History of the Marist Brothers in the United States
During these twenty years, 1911-1931 the United States Province experienced important changes in its schools, its houses of studies and as well as in its geographical features. There were four Provincials who succeeded in their program to consolidate the young Province. For this purpose a second academy in New York City said a New England Juniorate were established. Another important feature of this reorganization period was a better program of professional training. To that end funds were voted to purchase the necessary equipment for the library and laboratories in Poughkeepsie, to renovate and expand the training houses, and to establish a recognized junior college in Poughkeepsie.
Furthermore two small New York and five Canadian communities were closed in favor of more promising schools, training centers and seven high school departments. Moreover, at the end of this period, every Marist faculty had its separate community residence.(1.)
Numerically, the period showed an increase of sixty-three brothers even though a similar number of brothers were lost to the Province through deaths, transfers to French and Canadian provinces, and through a number of defections.
One major project that did not materialize was the building of a provincial house in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1913 and again in 1917 other needs caused the allocations of funds for that purpose to other projects.
This period also saw an increase in the transfer of local and provincial administrative posts from the missionary French and other European brothers to the first generation of American brothers.
A significant event which altered the course of history in the United States Province was the economic depression which followed the crash of the stock market in 1929.
BROTHER PTOLEMEUS, 1911-1914
It was with great confidence that the Marist Superiors in Europe elected Brother Ptolemeus as the first provincial of the United States Province in 1911. As the former provincial of the North American Province he had assisted in the proceedings for the canonical erection of the new province. During the three years of his administration, he was given jurisdiction over two hundred brothers said aspirants.
Brother Ptolemeus' first ambition was to erect a provincial house. The Hermitage property in Poughkeepsie, which was purchased with the intention of making it the headquarters of the new province, had no specific building available for this purpose. Therefore, one of the first acts of the new administration was to set aside funds for that project. Unfortunately, two years later, in 1913, pressing demands four a residence for the brothers in New York City claimed the money which had accumulated.(2.)
In this city Reverend Havens Richard, S.J., rector of St. Ignatius Church, requested two brothers for the higher grades of his parochial school. Although there was a shortage of manpower, this request was honored. Because this Jesuit priest had been the spiritual advisor of the first brothers in Poughkeepsie (1906-1908), the administration found it difficult to refuse his request. But the assignment of two additional brothers to New York City emphasized a serious problem for St. Ann's Academy. At this time four other small faculties were taking up all available rooms in that school, which could not expand as it should. Therefore, funds destined for the building of a provincial house in Poughkeepsie were used to extend the facilities of the Academy.
Another ambition of Brother Ptolemeus was to expand westward. It was he who made the original arrangements to send brothers to western Canada. He and his council thought that the United States Province would in time not only s taff the future schools, but develop an autonomous province in that distant land of Manitoba, Canada. During the three years of Brother Ptolemeus' administration, three communities were assigned to the village schools at St. Norbert (1912), St. Anne Des Chenes, and St. Pierre Jolt's (1913). Several vocations to the Marist life from these schools encouraged Brother Provincial in his venture.
Elsewhere in the Province other schools were included in the progress which was being made. Saint Mary's Parish in Manchester, New Hampshire, erected a two-story building for the brothers' school. In 1912 this modern building was named Ecole Hevey, in honor of the late pastor, who had engaged the brothers to teach in the old wooden school in 1890. In Lowell# Massachusetts, efforts to retain the boy until graduation from St. Joseph Parish Grammar school met with succese. In 1910, eighteen boys graduated from the eighth grade, whereas in previous years, less than a dozen boys graduated from this school in thirteen years. Slowly the benefits of education won over those who had wished to work in the factories.(3.)
Because of this progress during Brother Ptolemeus' administration fifty-five brothers were assigned to the New England schools. Serious considerations were therefore given by the Provincial Council to establish a preparatory school to train numerous vocations coming from this area. This project materialized ten years later.(4.)
