. If we want to be honest with ourselves we would have to come to the conclusion that many of these mitigations of the Rule have no foundation for existence and therefore should be discarded. I intend to be more explicit on this at some later date and call your attention to some of these so-called customs or traditions." (Provincial Circular, February 14, 1950) 

Faithful to his promise, Brother Martin addressed the Brothers concerning what he considered compromises with the Rule. He urged the Brothers not just to pray fervently, but also to pay generously in a spirit of sacrifice: "We will pay, and pay, and pay by many personal sacrifices and in this paying by sacrifice we will not count the cost." (Provincial Circular, May 19, 1951) 

Strong Leadership Style

Brother Martin's style was always direct, rarely delicate. His strong leadership got things accomplished. He was a builder, a man of action. If something was to be done, it was to be done immediately. While his impulsiveness sometimes had negative effects that led him to reverse previous decisions, his judgments, in general, were sound and his instincts correct. And he enjoyed good relationships not just with the Brothers, but with diocesan authorities and businessmen with whom he worked. 

In spite of all of the construction undertaken during his nine years in office, Brother Martin maintained the financial stability of the province. In 1952 when he began his second term as provincial, the province debt of $250,000 was scheduled to be paid off within four years. Also, plans were well underway to build a new school in New Orleans and one in New York, necessitating mortgaging properties and borrowing money. Thanks to Brother Martin's sound business sense, the province was able to assume this additional debt of more than $1 million in order to handle these constructions. 

Increasing Demands

Enrollments in nearly all of the schools during this period steadily increased, overtaxing the facilities. For the school year ending in 1953, the province had more than 5,000 boys in its 20 establishments in the United States. The province also conducted Catholic mission schools in Gulu and Nyapea, Uganda, as well as a juniorate in Nyapea, a school in Okaru in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and one in Nyeri in the Kenya Colony of British East Africa. 

There was a strong temptation to cut short the training of scholastics. Brother Martin had managed for the most part to resist it until August of 1954 when he took out 13 of the 17 third-year scholastics because he desperately needed teachers. In September he called upon two of the remaining four. In 1954-55 it was not the common practice to hire lay teachers in the high schools except as coaches, but Brother Martin saw no alternative. That year the number of laymen teaching in the Brothers' 13 schools increased from 26 to 36, mainly on the high school level. The Annuaire for that year states that lay teachers were not readily available and that salaries were a financial burden on the schools. Consequently, some schools were understaffed, Brothers were overloaded with courses to teach, and their classrooms bulged with students. 


During Brother Martin's second term, three new province-owned schools and an African house of studies were constructed. Cor Jesu High School in New Orleans, Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Jackson Heights, Queens, Long Island, New York, a new Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Juniorate-Novitiate-Scholasticate – an all-purpose formation complex located at Alokolum near Gulu, Uganda.

Price of Success 

In the late '50s, the Brothers' schools enjoyed a period of popularity and prosperity never before equaled in the history of the province. (Annuaire, 52:55) Offers from bishops begging the Brothers to take over diocesan schools poured into the provincial office. Bishops were building new schools to take care of the baby boomers who would swamp their high schools in the '60s. One such offer that Brother Martin found irresistible came from Texas. In August of 1958, the provincial council committed the Brothers to manage the boys' division of a new Catholic high school due to open in 1961-62 in Dallas. 

But success had its price. The writer of the 1959-60 Annuaire article reported the situation: "Year after year, the same complimentary complaint. Our schools are overcrowded. This year was no exception. Many applicants had to be turned away from our doors because of lack of classroom facilities. The process of making selections by examinations was still used in most of our schools. It is most unfortunate that so many had to be turned away because of low grades on the test, but more so by strained facilities. Numerically and financially our schools are in an era of prosperity. The reputation of the Brothers as teachers, as molders of character, as friends of youth is at its peak." {Annuaire, 54:92) 

End of an Era 

Brother Martin's three terms as provincial spanned most of the '50s, a postwar decade with a serious tone in the United States. People were still war-hardened and military influence was still strong. Life was very much prim and spartan, calm and ordered. Throughout the country, this decade was dedicated to the development of big business, of building and growth. It was a period of respectability; and people were generally conformists. 

Brother Martin, truly a man of the decade, found this cultural environment perfectly suited to his leadership style. And to guide his Brothers in the religious life, he inherited a well-established Rule which clearly defined expectations and dictated practically every detail of daily living. The Rule's emphasis on personal sanctification through hard work and sacrifice served well to assure success in the schools. A strong community identity characterized the Brothers' schools, making them ever more popular and overcrowded. 

