Xaverian Sponsorship | A Grateful Look at the Past

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The 175th Anniversary of our Congregation presents an opportunity to recall and to celebrate the Xaverian charism as experienced in our educational ministry. We are most grateful for those Brothers who, over the years, were open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, those Brothers who read the “signs of the times” and responded to the needs they saw. They did so, I believe, through the power of the Holy Spirit. These Brothers wanted to share the Xaverian Charism through their educational ministry. Today we are, indeed, grateful to God, to all our Brothers and to the many laypersons who are making the Xaverian Charism a reality to over 18,000 students each year in the United States, Belgium, Congo and Kenya!

Our mission as a Congregation is Jesus’ mission handed down to us by our Founder.

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.
Luke 4:18

We know that the Holy Spirit works through the common and ordinary events of life to inspire individuals. We are indeed grateful for our Founder’s openness to the stirrings of the Spirit in his unspectacular life. The grace of conversion captured Ryken’s heart and mind and turned him toward God’s unconditional love. Ryken’s embrace of Jesus’ mission shaped his charism, that special gift of the Holy Spirit, and has expressed itself in our educational ministry for the past 175 years. So we gratefully recall our Founder’s willingness to be lead by the Holy Spirit.

Gratefully we remember other Brothers who let the Spirit lead them. We are grateful for the first Brothers in Belgium, England, and the USA.  They saw the Xaverian charism in education as a pearl of great value. They willingly paid a price for this pearl by enduring the dire conditions of poverty in which they lived. The first hundred years were years of struggle. These Brothers were men of faith who trusted in God. As with the Founder, the Holy Spirit not only captured their hearts, but also fortified their wills and toughened their resolve to be the stewards of the Xaverian educational charism. We are grateful for the pearl of great price they left us. These men forged a great educational tradition grounded in the love of God and in solid spiritual values.

By the time of our 125th Anniversary in 1964, the Xaverian tradition was well established. We gratefully remember the Brothers who brought the academic instruction and faith formation of students  in Xaverian schools to a new level: Brothers Bartholomew Varden, Medard Shea, Thomas More Page, Climacus Boyle, Hilary, Philip Dougherty, John Olsen, and Bertin Manning to name only a few. Each responded to the Spirit’s prompting to discern the “signs of the times.” Each took risks to make sure the Xaverian charism in education was responding to the needs of the students of their day.

The 1960’s impacted our schools. Pope John XXIII responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He read the signs of the times and engaged the Council in a redefinition of the Church. With the publication of the Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution of the Church, all Catholics were called to lives of service. What was once reserved only to Religious became the mandate for all believers. This Universal Vocation brought vibrancy and health to the Church at the same time it profoundly affected religious congregations.  It was one of the factors that impacted our Xaverian educational charism. The signs of the times were very challenging for us in the 1970’s and 1980’s. During the early 1970’s many religious, including Xaverian Brothers, left religious life. The old paradigm which worked so well for the first 125 years no longer responded to the world in which we were living. We were no longer in the position of fully administering and staffing our schools.

Rather than running from the challenges of the signs of the times, we were blessed with leaders who, like our early Brothers and the Brothers before them, saw the Xaverian educational charism as the pearl of great price. The Spirit captured their hearts and imagination. The Spirit fortified them to take a risk. The Spirit strengthened and toughened their will to preserve the pearl of great price for the benefit of the youth of the Church and to find a new way of being Church.