Brother Ptolemeus was relieved from the burdens of office in March 1914. In the years that followed he continued to serve the congregation as master of scholastics (1914-1919), as director of St. Ann's Academy (1922-1925), and as an ad interim director at St. Joseph School in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1925. He spent the last fifteen years of his life as Director General of the Hermitage communities in Poughkeepsie (1929-1931),o and as a teacher in the Novitiate and Scholasticate. Brother Ptolemeus died in 1940, at the age of seventy-six, at the Hermitage.
BROTHER HERIBERT (HERBERT), 1914-1916
Brother Heribert, the second provincial was appointed six months before the outbreak of World War I. A man with frail health, the complex sties of administering the Province in wartime forced him to resign his post in 1916, one year before the end of his term. His administration rat from March 1914 to August 1916.
He was born Jacques Maitras on April 10, 1871, in the village of Usson, in the Department of the Loire, France. In 1886 he started his early religious training at the Novitiate of Notre Dame de 1'Hermitage, where the Blessed Founder of the Institute had toiled and died. Motivated & the desire for missionary work in America, he set sail for New York in 1891.(5.)
The local superiors saw in the newly arrived teacher at St. Mary's in Manchester, New Hampshire, a man of leadership. In the following yearn previous to his appointment as provincial, he was given but five years of teaching assignments. During most of the ears he served as director of the Marist schools in Granby, Canada (1895); in Montreal, P.Q. (1891-1892); in St. Romuald, P.Q., which he founded (1897-1902), and in St. Anne School in Lawrence, Massachusetts (1902-1906). After a year of stud' at the Second Novitiate in France (1906-1907), he was appointed master of novices in-St . Hyacinthe, Canada (1907-1910), and in Poughkeepsie, New York (1910-1914).(6.)
Most of the problems which weighed so heavily on Brother Heribert were the result of World War I and the activities in connection with the celebration of the centennial of the founding of the brothers.(7.) The province which he was given to direct in 1914 counted one hundred and eighty brothers. Two of the fourteen schools in the province were soon to disappear. The Manitoba district which had enjoyed a certain amount of success suffered its first setback as a Marist field of apostolate. In 1914 Brother Heribert wags forced to withdraw the brothers from St. Anne Des Chenes and from St. Norbert. This decision was due to the logs of brother who returned to Europe to serve in the French armed services.(8.)
In August 1914, Germany declared war on France. The French Government ordered a general mobilization in order to stop the invasion of Germans through Belgium. An immediate effect of this news during the summer vacation was to shock the French brothers who taught in the American Province. Letters from the families of these brothers contained appeals for them to return to serve their country's colors. Anti-clerical in the French Assembly threatened Frenchmen abroad (missionaries) with severe penalties if they did not return to serve. Brothers who were visit Ing in France during the crisis were not allowed to return to America. Others who did not wish to discredit their families were allowed to return to France to join the army. A few others, who wished to remain in this country, joined the United States Army.
The personnel problem which thus developed caused great difficulty for Brother Heribert when he had to assign brothers in August 1971. About twenty-five brothers returned to France or joined the armed forces during the war from this province. During one week, in March 1916, he received news of the death of two brothers at the war front. They were Brother Ignatius, aged thirty-seven, who had left from Manchester, New Hampshire; and Brother Joseph Floribert, aged thirty, formerly of St. Ann's Academy in New York City.(9.)
Other losses by death in the Province included the death of two experienced teachers: Brother Peter Raphael, the director of St. Peter's School in Poughkeepsie; and Brother Namase, who taught in Manchester, New Hampshire. Young professed brothers, who were received into the Institute in 1914 and in 1915, were prematurely selected to replace the men who died or who were involved in the war.(10.)
In the midst of the war thought had to be given to the centennial of the founding of the Institute. Therefore in November 1915 the Provincial Council decided that the time was ripe to begin a special drive to raise funds for the construction of a provincial house. A special souvenir journal was considered for publication during the centennial observances. Whatever funds might accrue from such a journal were allocated for the Provincial house.(11.)
The important social and financial problems of a provincial in the centennial celebrations were heavier than Brother Heribert could bear. He resigned therefore as Provincial in favor of Brother Dacianus, a vigorous and imaginative administrator.
