The Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, 1884

 FRANCISCANS.
Their Work in Brooklyn as Educators of Youth.
The Schools Established by Them and the Course of Study Pursued in Their Colleges.
The Brooklyn Eagle, August 19, 1884, p. 2.


Among the institutions of learning in Brooklyn few have grown so silently and so steadily as St. Francis’ College, on Baltic street, under the supervision of the Franciscan Brothers. Six hundred years ago the order was founded by St. Francis, of Assisi, but it was not until 1848 that, at the invitation of Right Rev. Bishop O’Connor, of Pittsburg, a branch of the order emigrated to this country. The success met with in Pittsburg by the order constrained Bishop Loughlin, of this city, to invite the order hither, and in 1856 two brothers from Archbishop McHale’s diocese, in Ireland, arrived.

Brother John Friel, O.S.F., taught for many decades in the Brothers’ schools. He wears the biretta which was then past of the Brothers’ habits. 

It was slow work at first in establishing a school, but through the untiring efforts of Brothers Paul and Jerome, St. Francis’ School was opened for the admission of students in October, 1859. Brother Jerome is now the president of the college, but Brother Paul died in October, 1882. Speaking of the latter to an EAGLE reporter, Brother Ignatius said: “He was a profound scholar in Latin and Greek especially, and was a close imitator of St. Francis. His great admiration of everything virtuous will be long remembered.” During his connection with this institution he had the pleasure of seeing many of his pupils ordained clergymen, among whom may be mentioned Fathers Doran, of St. Stephen’s; Plunkett, of St. John’s, Gowanus, (since dead); Plunkett, of St. Paul’s; Killahy, of St. Agnes’, and Doherty, of Flatbush.

St. Francis College, Brooklyn, as seen in the 1880′s.

The college was incorporated in the year 1868, and last May it was chartered and empowered to confer such literary honors and degrees as are granted by the other colleges and universities of the United States. The college was inaugurated on Butler street, near Court, where one of a row of three story brick houses was purchased. Additional property was gradually brought as necessity required, until six houses on Butler street, with a frontage of 150 feet, and a Methodist church on Baltic street, belonged to the order. The church was located directly through the block with the six houses and alterations were made and wings added until hardly a vestige of the church remains. Now, the order owns frontage of 150 feet on each street, together with the intermediate property.

Brother Fidelis Carrier, O.S.F., wears the secular garb that was common during the order’s early years in Brooklyn. Anti-Catholic hostility forced many priests and religious to wear civilian clothing lest they be attacked on the streets. 



Brother Jerome, who is at present in Ireland for the benefit of his health, while at the same time he is looking for recruits for the order, has been superior of the college since its formation and has as first assistant another Brother Paul, who is professor of the higher mathematics, rhetoric and English literature. Three hundred students attended the college last year, and arrangements have been made by which 400 can be accommodated on September 1. The course of studies pursued in the college embraces English literature, rhetoric, elocution, poetry, history, geography, phonography and the science of accounts; mathematics; the physical sciences—natural philosophy, physiology, botany, zoology and geology; the Greek, Latin, French and German languages; logic and metaphysics. An excellent gymnasium has been added. Boarders are taken at reasonable rates.

St. Leonard’s Academy, Brooklyn. The school closed in the 1960′s.

This little band of self denying religious men, numbering 55, have devoted their entire lives to teaching without any recompense other than what they expect to receive in another world. They have established parish schools throughout the city as follows: St. Joseph’s on Dean street with 500 pupils; Our Lady of Mercy on Debevoise Place with 400 pupils; St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, corner of Court and Nelson streets, with 530 pupils; St. Charles Borromeo, on Sidney place, with 400 pupils; St. Peter’s, corner of Hicks and Warren streets, with 700 pupils; St. Patrick’s, on Kent avenue, with 750 pupils; and St. John’s, at Gowanus, with 400 pupils. There is also a branch academy, namely, St. Peter’s, in South Fourth street, which has just been thoroughly renovated for the coming scholastic year; it is under the directorship of Brother Fidelis, and has accommodations for 250 pupils. Then there is St. Anne’s, on York street, with 500 pupils; the Assumption, on Jay street, with 250 pupils; and a branch at Rondout, N.Y., with 250 pupils. The Brothers who teach in the parish schools are paid salaries by the pastors, together with what income the mother house may have above expenses, go to the extension of the Order.

Brother Columba Reilly, O.S.F., served as Superior General of the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn during the 1920′s. 

The Brothers wear black habits tied around the waist with white cords, from which beads are suspended and a biretta is worn on the head. The life of a Franciscan Brother would be a monotonous one, indeed, to a man of the world, but is apparently enjoyed by the members of the order; for they are not only healthy and fat, but as a rule are jovial. They rise at 4:30 A.M., and commence prayer half an hour later. Then they meditate for a while, after which the Office of the Blessed Virgin is recited. Mass is attended in the chapel at 6 o’clock. Study follows from 6:30 to 7:30, when breakfast is served. They repair to the various schools which commence at 9 o’clock with prayer. At 1 o’clock after dinner, school again opens with the reciting of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin and the studies are continued until 3 o’clock as in public schools. From three until half-past three religious instruction is given. At 5 o’clock the Brothers recite the rosary and office of the Blessed Virgin in the chapel. The latter consists of vespers, compline, matins and lauds, and is over at six, when supper is taken. An hour is then devoted to recreation, after which two hours are spent in studying, which brings along the time to nine o’clock. Then night prayers are said, and after meditation the Brothers retire at 9;30. Thus their uneventful lives continue day after day.

About Pat McNamara
  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this wonderful account of my beloved Franciscan Brothers. I was taught by them in elementary school, high school , and college. I also had an uncle, Bro. Mark Kelly, who was a member of the order and died a saintly death at the age of 42.I will always credit the Franciscan Brothers for the earliest inspiration and formation of my own Franciscan vocation. There have been many very holy men among them! Bro. Augustine, ofmConv

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17953214762289672139 Pat McNamara

    Thank you, Brother Augustine!


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