A tradition of education: Hendricken says farewell to Christian Brothers

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WARWICK – A grateful student body and an inspired staff gathered May 5 at Bishop Hendricken High School in thanksgiving for the dedicated ministry of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers who have staffed the school for the past 40 years.

The religious order recently announced that its members would leave Bishop Hendricken at the end of the current academic year due to a decline in vocations. Christian Brothers John Kiernan and Stephen Casey currently minister at the school; Brother J. Michael Binkley was unable to complete the academic year because of health problems and is recuperating in New York.

At a Mass celebrated on the feast day of Blessed Edmund Rice, founder of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, Father David Gaffney, school chaplain, acknowledged the important role that members of the order have played in transforming the lives of thousands of young men during the past four decades.

He added that when members of the religious order arrived at the school in 1971, the survival of the school was in doubt.

“It is probably not too much of an exaggeration to say that with the help of many people, the Brothers rescued Bishop Hendricken High School from closing,” Father Gaffney acknowledged.

“They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery,” the Hendricken chaplain added. “I invite all of us to show our appreciation to the Brothers by imitating the example of Blessed Edmund Rice who with great compassion served the poor and needy.

“Although we will not have physical presence of Brothers after the end of the current school year, we will always have their spiritual presence and the charism of Blessed Edmund will live on in the faculty, students, alumni and all associated with Bishop Hendricken.”

Two years ago, then school President Christian Brother Thomas Leto appointed Vincent Mancuso, who had served as principal since 2005, to serve as the first Director of Mission Integration, an office dedicated to continuing the legacy of the Brothers and ensuring that the mission of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers permeates every program and activity conducted at Bishop Hendricken – both inside and outside of the school.

“We have implemented the very process that the brothers created to provide the best spiritual and educational experience possible for our students without the Brothers being physically present,” Mancuso said.

Administrators, faculty and staff will continue to attend all professional development opportunities offered by the Brothers’ American province, while students will continue to attend events planned by the Campus Ministry Department including peace and justice programs, Friday morning prayer services, pro-life activities and mission service trips to Peru, Kentucky and Florida during the school year and summer.

Brother Casey described tenure at the all-boy’s school as “seven happy years.”

“It’s been terrific,” he said. “I was very excited to come here. It’s made a big difference in my life.”

“Every day has been an honor to serve the Bishop Hendricken community,” added Brother Kiernan.

Brother Casey, who has served as the school’s director of student activities, added that the Brothers are leaving the school in “good hands.”

“The whole community understands the mission of a Catholic school,” he continued.

Noting that there were once 20 or more Christian Brothers assigned to the school, Brother Casey added that a decline in vocations made it impossible to for the order to continue to staff Bishop Hendricken. He added that the province, which includes the United States and Canada, has 200 brothers and 21 schools in the Edmund Rice Network, although the congregation no longer staffs some of the schools.

“Hendricken will still be an Edmund Rice School in the charism of Edmund Rice,” Brother Casey acknowledged.

Speaking at the conclusion of the Mass, school President John Jackson ’71 asked: “How do you thank people adequately for not only saving your school, but also for providing 40 years of compassionate, Catholic, value centered education for thousands of Hendricken men?

“The answer is that you cannot,” he continued.

“Our last four Christian Brothers - Leto, Casey, Kiernan, and Binkley, follow in the footsteps of many, many others, and they adhere to the same basic principles that brought this school from the brink of extinction to its lofty status today as the finest Catholic, college preparatory school for young men in the region,” Jackson said.

Hendricken senior Michael Maloof, a parishioner at St. Gregory the Great Church, Warwick, and the school’s “Athlete of the Year” recalled that Brother Casey has been a good mentor and friend.

“The impact that the Brothers have had over the last 40 years has been special to the entire community,” Maloof said.

C. J. Madeiros, a junior who commutes from Berkley, Mass., to attend Hendricken said while his former teachers Brothers Kiernan and Casey, were serious in the classroom, both religious will also be remembered for their sense of humor.

“Both of them instilled trust and respect,” Madeiros observed, adding that he also learned many profound lessons while participating in service trips to less fortunate communities in Florida and Kentucky.

“I learned that we have to be grateful for what we have because others don’t have these things,” he reflected.

Bishop Robert C. Evans was the main celebrant of the Mass. Fathers Gaffney, Albert A. Kenney, Charles Galligan and Angelo Carusi were concelebrants. Father Jeremy Rodrigues served as master of ceremonies.