During his nine years as provincial, Brother Martin never lost sight of his single goal: to form solid religious, sure of their identity. He exhorted his Brothers on November 1, 1950: "God, how we do need MEN, generous men, self-sacrificing men, fervent men, men who will be Religious to the core and zealous Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus." Early in his administration, Brother Martin shared his hopes with Brother Albertinus, superior general at the time: "What I could do with more REAL MEN and a few dollars." 

Obviously, Brother Martin found both. And with a spartan economy, he managed both men and dollars with great skill to build a solid province. 

Brother George-Aimé Lavallée, S.C. (1954-1963)

In its long line of influential men who were provincials, the New England Province can justly boast of Brothers George-Aimé (from 1954-63) and Ronald Dupuis (1970-76) as effective leaders who energized and directed the New England Province during crucial and formative periods of its history.

Brother George-Aimé Lavallée’s influence began long before he was provincial but abruptly ended a few years afterwards with the provincial chapter of 1968.  George was an impressive man in both stature and character.  Trained to self-sacrifice, moderation and self-giving through the devastating effects of the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression he responded to God’s presence in his life in an outstanding manner and expected no less from others.  He followed his elder Brother into religious life and took the name of George-Aimé upon his Brother’s saintly death from influenza in the early nineteen-hundreds.  His zeal in living the rule and his dedication to on-going formation marked him for leadership in initial formation.  He only taught school a few years before being sent to the juniorate in Granby, Canada.   At twenty-five years of age, he volunteered for service in Lesotho, South Africa.  As he was traveling to South Africa during World War II, his ship torpedoed in international waters.  He was brought to Germany for the duration of the war.  These years of trial trained him to make the best of the worse of circumstances.  With no little suffering and great determination he continued his studies in camp under the supervision of Oxford University while mastering German and teaching English to other prisoners.

Upon his return to the States, his first since entering the Institute at St. Hyacinthe, Canada, he was appointed Director of novices.  His preparation for this task was full-time studies in English Literature at St Michael’s College in Vermont as no universities in the States offered religious studies to lay people.   He held the position until he was appointed provincial by the Superior General in Council in 1954.  Thus history itself positioned him for continued influential on the many Brothers he initially led as Director of novices.  He modeled and championed the Rule, devotion to the Sacred Heart, educational ministry, and personal development in all its cultural and spiritual aspects.  As provincial he promoted education to an extent unseen in New England.  He exhorted each Brother of the province regardless of his age to pursue degrees both BA’s and MA’s in the arts and in the sciences.  He selected Brothers from ministry and sent them to full-time studies for their BA’s or Master’s.   Each year of his term of office he nominated four Brothers to full time spiritual studies in Rome.  So as demand for education grew in geometric proportions after World War II among the French-Canadian immigrants, the Brothers were able to respond by meeting the demands of Catholic secondary education in New England, England, and Canada and Africa.  He especially encouraged the Brothers to develop the students’ religious formation through active participation in the Sodality movement.

He closely guided and personally directed the Province through constant exhortation in letter and word; he pushed the Brothers to ever greater competency in both secular and religious matters through studies, on-going formation in Rome, twenty-one day retreats, the directed and supervised study of religion for each Brother in an organized and demanding program that led to two community diplomas in religion, and in constant and lengthy circulars; he sacrificed money, qualified and experienced personnel for the houses of formation and for England and Africa thus establishing the foundation for future growth in these areas.  Responding to the demand for education among the French-Canadian working class of New England, he forcibly directed province energies to better its schools and widen its approaches and reach, both at home and abroad.  He saw opportunities for growth and development in educational pursuits and encouraged the Brothers to meet the urgent needs of the times: Catholic secondary education for a generation whose parents hardly had the opportunity for even primary education.

In short, Brother George-Aimé directed the province to answer the needs of the French-Canadian population and Africa in secondary education, fostered the intellectual development of the Brothers in secular and religious studies and thus ready to participate in understanding and energy in the changes promoted by Vatican II which started at the end of his third term.  Brother George-Aimé is remembered and respected as an educated religious, dynamic and persistent in cultural and religious development, a builder of educational institutions for formation and for secondary education.


Brother Eric Goguen, Provincial 1960 - 1966

Brother Eric was appointed Provincial of the New York Province along with his councilors by the General Council in Rome. Young Brothers from the north were automatically assigned to the new Province while older Brothers were given the choice of which Province (New Orleans or New York) they wanted to belong. Most from the south chose the south and most northerners chose the north. 

Eric faced the monumental task of getting the fledgling province functioning properly.  

The new province was comprised of 105 Brothers whose average age was 26 - youngsters. The Brothers staffed McClancy High School in Queens and six grade schools: St. Philip Neri, St. Joseph, and St. Lukes in the Bronx, St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn, Coindre Hall, a small boarding school, on Long Island and St. Francis in Metuchen NJ whose Brothers lived at St. Joseph’s in Metuchen, the training ground for novices and postulants. 