Now, the Spirit we have received is not the spirit of the world but God’s own
Spirit, so that we may understand the gifts God has given us
.
I Cor 2:12

The spirit of the world would have told us to withdraw from our schools due to shortage of Brothers and the rising finances. That would not be the case. Brother Cornelius Hubbuch, as Provincial of the Central Province, was the first to respond publicly to the positive signs of the times advocating including lay leadership on our governing boards and in administration. As Provincial, Peter Fitzpatrick was committed to bringing along the lay church, being Church in new ways. In his wisdom he appointed Brother Matthew Burke as the first Director of Sponsorship. Xaverian Sponsorship would mean that the Brothers would engage and form laypersons in the essentials of the Xaverian educational charism. We would no longer be the owners of our schools, but rather the influence that keeps our school true to Jesus’ mission and the charism of our Founder. The Holy Spirit blessed Matthew with the wisdom to include those who were in love with the service of God in creating the framework for sponsorship. The Spirit blessed Matthew with the strength and resolve to engage our lay teachers and administrators in shaping our sponsorship. By 1984, Xaverian Brothers Sponsorship was established. Peter Campbell, motivated by his love of our educational charism, drew up the legal documents that would allow us to respond legally before the Church and the State as we brought about this form of being Church in a new way. For Cornelius, Peter Fitzpatrick, and Matthew and his classmate, Peter Campbell, we are grateful.

In the former St. Joseph Province (ANEP), it was Brother James Sullivan, who during his term as Provincial, began to work with Peter Campbell to update the governance model and invite more lay men and women to serve on the boards in New England. Brothers James Boyle and Paul Feeney further advanced these efforts as well. A colloquium was established that brought together Brothers and teachers to reflect on Xaverian education. Later, under Paul Feeney’s leadership as Provincial, he invited Brother Charles Moran to become the Sponsorship Director for the schools in New England. Charlie, with his long experience as an administrator and his skills as a facilitator, began working with the Headmasters to provide formation programs for faculty, board members and administrators. It was also under Charlie’s leadership that he and Michael Welch developed the first XBSS Student Retreat for the New England schools, which was later expanded to include all the US schools.

We are grateful to Brother Arthur Caliman for professionalizing our sponsorship during his term as Director of Sponsorship in the Central Province. It is wonderful to be in love with the idealism of our charism! Someone, however, must manage the practicalities the system. Arthur spent hours working with administrators and board leadership to help them to understand the intricacies of institutional development. Simply put, what you have to do to keep a school financially viable. For his gift to our educational charism, we are deeply grateful.

We are equally grateful to Brother Larry Harvey, who served as the Director when the two sponsorship programs in the US were merged, for his openness to the Holy Spirit in developing the supportive programs needed to empower our lay leadership and staffs to understand their important role as ministers of the Xaverian charism in education in the service of the Church.

Next week (Monday, January 26) we continue our reflection on Xaverian Sponsorship with a look at how we’re “embracing the future with hope.”

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2 Comments

  1. Peter C. Corbett says:

    Congradulations to The Xaverian Brothers on their 175 aniversary.

    A seemingly lost part in your history is a place called The Working Boys’ Home. Newton Highlands, Mass.

    I am a part of their legacy, those Xaverian Brothers from so long ago. Whom gave this unwanted & abused boy their love & caring. Not only for me, but for about another 40 other boys in their care. Usually between 10-14 years old & school grades 5-8.
    My years there were between 1949-1953.

    They were a part of us boys as much as we were a part of theirs.
    I consider those four years the best time in my young life. Where my life had started.

    It was a wonderful place. A place where i was safe & cared for. I was clothed, fed, and had a loving roof over my head.
    Sad to say i never realised just where all the clothing, food, heat & love was coming from. Until i was in my 60’s. Yes we did mail out the Working Boy magazine, asking for donations.

    I always thought that i was unloveable, nobody else cared for me. Was i ever wrong.
    Those Catholic charitable organisations in the Archdiocese of Boston, all those other individuals from whom we mailed the Working Boy magazine to.

    All those individuals who also in their own way did love and care for us boys.
    Persons interested in a group of boys that they have never seen.

    We were grateful to those people and the only way that we could repay them was by our prayers.

    And those Xaverian Brothers whom gave their time in educating us giving us direction in life and above all their love & caring.

    Brothers names from so long ago, to name some of whom i still remember.
    Brother Oswald, Brother Aubert.

