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History

The story of our society began in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1940. A well-known Catholic woman, Catherine Goddard Clarke, founded a student center named "Saint Benedict Center" at the intersection of Bow and Arrow Streets in Harvard Square. Its initial purpose was to provide religious instruction for the Catholic students attending non-Catholic universities, such as Harvard, and others in the vicinity.

From its inception, the policy of the Center was to spread the Faith by teaching through the magisterial doctrines passed down through the ages, the writings of the Fathers and Doctors, and study of the Scriptures as well as the writings of the Saints. In so doing, it would spread and develop a rich spiritual life for the students who did not compromise with modernism.

The Center achieved immediate success, filling as it did, a spiritual vacuum created by an obvious deficiency in the neighboring academic institutions. It was attended in large and ever-growing numbers.

In 1942, the well-known and loved Jesuit, Father Leonard Feeney, became associated with the work of the Center. There he influenced the spiritual life of the students, counseling, lecturing, and eventually becoming, by popular demand and appointment from his superiors and the Archdiocesan authorities, the spiritual director of the entire Saint Benedict Center.

Father Leonard Feeney was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, of Irish parents. He was the eldest of three brothers and one sister. Through the beautiful and devout influences of his parents, two of the boys became Jesuits, Leonard and Thomas, and one became a secular priest.

A great poet and writer, Father Feeney, at forty-five, was already famous. This fame preceeded him to the Center, for almost every English textbook used in the thriving parochial schools of the time contained his poems and stories. His name was familiar to children as well as adults. He was also known by his oratorical achievements on radio and speaking tours.

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Socially his literary equals were among the highest strata. His colleagues acknowledged him as a pre-eminent theologian. In fact, his Provincial in the Jesuit Order, Father McEleney, later to become Archbishop of Jamaica, once referred to him as, " the greatest theologian we have in the United States, by far." His appointment to direct the Center apostolate, therefore, was received great enthusiasm and gratitude.

One of the Center's most renowned members was a convert and godson of Catherine Clarke, who later became the late Avery Cardinal Dulles. Reminiscing about the "early days" he remarked, "Life at the Center had an indelible effect on all the associates. Before long 100 members of the Center had accepted vocations to the religious life...and at least 200 became converts to the Faith."

Years passed and under Father Feeney's guidance the influence of Saint Benedict Center at Harvard and other colleges continued to grow. Inevitably, however, a conflict began to develop when Catholic values and beliefs clashed with atheistic philosophies and teaching at the universities attended by the students. Notably among these was Harvard, where a number of students/Center associates came from influential families. On fire with enthusiasm, they began to defend the Faith and challenge any teaching contrary to it. Some, especially those converted to Catholicism through the Center, went so far as to withdraw from their respective academic institutions, either to protest or join religious institutions. Leaving just months before graduation, predictably, such actions caused no little upset, both to the universities and to the students' families.

Political pressure was exerted on Cardinal Cushing, who at one time promoted the great work of the Center, to now close it. Invited to functions at Harvard, the Cardinal could not withstand the pressure and sought ways to stop the evangelizing by causing a transfer of Father from the Center, through his Jesuit superiors. Father Feeney, identifying the ruse, knew his departure was signaling the surrender of the Faith to political powers. Father refused to obey the order, stating it was spurred on by pressure, and demanded a hearing. The fight suddenly shifted to a journalistic campaign denouncing Father for spreading the "malicious" dogma that there was "no Salvation outside the Church."

Up to this time every Catholic believed this, a fact verified by the example of martyrs. The unrelenting condemnation of Father Feeney resulted in his supposed "excommunication" without due process. Father kept to his preaching, moving from the Center to the Boston Common. Crowds listened to him preach while others taunted him even spitting on him and his

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followers. Every newspaper condemned him, ruining his good name, even removing his literature from Catholic textbooks. Father appealed to Rome, but was buried in an avalanche of slander. He predicted that if the dogma of salvation was successfully obliterated in Boston, the Church would cease to exist there. Fifty years later, 84 of the churches in the Archdiocese have been closed.

The Center continued as an unofficial Catholic entity in exile. Over 100 members bound together under the leadership of Catherine Clarke, later "Sister Catherine," and Father Feeney. The date of this important development was January 17, 1949. They chose "True Devotion to Mary" as their pledge of fidelity and total consecration. The words of the co-founder, Sister Catherine Goddard Clarke explained the reason for this common dedication: "We were beginning to realize the character of the battle before us, not only for the preservation of the sacred dogmas of the Church, but actually for their restoration. It was to prepare ourselves by prayer and discipline, and to secure graces enough to enable us to face such a battle, that we became a Religious Order."