One of Brother Eric’s first decisions concerned closing the self sustaining farm in Metuchen: he buried the barn, chicken coop, pig pen and sold the live stock.  This move opened the grounds for the future high school which he was already planning.  He obtained a separate residence for the Brothers teaching at St. Francis.  He then began a long search for a provincial residence and a place to move the   novitiate.  Because he wished to avoid the impression that he was looking over the shoulder of the director or principal’s day-to-day operations, he sought a provincial residence and office outside the school setting. The province purchased Belvedere, an 86 acre parcel of land located in the northwest corner of the State of New Jersey. It was picturesque and quiet, perfect for the formation of novices in the pre-Vatican era.  The General Council in Rome assigned Kenya as the province’s mission in Africa.

To facilitate the apostolate he suggested that all Brothers would earn a Masters in Theology to strengthen their knowledge of the Catholic faith and be better prepared to teach religion, which he believed to be the Institute’s main focus.  This request would later have unintended consequences. Most theologians at the time were questioning everything and espoused liberal tendencies.  Young brothers were exposed to conflicting interpretations of the faith and the Bible. Another unintended consequence was that the study of the sciences, literature, finances, school administration and guidance were neglected.  The unintended results of this move soon became obvious and very few of the young bothers actually finished their theology courses and moved into areas where they felt more comfortable or needed.

In the New York area, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart had the reputation of teaching in grade schools.  Brother Eric decided to expand the apostolate by staffing more high schools.  He contacted the Dioceses of Trenton and Brooklyn and received permission to move the novitiate to Belvidere, open St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen and staff Bishop Reilly High School in Queens.

One major challenge for Brother Eric was the youth of the province.  Most Brothers had little or no experience in teaching high schools or being administrators.  Thus older men were initially chosen to be directors and principals.  Problems arose with this arrangement. Some older Brothers were from the “old school” and wanted no changes, while the younger men were looking at things quite differently.  A myriad of what we would today call “old time religion rules” such as wearing the clerical hat (fedora) outside the residence; wearing the cassock at all times; needing permission to watch TV for 15 minutes a day; not receiving permission to go to movies; visiting family once every 5 years, even when the relatives lived across town; having no radios in cars and allowing only authorized drivers to get drivers licenses caused much intergenerational friction. 

Eric started to ease these regulations.  Visits to the family and relatives were allowed on holidays and holydays, a two week vacation every summer was permitted. TV could be watched daily for two to three hours but could not go beyond 9 PM.  He never wore a hat and all the young Brothers followed his example.  In order to save money high schools purchased buses and vans, permission for the younger brothers to get driver licenses was easily obtained – but no radios were allowed in the school vehicles. 

As can be seen from the above, Eric centralized the administration of the province at Belvedere.  He expanded the province into high schools. He allowed/encouraged the Brothers to obtain graduate degrees and be certified by the state allowing them to be proficient in their field of expertise. As times and needs changed, he adjusted, but he never lost the conviction that Catholic education was our prime function and the Brothers were to develop their spiritual and professional lives.

When he left as provincial and turned the reigns of authority over to Brother Dan Davitt, things were looking up for the province.  Yet, in retrospect, the storm clouds were forming for the future. 

Brother Eric after his tenure as Provincial was appointed director of McClancy, Phillipsburg, as well as Belvidere where he resided for 20years.  He went to his reward in 2010 and is buried in Metuchen.


Brother Hubert Bonnette, S.C. (1964-1970)

Brother Hubert Bonnette, the 13th provincial of the New Orleans Province, was the last one to be appointed by the general council before elections were introduced. At the time of his nomination on November 3, 1964, Brother Hubert had had very little experience in administration and Brothers were surprised indeed when he was announced as provincial.

Open Communication

His first round of visits in November set a tone of dialogue and teamwork: "I never was able to work alone. I have to talk to others; I have to get advice. Now, more than ever, I need advice; if I do not ask. It is because I do not know about what I should ask. I do not feel capable of doing the job, but I do think that all of us can. In fact, I think the only thing I have working for me is that I know so little that I am willing to listen. But if your ideas are not implemented, do not think that they were not appreciated. It is by talking and exchanging ideas that we will continue to move forward spiritually and academically." 

His emphases on positive criticism, discussion before decision-making and shared responsibility were new concepts that characterized Brother Hubert's administration. His efforts at prompt and open communication were aimed at sharing information and ending the wall of silence that often surrounded important decisions touching the Brothers' lives and which fed the rumor mills.