    We had three Brothers there with the name of Peter. One whom was my 8th grade teacher, he also was the music director, movie showing, and in the administrative part as well.
    All we ever knew about his name & called him Big Pete.
    Brother Peter Julian was the refectory director, with all his other duties.
    Brother Peter Celestine, boss of the kitchen & scullary.

    There was the amazing Brother Roland, my 6th grade teacher and lower domitory chief.
    Along with being sort of our recreation chief too. Taking care of the bikes that we had, horse shoes player, basketball chief and sort of a doctor/nurse as he was also incharge of the infirmary. Patched up many of skinned bodies, and when something more serious came along he would take care of us until a nurse came around.
    One thing about him was his smoking a pipe and the aroma was a dead giveaway that we better be on our best behavior because he was close by and we put our best behavior on.
    He was also a very talented Brother as every year he would decorate our 6th grade chalk boards with his images of the Nativity scene in colored chalk. It was awesome, so much so whenever someone came up on visitor Sunday’s we would ask for permission to take them up to see it.

    Brother, Seraphin, Top bay supervisor, (fifth & sixth grade boys) whom spoke in a foriegn accent. He would be the one that was stuck bedding a group of unruly young boys at times. If we were good he would let us listen to the Boston Braves ball games. If no baseball game then the Hiberian Hour, Irish music.
    He had his limits and would take just so mutch and then it was pay back time, that rattan came out & your fingertips would be hurting for a while or on your butt in your pajamas.
    Sure got us boys attention.

    Brother, Kostka(sp), one of the older Brothers there. He was incharge of our Saturday nights shower, he was the clothes washer and repairer Brother.
    But on Saturday nights, shower nights we were supposed to change our clothes, especially our drawers & socks. I guess that we boys wern’t changing our draws & socks as he would give us a talk about us trying to give him lockjaw, as our drawers & socks smelled terribly.
    We boys were a group to handle, especially lined up in the basement hallway next to our wash & shower room. We took showers by classroom numbers.
    Well, one Saturday evening i guess that i spent a lot of time in being unruly, and that was a no no. I see him coming in my direction with that rattan in his hands, he gets up to me & starts hitting me with that rattan and i started to run away from him heading down towards the boiler room. Well he gets me cornered & is using that rattan like that movie actor Errol Flynn used the sword in those Swashbuckling movies.
    I was laughing more from his use of that rattan on me than any hits he made on me.

    Brother, Jude, most likely the youngest brothers there. He was the groundskeeper & football coach. And in football practice there was no horsesing around or else. We were a tough group of boys & usually won our football games against other schools near us.
    But, my memories of him aren’t so great, as he was the administrater of the ultimate form of punishment, that lead lined paddle. It was usually administered in the gymnasium on a Saturday evening. It was administered on your (show me the moon) bare backside.
    That paddle sure hurt and made an impression on you (no pun intended). I got hit three times for my punishment ( it was deserved) and i wasn’t going to be sitting down anytime soon. Being also shower night when that water hit your butt is just intensified the pain.

    Brother Finbar, his job was repairing the slate wall that ran on Winchester St. He was fairly old but he could out lift me in moving those slate slabs around. I always went out seeking him when we had chores to do. He was a very saintly man, quiet in his talk to you.

    Those are just a few of the Brothers posted there and a great memory of my youth.

    I owe the Congregation of the Xaverian Brothers a huge debit of gratitude. They most likely had saved this boys life.

    That’s it from an old Workie boy, now a man.
    Pete..aka as Eaglebeak from 1949-1953.

    • Bro Lawrence Harvey says:

      Pete, thank you so much for your fond memories of WBH in Newton Highlands. It is a proud part of our history – Working Boys Home, St Mary’s Industrial School, CYO Home Detroit to name 3 of the places where the Brothers performed the kind of social work and education that you write about. It is always good to read your comments and stories from Newton Highlands. Keep us in your prayers. You remain in ours.

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