In 1958, they sold the building on Bow and Arrow Street and moved, ironically, to the town of Harvard. Ten years later Sister Catherine died leaving the idealistic poet, Father Feeney, in charge. He was now 70 and in weak health, showing signs of the onset of Parkinsons. The community began to shatter, disputing over rules, and goals, superiors and eventually, doctrine and liturgy. Many left and one group became Benedictine espousing the Novus Ordo, while the other, struggling with its identity and rule, kept the Tridentine Liturgy.

In 1971, Humberto Cardinal Medeiros, the successor to Cushing, initiated a "reconciliation" of Father Feeney through the Benedictines, in whose house Father was living at the time. In 1972, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed a desire also to reconcile Father. On August 23, 1972, without retracting anything, Father Feeney recited the Creed which was witnessed and attested to by an auxiliary bishop from Boston and a priest. On November 22, 1972, Father Feeney was informed that he was now "reconciled" with the Church, Pope Paul VI having "lifted any censors, if there were any."

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Controversy among the original members of the congregation over the authority and spirituality of the Order escalated into a legal division of property. It was at this time that our re-founding took place. Brother Hugh MacIsaac, realizing that the original spirit of the Order that Father Feeney had founded was changing, left the Benedictines and moved into a house with a some followers.

In 1975, he began to republish "From the Housetops" magazine, keeping the initial evangelizing spirit of the Center alive. In 1976, several of the original Sisters also left and joined the dual community under one rule in the spirit of Saint Louis Marie De Montfort. The same year the court divided the property among the three groups, the Benedictines, the Sisters of St. Ann's and our community under Brother Hugh. The smallest parcel of land was allotted to us on which a house was established for the Brothers under Brother Hugh and one for the Sisters under Sister Marie Louise. The impressive leadership and spiritual direction of Brother Hugh was monumental and about 10 new members joined that year.

Two years later in 1978, Father Feeney died and the same year Brother Hugh was diagnosed with terminal cancer. On July 11, 1979, Brother Hugh was called home to God, after having set in motion in three short years, a foundation and spirit that reflected the charism of Father Feeney with the fledgling community. Brother Thomas Augustine Dalton was then elected the superior to succeed Brother Hugh, and the community began to grow.

Unfortunately, three years after the election of Brother Thomas Augustine as the new superior, some of the older members contested his authority and asked him to step down. Voting members of the community were consulted, as he was willing to acquiesce his position for the peace of the community. But the voting members re-affirmed their choice. Brother Francis Maluf, an original member of St. Benedict Center, then initiated a civil law suit to acquire superiorship. The court action lasted five humiliating years, ending in a negative verdict for Brother Francis, who subsequently left with four followers and established a community in New Hampshire.

A new era began for us. Supported by the graces of the Tridentine Mass and deep spirituality of True Devotion, our community began to flourish and the printing and distribution of From the Housetops publication continued with over 1 million issues printed and distributed to the present day. The initial small parcel of land grew through the generosity of benefactors to a complex of 20+ acres and 11 buildings. IHM School, grades 1 to 12, was enlarged and filled to capacity. Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel increased in attendance, adding two, and sometimes three,

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Masses on Sunday, and a state-of-the-art print shop, with a four-color press, was built to accommodate the printing apostolate.

In 2000, Mother Teresa Beneway, the superior of St. Ann's House and founding member from the early Center, reunited her community with our ours.

In 2002, Bishop Reilly of Worcester came to the Center and after a ceremony in the Chapel where the community recited and signed a copy of the Creed, he gave his formal blessing and "regularized" the community in the diocese. His successor, Bishop McManus has come to the Chapel several times since then to administer the sacrament of Confirmation in the Traditional Rite to the student of IHM.

A recent purchase of 150 acres of waterfront property to lodge our 28 year old summer camp apostolate, was built by the Brothers and friends to accommodate the programs that touch over 300 souls every year. Up to this point we had been renting every year. This new facility has 15 cabins, a large dining hall and pavilion, lodge and an impressive Chapel made from local timbers. Called Montfort Retreat, it is also used for other spiritual programs and days of recollection.

With the help of God we pray to continue the legacy of our founder Father Leonard Feeney, in the spirit of St. Louis De Montfort.

All for Jesus through Mary.

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