BROTHER DACIANUS, 1916-1918
Like the two Provincials who preceded him, Brother Dacianus was a Frenchman. He arrived in the United States in 1893, a year when eighteen other French brothers joined the eighty French missionaries in the North American Province.(12.)
Brother Dacianus, Antoine Guillot, was born on December 24, 1874 in the village of Chazailles near Lyons, in the Loire district of France. He was received into the Institute at Notre Dame de 1'Hermitage in the same district. After various assignments in French schools, he volunteered for missionary work in America, where he taught for eleven years at St. Ann's Academy, New York. He was assigned to his first administrative post as director of St. Joseph School in Haverhill, Massachusetts (1906-1909). In 1910 Brother Dacianus was given the important post of director of St. Ann's Academy in New York City. Shortly after his second term as director he was called upon to succeed Brother Heribert.
During his short administration he continued to withdraw brothers from western Canada. In 1917, after consultation with his council, the plan to erect a separate province in that region was abandoned.(13.) The first Marist community there, at St. Boniface College (1910), was withdrawn After 1917 only the prosperous school at St. Pierre Jolys remained.
Compensating elements however appeared elsewhere in the -Province. The respective communities were able to adjust to the rising standard of living. A yearly increase of salary of fifty dollars was given to each brother teaching in the parochial schools, so that each of these brothers earned $500 to 1600 annually for his community. The added revenue went into the repair and expansion of the rouses of studies in Poughkeepsie. Moreover, for the first time the brothers were allowed to attend local universities. Previous to this, special classes were conducted in Poughkeepsie to prepare the brothers for exams of the New York State "Life Certificate' and the Marist Diploma.
As the year 1917 neared, Brother Dacianus shouldered the responsibilities of the many religious and civic observances marking the centenary of the founding of the Marist Brothers in 1817. On January 2, 1917, special Masses of Thanksgiving were held in every Marist community. In April public observances were begun in Manitoba, Canada. In May colorful religious ceremonies and civic receptions drew thousands of students and friends of the brothers to the four parish schools in New England where the brothers taught. The several communities in New York City observed the occasion during the month of June. Masses of Thanksgiving were celebrated in the respective parish churches. A special choir of forty brothers from the area sang at all the Masses and Benedictions. His Eminence James Cardinal Farley, presided at the St. Ann's Academy-St. Jean Baptiste Mass of Thanksgiving. A special civic reception held at the Lexington Opera House was arranged by the combined Marist communities of the City.(14.) Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Hayes, the future Cardinal-Archbishop of New York, represented Cardinal Farley. Among the celebrated guests who attended were Bourke Cockran, famous orator and jurist; and John McCormack., the noted tenor. Both were former students of the brothers in Ireland and France. The closing ceremonies of the centennial were held in August 1917 at the Provincial House in Poughkeepsie, New York.(15.) Several early Marist pioneer members of the North American Province, who belonged to the Canadian Province attended.
A Special souvenir book, The Centennial Book of the Marist Brothers, was published to mark the occasion. he first part feature a brief history of the congregation, and of the different Marist schools and house of studies in the Province. The second part comprised all the sermons and allocations which had been delivered at the religious and civic functions. A significant remark made by Reverend Havens Richards, S.J., pastor of St. Ignatius Church in New York City, typified the recognition of the work of the brothers:
It (the Marist Institute) now had over four thousand members teaching in almost all parts of the world. It has invaded the United States from Canada, with a spiritual invasion, and is rapidly prospering and spreading. And what this mission of great workers has accomplished by so humble means is due, I am sure, to the supernatural spirit of the Venerable Founder and the spirit he had bequeathed them.(16.)
Illustrations in the centennial book sketched the proposed centennial chapel and Provincial House. Moreover revenues accrued from its distribution brought the plans for a new Provincial House closer to reality. Unfortunately, the fund again had to be used for other necessary projects during the early twenties.
After twenty active months in office Brother Dacianus was relieved from the provincialship and the administration of the 'Province was once again given to Brother Heribert, the former Provincial.