Professional Excellence 

The new provincial in council took concrete steps to achieve the goal of increased professionalism. It extended the period of studies at the scholasticate from three to four years and put a definite stop to the practice of taking scholastics out of studies early. In the past when a principal needed a teacher, he contacted the provincial, who was expected to find a Brother. 

In addition to allowing three to five Brothers full-time studies annually, Brother Hubert gave permission to any Brother who asked to attend summer school. Besides the 39 scholastics at Spring Hill College, more than 65 other Brothers attended summer school according to the Annuaire of 1964-65. With the help of government grants, they went everywhere, not just to a few selected universities.

Also between 1964 and 1967, the role of principal was gradually separated from that of local director in order to free the principals so that they too would have time to supervise teachers and attend to professional responsibilities. The change also allowed the director to devote more attention to his local community.

Closing the Orphanages 

Brother Hubert's term was characterized by many difficult decisions. Some of the most difficult and controversial centered around the withdrawal from several schools, including two orphanages. Decisions to close the orphanages were difficult to make. They were even more difficult for a good number of Brothers to accept-not just for those Brothers who without special training had worked with the orphans for 20 or 30 years, but also for other Brothers who had never worked at the orphanages but who saw them as the Brothers' special contribution to working with the poor. 

Some bitterness resulted from these decisions, and some Brothers for years to come would say that the province had abandoned the poor and had given up the very work for which it existed. Perhaps more than anything else the closing of the orphanages brought into sharp focus the vast changes taking place not just in the Church and religious life, but in society as well. 

Signs of the Times 

The times were changing very quickly, and Brothers were forced to change with them. Not only were there sweeping changes in religious life, but also there were vast changes in the schools. Innovations in the schools were handled in a professional manner and usually were more readily accepted by the Brothers. For example, the Brothers' schools racially integrated with little difficulty. And the gradual shift from Brothers teaching in all-boys' schools to co-institutional schools and then to coeducational schools was hardly noticed. The hardest change for the Brothers in the schools was the decreasing number of Brothers available and the consequent ramifications. During the mid-'60s, however, many Brothers simply did not want to believe that the decline would continue. 

Those who resisted inevitable changes for whatever reasons – personal, religious, or social – were bound to suffer. Probably no one suffered more than Brother Hubert, not because he resisted change but because as provincial at the time he was, by necessity, the active agent of many changes. His sensitive nature caused him to suffer whenever another Brother suffered. He did not want to hurt anyone, but he knew that many were hurting and he could not help them. He saw the need to prepare the province for a future that few other Brothers at that time could even imagine or were even willing to talk about. The facts of decline were evident, but many Brothers denied them. In spite of criticism, Brother Hubert courageously led the province along the path of renewal. 

Withdrawals and Consolidation

During Brother Hubert's two terms of office, the province withdrew from three schools, not counting the two orphanages. These were painful decisions to make but they were considered necessary for financial reasons and lack of personnel due to sickness, death, and departures. Because of a shortage of manpower the province could no longer afford to subsidize schools by allowing Brothers to work in them for less than what it cost them to live. 

A major topic of concern during Brother Hubert's administration was what to do about St. Aloysius in New Orleans. The school was terribly overcrowded, in poor physical condition and in a neighborhood that was not conducive to the school's further development. 

Through an extensive consultative process, Brother Hubert involved all the Brothers in the province before the provincial council decided on October 7, 1967, to consolidate St. Aloysius and Cor Jesu for the good of both schools. To accommodate the combined student bodies, the council planned to do significant construction at Cor Jesu. It called upon Brother Mark Thornton to coordinate the consolidation. This was a happy choice, one that was well received by the Brothers both at St. Aloysius and at Cor Jesu. 

1968: Historic Turning Point 

The 1968 Provincial and General Chapters were historic in many ways. They truly marked a turning point in the history of the province and the institute. Not only were both strong affirmations of recent changes, but they also called for much more sweeping ones. The General Chapter authorized each province "to make experiments in the manner of living, of praying, of working and of governing." It also granted permission ad experimentum for each province to make its own legislation concerning a wide variety of topics and produced a revised copy of the Rules and Constitutions ad experimentum, as called for in Vatican II’s renewal of religious life.

The 1968 Provincial Chapter was also monumental. One of the most controversial of its decisions was to accept candidates only after high school, which meant closing the juniorate. Other resolutions touched on the Brothers' lifestyle. Brothers were allowed to welcome guests at their community meals. Brothers preferring to teach in a black suit were allowed to do so, and the wearing of the cassock became optional. Brothers were granted two weeks each summer to visit their families. They would be given anniversary trips after 25 and 50 years of profession. And Brothers would be permitted to participate much more actively than ever before in Church and civic organizations. 

