Monastics at Saint Mary's

Brother Damien Joseph (L) and Brother Thomas from the Society of Saint Francis

Anglican Religious Orders

Sister Mary Maud (L) and Sister Mary Angela of the Sisters of the Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Saint Mary's in the 1880s.  Their Community was founded by the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown, and they lived and worked at Saint Mary's in the 1880s and 1890s.  They ran a day school in the Mission House, among other ministries.

Members of the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity worshiping in the SHN Chapel on the 4th floor of the Mission House in the 1950s.  The SHN Sisters lived and worked at Saint Mary's from 1909 to 1965.  

Our parish and many Anglican Religious Orders were founded in the wake of the catholic renewal within Anglicanism in the nineteenth century, usually called “The Oxford Movement.” From its inception, this renewal was about more than “smells and bells.” It was a renewal of Christian community, mission and service. In England it took root in working class and slum areas. In the United States it moved into newer areas of our city, like Longacre Square (known since 1904 as Times Square). One aspect of what came to be called the Anglo-catholic revival (renewal or movement) was the reestablishment in Britain of religious orders for men and women for the first time since the suppression of religious life by Henry VIII.

A Sister from the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity at a Baptism at Saint Mary's in the 1950s

In the early days, some of the women’s religious communities were loosely organized and parish-based. The Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of the Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary were active at Saint Mary’s in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Later, the Saint Mary’s parochial community was received into the larger Community of St. Mary. After the death of Father Thomas McKee Brown, our founding rector, several of the sisters moved to other houses of the order around the country. When Father Joseph G. H. Barry came as rector in 1909, he stipulated that sisters would return to the parish. To this end, he invited the Sisters of the Holy Nativity, whose mother house was in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The “Holy Nats” were a large part of parish life at Saint Mary’s until their order consolidated some of their houses. The sisters left the parish in 1965. 


The Community of St. John Baptist

The Community of St. John Baptist served at the Saint Mary's Mission House from 2007-2018.  Their order was founded in England in 1852 and came to the United States in 1874. 

The Sisters of the Community of St. John Baptist were formally welcomed to the parish at Solemn Evensong on Sunday, April 22, 2007.  In 2014, Sister Deborah Francis returned to the CSJB Mother House in Mendham, New Jersey to serve as Assistant Superior, and Sister Monica Clare came to live and work at Saint Mary's with Sister Laura Katharine.  Sister Laura Katharine and Sister Deborah Francis arrived at Saint Mary's in 2007 and in 2015 Sister Monica Clare arrived.  Sister Deborah Francis returned to the Convent in 2015 Mendham to serve as Assistant Superior.  

 Sister Monica Clare, CSJB (L) and Sister Laura Katharine, CSJB (R) in the Palm Sunday processional through Times Square

Sister Monica Clare, CSJB (L) and Sister Laura Katharine, CSJB (R) in the Palm Sunday processional through Times Square

The CSJB sisters were a  part of the parish worshiping community.  Sister Laura Katharine was a vital part of the Parish Altar Guild served as a chalice bearer at some services.  Sister Monica Clare did spiritual direction, graphic design and photography and served as a cantor at Evensong.  Sister Deborah Francis served as a spiritual director and did special pastoral ministry to the sick and shut-in. 

The Society of Saint Francis

In 2018 the CSJB Sisters were recalled to their Mother House in Mendham NJ and the Episcopal Franciscan Brothers of the Society of Saint Francis were called to work at Saint Mary's. 

Their Order began in the US in 1919, when Father Joseph Crookston founded what was then the Order of St Francis in Merrill, Wisconsin.  The Society of St. Francis was founded in England a few years later, and the two merged in 1968, forming what is today the American Province of the Society of St. Francis.

SSF is a canonically recognized religious order in the Episcopal Church USA, and part of a worldwide order of Brothers and Sisters living in community and dispersed.  Their family of orders includes our Brothers of the Society of St. Francis, the Sisters of the Community of St. Francis, the Sisters of the Community of St. Clare (in England), and the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis

As Brothers of the Society of St. Francis, they  live together in a community guided and inspired by the life and witness of St. Francis of Assisi and his unique and radical response to the Gospel.  They embrace traditional vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, and seek to be a visible presence of the love and compassion of God for all people. 

As the Society of Saint Francis approaches its 100th anniversary in this Province, they are committed to renewing and ever re-imagining their role in the Franciscan community worldwide, in the church, and in their communities.  Francis called his Brothers “Minores” … little ones or lesser ones.  Though the Society is small in numbers, they trust God to use them as lesser ones to serve the kingdom, and especially those on the margins of modern life and society.

The Brothers of the Society of Saint Francis  join more than 800 years of Franciscan history in offering the blessing of “Pax et bonum” –Peace and all good –to all of Creation.

To learn more about the Society of Saint Francis, please go to https://www.ssfamericas.org/