BROTHER HERIBERT, 1918-1922
Within seven months after Brother Heribert began his second administration, the armistice was signed to end World War I. The peace and prosperity in America which followed brought greater stability and prosperity to the American Province. It was during this period Brother Heribert exerted his greatest effort to achieve a more stable and consolidated province.
This concern resulted in the closing of several schools. Small staffs were withdrawn from two New York City schools: St. Paul in 1918, and St. Ignatius Loyola in 1921. The last of the Manitoba communities, St. Pierre Jolys, returned to the United States in 1921.(17.) The consequent retreating boundaries of the United States Province directed the Provincial Council's attention toward a greater expansion of existing schools. In spite of this main interest, a new area for the Marist apostolate was opened. In 1919 Brother Heribert sent Brother Paul Stratonic and a community of six brothers to Savannah, Georgia, to begin the staffing of what became Marist School for Boys.
The concern for reorganization also inspired construction and real estate developments. The needs of the Hermitage communities in Poughkeepsie were met by the addition of a four-story annex to the Juniorate building. Provincial House funds were used for this frame structure and for the purchase of sites for another juniorate and another academy in order to relieve the congestion in the overcrowded St. Ann's Academy in New York City. The first of these sites was a twenty-two acre property in northeastern New York City, which was purchased for $109,000.(18.) The second site was purchased in 1921 in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts where a proposed juniorate would offer facilities nearer home to the New England candidates for the brotherhood.
Another feature of the reorganization period was a greater Marist participation in secondary education. At the time there were but two high school departments conducted by the brothers: St. Ann's Academy (established in 1897) , and St. Ann's Hermitage. A high school department was started in 1907 in Lowell, but the lack of applicants closed it shortly afterward. In 1920, the pastors in Winooski, Vermont; Lawrence, Massachusetts; and Augusta, Georgia asked for brothers to teach in their proposed high schools. Due to limitations of personnel a favorable answer to all requests was impossible. But attempts to establish high schools in the existing Marist communities were made. Both grammar schools in Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts inaugurated secondary education in 1920. Within twelve years both of these departments failed, because of lack of funds and lack of applicants. A few years later these same schools re-established high school departments which are flourishing today. In 1923 a ninth year was added at Ecole Hevey. Due to lack of applicants the effort to begin a high school in this Manchester school proved futile. It was closed at the end of the 1926 scholastic year.(19.)
An unusual concern was added to those mentioned during Brother Heribert's second administration. An influenza epidemic spread over the United States adding to concerns of provincial personnel. In Manchester, the brothers left their classrooms to tend the sick in the local hospital. In Poughkeepsie the sickness also curtailed classes, and caused the death of one of the brothers. The February 2, 1920 entry in the Provincial House annals records:
The epidemic of influenza prevalent throughout the United States at this time, lays low scores of our students and teachers at the Hermitage. Two sisters from St. Francis Hospital volunteered their services to care for the sick at the Novitiate. Sister Madeleine spent thirty-six consecutive hours by the bedside of Brother Michel Ange just before his death. . . The devotedness and attachment of Doctor Charles McCambridge to our community were very much in evidence as he plowed his way on foot, two or three times a day, through waist-high snow drifts to tend to our sixty victims of the flu.(20.)
Important Marist visitors brought encouragement to the brothers during this administration. The first was Brother Cesidius, the founder o1 the first North American community at Iberville, Canada. From his original community of six brothers had sprung two provinces with almost five hundred brothers. This visit commemorated his diamond jubilee as a Marist, Two years later Rev. Brother Angelicus, Assistant General, conducted the canonical visitation of the Province. Also Very Reverend Brother Stratonique, sponsor of the American missions, now Superior General of the Institute, visited the Province. Both brothers were satisfied with the progress made since 1911 and the plans of the reorganization period for future Marist developments.