This chapter also asked the provincial council to begin studying some type of retirement fund and insurance program for the lay personnel in the Brothers' schools. In his report to the delegates, Brother Hubert presented the stark reality, showing how the decline in vocations in North America and Europe hit home. "The state of apostolic religious life as we know it will break down. It will become very small. New celibate communities which place the emphasis on the person, rather than the institution, will be established. They will be person-centered communities of service, rather than structure-centered communities.... We've got to find styles of community life which enable people to experience human relationships based on a real sharing of life and experience, and not on external conformity to impersonal practices." 

Coping With Exhaustion and Controversies 

Little wonder, considering the pace of his activities during the past six years, that Brother Hubert's health began to fail. He suffered from recurring chest pains which were to bother him for years afterwards and he was diagnosed by several doctors as being completely exhausted and in need of bed rest. 

Never before in the history of the province had one provincial faced so many monumental and controversial decisions, decisions touching not just the Brothers' schools but the meaning of their lives. By involving all the Brothers in the province in the decision-making process through discussion and dialogue as well as consultation, Brother Hubert shared responsibility with them. And in many cases this shared responsibility caused Brothers to feel all the more the pain that accompanied difficult decisions. Brothers were not accustomed to dealing with such difficulties, and some were uncomfortable as well with the new demands of personal responsibility that came with the renewal in religious life. 

Brother Hubert was able to envision the future and make hard decisions, such as withdrawing from schools as he saw the numbers of Brothers diminishing. He developed the necessary courage and self-confidence to confront bishops when the good of the province called for it. He modernized the province with his efficient and open management style. But none of his personal qualities of listening and empathy could relieve the hurt of so many Brothers. They were simply overwhelmed by the turmoil within the Church and the tumultuous transitions and tensions in religious life. Most Brothers found it especially difficult to accept the signs of death and dying in the province, symbolized by the closing of schools, orphanages, and even houses of formation. 

What was happening in the province during the second half of the '60s was to some degree a reflection of what was happening in American society in general. Brothers in the New Orleans Province felt the impact of living in such a turbulent society. Not only did such a climate not produce new vocations, but also dissatisfaction within religious life led many to leave it. There was polarization of young and old, conservatives and liberals. Not to be forgotten, however, is the fact that even though Brother Hubert's term of office took place during such troubled times, many of the strong points of religious life as it is lived today in the New Orleans Province owe their origin to that very same period of upheaval and renewal. 


Brother Daniel Devitt 1966 - 1972

Brother Daniel Devitt was appointed as the second Provincial of the New York Province.  At that time things looked rosy.  The province consisted of 113 professed Brothers, 4 novices and 25 postulants. All three high schools (Msgr. McClancy, St. Joseph, Bishop Reilly) were at capacity and functioning well.  Belvidere had been established as the center of the province administration and the novitiate was moved there.  All schools were staffed with a maximum of Brothers.  The “kiddy” corps of young Brothers were maturing and establishing a highly professional reputation.  

The high school graduates were being accepted to some of the Ivy League Colleges. One year students from St. Joseph were accepted to Princeton, Harvard and Georgetown.  Another year the three top students were accepted to Johns Hopkins University.  Keep in mind that at this time frame Saint Joseph’s first gradation was in 1965 while McClancy’s was in 1961. Scholarships for athletics were being offered by division one schools. Brothers were being recognized as innovators and appointed to national academic committees. Some pursued doctoral programs, others worked in Appalachia, and others ran retreat programs.  One even became a film critic and wrote a column for a major newspaper. 

On the surface, things were progressing splendidly. Then the General Chapter ordered all provinces to update their Province Directories - the rules for running the province. In 1968 the buzz words were “Renewal –Subsidiarity.” Decentralization of authority was another hot topic.  

In preparation for the Provincial Chapter, committees on vocation and education were formed.  These committees were to send their reports to the Chapter as topics for discussion.  In 1968, the first session of the Chapter started on July 1 and continued to August 12. It remained open during the school year.  The final voting ended March 29th, 1969. The breviary was selected as the official prayer book of the province and the provincial council was expanded to six members.

Dan Devitt was directing these committees. It was frustrating at times because of the variety of strongly expressed opinions.  To his credit, he remained neutral and tried to steer the debates as to what was the best for the province.

At this time he closed St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn after 48 years. It must have been a tough decision because St. Rose was his alma mater. In order to inject life into Coindre Hall it was decided to construct a gymnasium and classrooms. However, the cost of this expansion and the lack of students sent the school finances into the red.  Eventually, a decision was made to close the boarding school.  

In 1966 the province’s Kenya mission proved to be the canary in the coal mine.  There were 35 Brothers, American and indigenous, as well as 110 postulants when the Kenya government revolution took place and the country received its independence.  Because they were so well educated, most native Brothers left the order and the schools for positions of authority in the government. The mission was reduced to 10 Brothers with no postulants. The whole endeavor collapsed in a year’s time.

