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Marist Brothers

The following information is taken from a paper entitled, The Marist Brothers on Franco-American Soil, written by Brother Paul Ambrose Fontaine, F.M.S., probably in 1986, in which, as the title suggests, he talks about the order’s arrival and foundations in the New England area, specifically in Lewiston, Maine; Manchester, New Hampshire; Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Tyngsboro and Whitinsville, Massachusetts; Trumbull, Connecticut. Here we quote Brother Paul Ambrose.

1892 – Lowell, Mass. – Ecole Saint Joseph

The Marist work in Manchester had become well known and the Superiors were receiving requests for Brothers from various parishes of New England. One of the two accepted for opening in 1892 was the request of the Oblate Fathers who had asked the Marist Brothers to take charge of their Ecole Saint Joseph belonging to the Paroisse Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Lowell. We have worked with the Oblate Fathers for years in many countries of the world, and this new foundation in Lowell would serve to continue that close link with the great group of men dedicated to Mary in parish work. Brother Angelicus, who had worked at the foundation of the Ecole Sainte-Marie in Manchester, was asked to assist in the foundation of our Marist work at Ecole Saint-Joseph in Lowell.

Thirteen Brothers came to take over Ecole Saint-Joseph with Brother Chryseuil as the founder. Many of the original group would be long remembered, as they were pioneers who had left their mark there for years. The Lowell Alumni would remember the names of Brothers Priscilianus, Pierre Vincent, Joseph Athanasius and Mary Florentius, who would later be the founder of the present Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Mass. The Lowell families were large and poor, and the parents did not hesitate to allow their sons to enter the religious life at least to give it a try. They really had nothing to lose.

There was serious work done in Lowell for years and there always was a very close relationship with the Oblate Fathers. In fact, we later joined them in their mission in the Philippines and today we have our own flourishing province of Filipino Marist Brothers. When the registration of the school began to go down and the school population dwindled, the Sisters took over the work of the Grammar School and the Brothers were sent to work in various High Schools.

I personally taught the seventh grade in Lowell in 1936 where I had 63 boys in the same class. When it was time for the daily roll call in the morning, because of the sixty-three students it used to take a bit of time. I recall that the students were quite attentive however waiting for me to join the family name of three boys together in rapid succession. Thus Floriant Hétu, Wilfrid Jolys and Raymond Lamoureux (Hétu, Jolys, Lamoureux were the cause for an occasional laugh. My year in Lowell was a very good year. When we withdrew from Saint Joseph’s in Lowell in 1968, the Marist Brothers had been working there for SEVENTY-SIX YEARS.

Lowell, Mass. – Sainte Jeanne D’Arc

During our years of work in Lowell, one of the pastors prevailed on the Brother Provincial to provide him with a few Brothers for his Grammar School in the parish of Sainte Jeanne d’Arc assuring him that the three or four Brothers could live with and form a Community with those of the Saint Joseph school.

Thus we did open the school in 1936 under the Principalship of Brother Joseph Stephane, and the Marist Brothers worked in that parish for TEN YEARS when the Brothers withdrew in 1946. Brother Joseph Stephane and his little black satchel will long be remembered as he went along after school bringing extra food to some of the needy families and bringing them encouragement as well.

1923 – Tyngsboro, Mass. – St. Joseph Juniorate

By 1905 serious plans were being formulated for an eventual break with Canada and the formation of a separate Province of the Marists in the United States. The school in Maine had closed, but all the other foundations were prospering. There were 84 Marist Brothers working in the USA and 51 of these were Franco-Americans. By 1923 there would be at least sixty Franco-Americans in our four New England schools, and it was thought best to start thinking of a local Training Center for Marist vocations. A tract of land of some 167 acres was purchased in Tyngsboro, Mass. in 1922, and the construction was started at once, while the first group of Brothers lived in the old Indian Wanalancet House, which had been the home of the Tyng Family. The constructions of the St. Joseph Juniorate was completed in 1924 ant it was then opened as a Training House. I entered there in 1926. For years our various New England schools and the many Franco-American parishes used those facilities for parish picnics, retreats, for athletic training camps and seminars. When vocations started to diminish in the terrible sixties, St. Joseph’s became a Novitiate for a while and then later a Retirement for the elderly Brothers. In 1977 the Superiors asked me to attend to the sale of the house and property and to re-locate the retired Brothers to a more adequate set-up. We were then down to ten Brothers living in a house which was built for 150 candidates and with a 167 acre property to maintain. It was planned that it should be preferably sold for some educational purpose rather than for the condominium developments, which were springing up all over. It was sold in 1977 to Dr. An Wang for use as the Wang Institute for Graduate Studies in Computer Sciences*. We had served and lived in that place for FIFTY-FOUR YEARS.

*Web page Editor’s Note: After the collapse of Wang, the property fell into the hands of Boston University who, in March 2002, is still the current owner.