Brother Heribert had the opportunity to report on the progress of the American Province on his trip to the Mother House in Italy in 1920. The occasion was the convocation of the General Chapter of the Institute. He and Brother Leo, Director of St. Ann's Academy in New York City, were among the sixty-one delegates from twenty-two Marist provinces of the Institute who attended. Following the election of Brother Diogene as Superior General, the general problems of the Institute were discussed. At the end of the Chapter, a table of statistics issued indicated that there were 4,513 Marist Brothers conducting 587 schools in the Congregation.(21.) The United States Province racked ninth with one hundred and sixty-six brothers and seventy-eight candidates in the houses of studies.
On Christmas day 1922, Brother Heribert, the last of the French provincials, turned the administration of the growing province over to Brother Leo. In the years that followed, Brother Heribert was named the Director General of the Hermitage communities in Poughkeepsie (1922-1928, 1931-1934) . After a three ear tenure as accountant at Mount St. Michael in New York City (1928-1931 he returned to spend his remaining days at the Hermitage. He died in 1939, a year after he had retired to the Provincial House infirmary.
BROTHER LEO (1922-1930)
Brother Leo was the first of three Canadian-born brothers who were appointed to direct the United States Province. They followed one another in succession between 1922 and 1942. They were of the first generation of Canadian brothers who were teaching in the Marist schools in the United States at the time of the division of the North American province in 1911. Like many other Canadians these brothers chose to continue teaching in this country.
Brother Leo was born George E. Brouillette on August 22, 1883, in Batiscan, P.Q., Canada. He received his Marist training at Iberville, Canada. It was there he received the Marist habit and the name of Brother Legontianus.(22.) Early teaching duties were assigned to him in Marist schools at Iberville, Montreal, and New York City. In 1914 he received his first administrative assignment as Director of Ecole Hevey, in Manchester, New Hampshire. The directorship of St. Ann's Academy was entrusted to him in 1919. Here he remained until he was appointed Provincial.(23.)
For the next nine years Brother Leo continued several projects under development. He wished to carry out Brother Heribert's plans for new accommodations in the houses of studies, and for the improvement of existing schools. In general he implemented the reorganization plans. To this end he withdrew the brothers from St. Michael's School in Montreal, Canada in 1925; he formulated new curricula for the houses of studies; he authorized the construction of new buildings in New York City and in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts; he encouraged the establishment of high school departments in existing schools; and he denied the requests to staff other parish schools because of lack of personnel and revenues.
Brother Leo's interest in new curricula stemmed from a problem of long standing. From the beginning of the American Province the personnel were so occupied with school work that the preparation of the brothers for the teaching profession was not properly maintained. This situation was responsible for the assignment of young professed brothers without the proper training to classroom duties. Brother Provincial's ambition was to correct this situation. In a report written thirty years after his provincialship, he summarized the educational background the young religious received before he outlined the new courses of study for the houses of studies:
In 1911 the professional training of the brothers coming out of the Novitiate was very deficient. Many went directly into the classroom with results that can easily be imagined. They had to be very gifted to make a success of their discipline and their teaching: Those who found their way into the scholasticate formed a kind of pool to secure replacements for the different schools of the Province.(24.)
Though some improvements in this field had been made from 1911 to 1921, the economic resources of the Province limited the professional training of the young brothers. This was obtained mainly through the imitation of former teachers, and through the assistance and advice of local superiors and fellow teachers. Professional courses were also offered at the [?] during the summer vacation. It was here and at Fordham University that they were prepared to obtain the New York State teacher's license (the State Life Certificate).(25.)
To advance the organization of studies that Brother Leo had in mind Dr. Skinner of the hoard of Regents in Albany, New York was invited to recommend Improvements for St. Ann's Hermitage. With the implementation of these recommendations a Regents' charter was granted to this school in 1923. The next step was to establish a junior college for the scholastic With the assistance of Fordham University authorities, Marist Training School was started in Poughkeepsie in 1928. In that year a charter was granted by the State of New York for the junior college in affiliation with Fordham University. Seventy-two credits towards the Bachelor's degree we offered in this college, and it its extensions at St. Ann's Academy and Mount St. Michael in New York City. Provisions were made for the student brothers to earn the rest of the credits towards a Bachelor's degree at Fordham University during the summers and after teaching hours.