It was a tumultuous time: liberal vs conservatives, cassocks vs dress codes, ordained brothers vs no ordained brothers, tuition run schools vs working for the poor were topics constantly argued. Even the area of smoking in the dinning room was a major bone of contention. In 1970 there were 100 Brothers. In 1972 there were 79 and still declining.  Schools were closed, lay faculties were hired to pick up the slack and tuition had to be raised to pay for their services.

Around 1969, the provincial council made the decision to keep community owned schools afloat by staffing them with as many Brothers as possible. The real question was “Where would the Brothers get the men to honor the commitments?”  Bishop Reilly High School was owned by the Diocese but staffed by the Brothers. Their contract required 40 men for fully staffing the school. The number of Brothers at Reilly dropped from 21 in 1969 to 10 in 1970.  In short order, the Diocese sold the school to the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn for $1.00.  Brother Dan and his council found out about the sale on the evening TV news.

In the late seventies the Church in the United States was suffering from the adjustments of Vatican II while society in general was fraught with concerns/arguments ranging from the Vietnam War to the sexual revolution to the pervasive fear that Russia would launch an atomic attack.  Because of the declining number of Brothers, Brother Dan often had to reassign Brothers to other schools and residences- never a pleasant task. Brother Dan could have been a discouraged man with all these issues but remained optimistic and always had a pleasant demeanor. He endured the long argumentative Chapters and placated the extreme stances from both sides.  Like Brother Eric before him, he never lost the conviction that Catholic education was our prime function and the Brothers were to develop their spiritual and professional lives. He remained approachable and confident that in the end the Brothers would persevere and grow. 

Through Brother Dan’s patient guidance and modeling the Brothers began to concentrate on the continued challenges facing their remaining schools.  For example, St. Joseph in Metuchen was challenged by the diocesan decision to erect two high schools within a few miles of it. It adjusted and remained competitive.  The pool of applicants dropped from 700 to 350 yet standards were not lowered. Msgr. McClancy responded to the pleasant challenge of increased enrollment by expanding their physical plant.  In 1973 after the closing of Bishop Reilly the Brothers expanded their apostolate to include Philipsburg Catholic High School in West Jersey.

Following his tenure as provincial, he was appointed director of McClancy and later Philipsburg.  He volunteered to work in Kenya doing excellent work teaching seminarians, postulants and novice of several indigenous religious communities.  He was killed in a car accident and was buried in Kenya.  



Brother Ronald Dupuis, S.C. (1970-1976)

Brother Ronald Dupuis, a former novice of Brother George-Aimé, became provincial in challenging times of upheaval and change.  Young and energetic upon accepting to be the first elected provincial of the New England Province in 1970, Brother Ronald focused the Province’s energies and attention to meet the changing needs and requirements of a renewing Church and a diminishing Province in men and finances.  Having taken the opportunities of personal religious and cultural development during previous administrations, Brother Ronald was a qualified English and Chemistry teacher and very active and successful in the classroom and in the Sodality movement. Thus he was in close touch with the needs of the schools and of youth.  He was a leader in the local community as director and in the province as knowledgeable promoter of the documents of Vatican II and the author of position papers for the Provincial Chapter of 1968.  Thus he entered his term of office with insight into the changing and urgent demands of the times, demands pressed upon the Brothers through Vatican II and the new but temporary Rule of Life from the General Chapter of 1968.

The notable and sudden decrease in the number of Brothers required new perspectives and strategies for dealing with staffing and support of both Province and schools.  Before venturing into unknown territory Brother Ronald opened the province to professional evaluation and then proceeded to strategize for success in downsizing and financial stability.  At the same time he organized for the spiritual and human development of the Brothers by sending Brothers to spiritual renewal at centers such as Sangre de Cristo, New Mexico, and Rome, and by organizing Rule of Life programs for all the Brothers of the Province.   Brother Ronald worked on the new Rule of Life in Rome and was imbued with its spirit.  Thus Brother Ronald strategized and then initiated programs that made possible responding to new demands upon the Brothers and society with an emphasis upon spiritual and religious development and strategies to meet the growing financial needs of both school and province.   

Brother Ronald’s influence and leadership in meeting the difficult if not arduous requirements of consolidation and religious and spiritual development did not end with his term of office.  After leaving office, Brother Ronald undertook studies for the priesthood and continued to lead through the teaching of religion, active community participation of the students in community service, through his enlightened and inspiring liturgies and homilies and through the organization and implementation of Rule of Life retreats.  Brother Ronald, as provincial and as an inspired and dynamic leader in the province community before and after being provincial, was instrumental in the writing of and the spreading of the new Rule of Life and implementing its teachings among the Brothers and our lay partners.  Thus the Brothers embarked upon their personal spiritual development and that of their students and were active in the encouragement and fostering of the growing numbers of lay partners in the schools leading to the development of the Coindre Leadership Program.


Brother Ivy LeBlanc, S.C. (2000-2006)

The Rise of the Lay Vocation 

Brother Ivy’s formal leadership began in 1982 when he was named principal of Brother Martin in New Orleans. To prepare for that role he began a Master’s in School Administration at Tulane University, where he attached himself to Dr. Louis E. Barrilleaux, who taught convincingly from his secular university chair that teaching is nothing less than a ministry.  Both through the witness of Dr. Barrilleaux’s life as a committed Catholic layman and through his effectiveness as a mentor and professional educator, Brother Ivy caught his professor’s enthusiasm for the promotion of lay leadership in schools, particularly for the policy of identifying promising teachers within the school and preparing them carefully for positions of leadership. For him a school leader should always be preparing his successor.

The idea of promoting lay men and women from within the faculty to carry out the mission of the Church was not a given. A certain malaise surrounded the emerging shift. It was threatening. There was a growing trend in Catholic education to advertise and search at the national level for school administrators from the outside. Many, both Brothers and lay teachers, had entrenched attitudes: key school roles should be reserved to the Brothers. Ownership of province schools to some meant controlling the levers of power.

The 1982 Provincial Chapter wanted to form lay men and women so they could collaborate with more self-confidence in school leadership. It determined that a guide for putting into practice our charism as educators be prepared as a charter of formation. Educational Mission and Ministry is the result. Two years later, Brother Ivy, as chairman of the province principals committee comprising six Brother-principals, began presenting EM&M at faculty in-service days. As Brother Xavier Werneth says in Plus 50, “The principals’ presentations had an immediate and powerful impact upon their faculties, and the content and vision of the document would shape their schools for the next ten years and beyond.” (p. 147) Brother Ivy was its most eloquent spokesman. 

With EM&M engraved in his heart and much of it committed to memory, Brother Ivy took the lead in the province in developing a clear program for identifying and forming future administrators for Brother Martin High School. He became the prime advocate of re-awakening a sleeping structure which had served well at both St. Stanislaus and St. Aloysius in the past, one that shared school leadership between a president and principal. Brother Ivy developed a new synthesis of that tradition. The principal would be the instructional and spiritual leader in the school, responsible for personnel, faculty, students and the academic program. The president would oversee major school policies and overall development as well as assure that the Brothers’ charism as described in EM&M guided the school’s programs. 

Brother Ivy prepared Mr. John Devlin to begin serving as the province’s first lay principal at Brother Martin in August 1988. By 1994 the other province schools had named lay principals. Mr. John Devlin became the first lay person to assume chairmanship of the School Leadership Committee, an outgrowth of the Principal’s Committee. The transition to lay leadership reached critical mass in August of 1994 when forty-seven administrators, most of them lay, from twelve schools in the three U.S. Provinces attended a workshop in Winter Park, Florida. In Plus 50, Brother Xavier Werneth underlined its importance: “This workshop signaled the fact that the Brothers’ schools had successfully entered a new kind of partnership with the laity, one that enabled them to achieve new peaks of excellence and provide hope and encouragement to the Brothers.” (p. 180)

For Brother Ivy, the possibilities of lay partnership had just begun. When he became provincial Mr. John Devlin replaced him as the first lay president of Brother Martin High School. In 2006 he asked Mr. Gene Tullier, principal at Brother Martin, to accept a nomination to be president of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge. During his term as provincial, Brother Ivy channeled the fire in his belly for ongoing development of leaders in province schools into the Coindre Leadership Program, the first-ever program for forming lay educators as mentors in the charism. After the administration of the CLP became centralized in the US Federation in 2007, it was no surprise that he was asked to become its director. Under his leadership the program has grown in depth, breadth, and boldness, the latest component being a final synthesis experience at the Institute’s Generalate in Rome. 

The dynamism in the U.S. provinces which originated from Brother Ivy’s strong faith in the holiness, giftedness, and promise of lay leaders formed in the charism was recognized as a sign of hope and a source of new energy for the entire Institute by the assembly of the General Chapter of 2006.

 Diminishment of the Brothers

When Brother Ivy entered leadership in 1982, eighty Brothers were active in province apostolic works. By the time he became provincial in 2000, there were only twenty-four active Brothers. Fifty percent of the province had reached retirement age. Vocations to the province, following the trend of all of the teaching Brothers’ institutes in North America, were down to a trickle. 