Many physical changes in the Hermitage houses contributed to better studies. These changes were made financially possible by sales of portions of that property. Land close to the Hudson River was sold for fifty thousand dollars. With this money the Greystone college building was renovated and laboratory equipment and books were purchased. An addition was also built to the brothers' residence.(26.)
Brother Leo's plans reached out to New England. In Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, Brother Aloysius Mary was appointed supervisor of the construction of a New England junior preparatory. A modern four-story brick building, with accommodations for seventy-five students was ready in September 1924. This was the first of two major constructions which Brother Leo felt was needed. In order to obtain students for the preparatory, Brother Frederick Charles, the recruiter, was assisted by Brother Austin Mary in the New York area in 1925. Brother Charles was then able to visit more New England schools to recruit candidates.
To continue Brother Heribert's program of consolidation Brother Leo and his Council decided to refuse requests for missionary brothers for the Philippine Islands and China. Twenty-three years elapsed before an American staff was to establish a school outside this country.
In line with Brother Leo's plans the Marist schools in New York City benefited by the addition of new buildings. A community residence for the brothers teaching at St. Agnes School was acquired by the parish in 1923. A new school for the Boys' Department of St. Jean Baptiste parish school was ready for use at the beginning of the 1925 scholastic year.(27.) As a result the former site of the St. Jean Baptise School was purchased by the Province as an annex to St, Ann's Academy.(28.) Lastly, the addition of the modern Mount St. Michael Academy in 1926 implemented the plan to build a sister school to St. Ann's Academy in New York City.
Throughout the Province, the introduction of high school departments in the existing schools met with success. St. Agnes School in New York City started one in 1923; Ecole Hevey in Manchester, New Hampshire tried in 1923; and St. Peter's School in Poughkeepsie, New York opened a similar department in-1927. This emphasis on secondary education eventually resulted during the next twenty years 3n the transfer of brothers from grammar schools to high schools.
Brother Leo's years in office witnessed the deaths of several pioneer brothers of the Province. Many had passed on and the new generation of brothers replaced them. Of the twenty-two brothers who died during this twenty year reorganization period eleven died during Brother Leo's tenure of office. Of these, the two founders of the New York area apostolate (Very Rev. Brother Stratonique and Brother Zephiriny) died in 1926 and 1927 respectively. After a long illness, Rev. Brother Angelicus, Assistant General and founder of St. Anne School Marist community in Lawrence, Massachusetts, passed on in 1928. To replace him Brother Francis Borgia, director of St. Ann's Academy, was appointed Assistant Genera1.(29.)
By the time Brother Leo turned the direction of the Province over to Brother Henry Charles on December 29, 1930, the numerical strength of the Province had increased from one hundred and sixty-three brothers to two hundred and seven.
Since that time Brother Leo was appointed to fill a number of posts. He served as Director General of the Poughkeepsie Hermitage (19341940; 1942-1944) as director of St. Joseph School in Haverhill$ Massachusetts (1931-1932); and of Mount St. Michael Academy in New York City (1932-1933). He spent nineteen years teaching in the training schools: the Poughkeepsie Novitiate (1933"1934); the Marist Preparatory School in Esopus, New York (1944 1952). He retired at the Provincial House in Esopus in 1952. Since December 1958 he has been retired at the Novitiate in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts.(30.)
And so the end of his administration concluded what has been referred to as the Reorganization Period of the United States Province. During the twenty-year span, the four Provincials accomplished the task of building a prosperous province on the foundation of existing schools, houses of studies, and personnel allotted to the United States Province in 1911. During the twenty-two years of the following period, known as the Transitional Period, four other provincials continued the work of. their predecessors. What had been left by Brother Leo was significant, but the depression which had already started to influence the course of his administration was felt by the provincials who followed him. Despite the hardships which were experienced by them the inevitable advance in secondary education was hastened in the Province when the return of prosperity resulted in expansion.
last updated on July 14, 2004