The statistical decrease of manpower was not the worst aspect of the Brothers’ diminution. By the beginning of the 1990s the province found itself recoiling from the same kind of sexual abuse allegations which were being made throughout the Church in the United States. Added to numerical reduction was the diminishment of credibility and trust in the Brothers. Provincials and councils of the time responded to the crisis by instituting programs for the prevention of abuse and policies for responding to them, including mandatory reporting of credible accusations to civil authorities for possible criminal charges. The most grievous and public accusation involving a Brother, related to incidents from more than a decade in the past, arose during Brother Ivy’s term as provincial. It was a painful ordeal that ended in the Brother’s dismissal from the institute, his trial, and a five-year jail term.

If there was any good news in both forms of diminishment – numeric and moral – it is that the province’s apostolic works were not adversely affected. That was no accident. Since 1988, the province had been taking steps to protect its schools and insure their future through civil incorporation. The provincial council formed the Corporate Structures Committee under Brother Ivy’s chairmanship to investigate how to make each of the Brothers’ schools and the province separate corporate entities. Brother Ivy enlisted the expertise of attorney Jerome Reso of Baldwin and Haspel in New Orleans to set up the necessary legal structures.

Under Brother Ivy’s leadership, legal incorporation, as the major response to the Brothers’ diminishment, has in effect enlarged the province by involving lay men and women who are in the active prime of their lives in the inner workings of the province’s mission. Their service in the province’s schools and on its boards has given new vitality to our apostolic works. The Brothers have gained a new awareness of being partners rather than sole owners in the promotion of the Institute’s charism and mission.  

 Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina not only ravaged the resources of the province, but also consumed those of the man in charge of it. The fifteen months between Katrina’s ferocious slam and Brother Ivy’s report to the 2006 General Chapter had to be, with the possible exception of the Civil War years, the most difficult of any faced by his eighteen predecessor provincials. Hurricane evacuation had dispersed the province; 43 Brothers out of 60 were left homeless. The two residences in Bay St. Louis were completely destroyed and the three in New Orleans were left uninhabitable.

As overwhelming as the province situation was, that of the schools was doubly frightening. Two of the three province-owned schools were out of commission, faced $30 million of loss, and their faculty members’ contracts terminated. Province revenues suffered. 

The intuitions of character, decisiveness, and compassion which Providence had been honing in Brother Ivy throughout twenty-three years of province leadership were put to the test with biblical intensity during the last year of his term. A short survey of his response to the needs of the devastated province might serve also to show how he dealt with many other challenges which could not be included in this overview.

His leadership has never been individualistic; on the contrary, it came from disciplined consultation and solidarity with the teams with whom he has served. Here is how he stated the post-Katrina priorities set in conjunction with the provincial council: “First, we are making every effort to re-establish our schools and to return them to the level of operations they enjoyed prior to August 29, 2005. Second, we are trying to establish viable, active communities of Brothers to minister in those schools. And third, we are committed to provide the living situation that will insure the care and attention our elderly and infirm Brothers most certainly deserve.” (Annuaire 100 p. 212) 

He called for sacrifice and boasted of the “tremendous sacrifice” of the Brothers, expressing his faith that it would bear fruit: “Sacrifice can transform our longing for what was into an even more authentic witness of our religious life, a sign of hope for all during these demanding times.”

He saw the crisis not as a defeat, but as an opening to new opportunities: a state of the art assisted living community for older men; new solidarity among the schools of the province; new collaboration between the schools and the province in raising funds to meet new needs; new expressions of gratitude for the countless friends and benefactors who saw the province through Katrina.

He didn’t try to micro-manage or control the recovery; that would have been folly. Instead, he enabled, trusted, and supported the school leaders who exhausted themselves to be present to students and their families in the time of need and who found bold and creative ways to get the schools’ wheels back on track: “Our schools have been re-established in Bay St. Louis and in New Orleans due mainly to the selfless and inspired leadership of our presidents and principals and the tireless work of their dedicated faculties and staffs.” (Annuaire 100 p. 216)

He sought strength and inspiration in the Brothers’ historical tradition and charism: “We have endured the Civil War, yellow fever and influenza epidemics, fires, floods, hurricanes, and economic depressions. In each case we survived major damage of one sort or another and remained faithful to our mission to evangelize young people through education. We fully intend to do the same in the face of the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina.” 

“To remain the same, we have to change” has been one of Brother Ivy’s mantras. This inadequate description of his influence on the mission of the New Orleans Province and the U.S. Federation of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart has highlighted three turning points at which he lived out that mantra. True to the charism, Brother Ivy has been a disciplined and compassionate force for re-applying it to the ever-changing realities which the God of Providence provides for the growth of the Kingdom.


Previous Table of Contents Next