“option for the poor”
Around the world there are many hundreds of Religious Orders, Congregations, and Institutions. These were all founded for both a common and specific purpose or ministry.
Diocesan priests: 260,000
Religious priests: 140,000
Religious sisters: 739,000
Religious brothers: 55,000
Current Patrician Statistics (2017)
Number of Patrician Brothers around the world: 167
Number of countries Brothers reside in: 8
The common and foremost purpose of consecrated persons (priests, sisters, and brothers) is to act, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, as “bridges to God” for any person they meet, to be signs of the Kingdom of God on earth through the witness of their lives. Of course, as Christians we are all called to this ministry, but priests, sisters, and brothers, strive to dedicate their lives in a special way to this mission.
Consecrated persons also endeavour to be “bridges to God” through dedicating themselves to specific good works. These good works or ministries is what they were originally established for.
The two most common ministries are education and health: most religious institutions were begun to either teach or nurse. Some other ministries are prayer (Poor Clare Sisters and Cistercian Monks); preaching and running parish missions (Dominicans and Redemptorists); to minister on foreign lands (Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of the Sarcred Heart Sisters); and to help the poor and homeless (Vincentians and the Daughters of Charity).
The Brothers of St Patrick (Patricians), and their sister congregation the Sisters of St Brigid (Brigidines), were both established or founded by Bishop Daniel Delany in the early 19th century to be bridges through their lives and bridges through their ministry of education.
The Brothers and the Sisters spread out across Ireland and eventually the world to be Christs to others through how they lived their lives and through their work of education. Young men who presented and present themselves to become members of the Congregation of the Brothers of St Patrick do so because firstly and most importantly they wish to consecrate their lives to God, and secondly because they wish to minister to the young as educators.
Teaching religious education in Sydney, Australia - Team teaching in Coonoor, India
If a young man wanted to minister by nursing the sick he could become a St John of God Brother; if he wanted to minister to homeless youth he could approach the St John Bosco Brothers; if he wanted to minister as a carpenter or mechanic in a mission country an option would be the Franciscans. But if he wanted to be a teacher in a school then he could turn to several congregations such as the Christian Brothers, the De La Salle Brothers, the Marist Brothers, and the Patrician Brothers.
Breaking New Ground
For over one hundred and seventy years next to every Patrician Brother taught in a classroom - a very few men were allowed to join as Brothers who worked on Patrician land as farmers or in the Patrician houses as cooks. It was not until 1981 that a Patrician in Australia asked to step into a totally new area of ministry, he wanted to leave the classroom and become a parish assistant.
There was some understandable reluctance to permit this, but in the end permission was granted.
This did not open the door to a landslide of Brothers moving into ministries other than teaching: men joined the congregation to teach. But it did present the Brothers with an option, especially for those Brothers who had retired from teaching after forty or more years in the classroom and wished to try something a little different.
So, today we have a small group of Patrician Brothers working outside the education ministry as health officers, pastoral workers, and chaplains.
When twenty-four elected Patrician Brothers from around the world met (General Chapter) at Kamagut, Kenya, in 2004, a new mission statement was composed. In this statement one of the key sentences was “Brothers, Communities, Regions and Provinces take care to include in their goals an identifiable option for the poor."
As with most Religious Congregations, elected members of the Patrician congregation meet together to discuss
matters pertaining to religious life and the apostolate. This is called a General Chapter.
There was nothing really new in this as Patrician schools were always set up to meet the needs of the poor and the working class people, Patrician schools were not intended for the elite. And even those schools which were a little better off than others had been for many years making it possible for other poorer schools to exist. This was and is especially so in India.
What the directive was asking of the Brothers was to commence or adopt projects which responded to some specific need of the poor in their midst. And it must be remembered that "poor" does not only mean financially poor, people can be emotionally poor and spiritually poor as well.
From this directive eventually flowed quite a few new projects.
Province & Region Responses
House of Prayer
The Brothers in Midway City, Los Angeles, have opened their houses in Bolsa Ave to Christian groups in the area to use for a full range of pray activities. Seven days a week groups come in regularly for prayer sessions, for retreats, for seminars, for Masses and Holy Hours, even for burial services. (Website )
The evening session of a prayer weekend in the Brothers’ chapel at Midway City, USA
Marist Youth Care
The Brothers in Sydney, Australia, decided to assist the Marist Brothers in their work with youth by paying the salary of a full-time volunteers co-ordinator. The ministry of the MYC was too vast and too specialised for the Brothers to be able to step into personally.
MYC attempting to meet the needs of many homeless youth in Sydney, Australia
The Brothers in Coonoor, India, have built and maintain a night shelter for the poor of the town. It is a night-by-night arrangement where a meal and shelter is provided for those unable to find accommodation for the night.
Brothers with overnight tenants of the night shelter at Coonoor, India
Children with Special Needs
Several Brothers in Ireland work in schools to assist with children with special educational needs.
A Patrician assisting children with special needs at Newbridge, Ireland
The Brothers in Sydney, Australia, have set up the Delany Foundation. The purpose of the government approved agency is to raise money for Patrician ministry in Papua New Guinea, Kenya, and Ghana. Some funds are also used in Australia. For example, in Papua New Guinea a church has been rebuilt in a remote village and new water tanks have been installed in the Patrician formation house; in Kenya money has been provided to assist in the setting up and maintaining of a medical dispensary; in Ghana a school kitchen has been built and a water project set up; in Australia donations are given to needy causes such as flood appeals. With the Delany Foundation all money goes directly to the need, there are no personnel or infrastructure to finance. (Video )
The Delany Foundation funded water tanks at Aitape, Papua New Guinea
The Brothers in Sydney make their houses in The Entrance - an hour north of Sydney - available to church and religious groups for retreats, holidays, seminars, etc, for a nominal fee. The Brothers finance a Brother who acts as the property manager. (Website to Australian website. )
Daughters of Charity using the facilities of Delany Place at The Entrance, Australia
School and Dispensary
The Brothers built and maintain a school and medical dispensary at Kabongo, Kenya. The Brothers also built the houses occupied by the teaching staff. Funds for these projects were obtained through the many schools and friends associated with the Brothers throughout the world. (Video ) (Website )
Happy and inquisitive children of the Brothers’ school at Kabongo
Despite being established since 1968, the Brothers' work in Papua New Guinea is still heavily financed by the Brothers in Australia and Ireland. Currently some Brothers are working in a very remote village in the Sandaun Province, but most are still at different stages of Patrician and professional training. The PNG vision is that the Brothers will go out to the most remote villages in PNG where they will assist with the educational, medical, and spiritual needs of the people there. Financial support from other Patrician houses and Patrician friends around the world will be required for many years to come.
Novices about to make their First Professions at Aitape in 2010, Papua New Guinea
Several Brothers who have retired from the classroom - and some from the Principal’s office - have moved into chaplaincy work. These Brothers may receive a nominal stipend but are otherwise supported in their ministry by the Congregation. The main areas of chaplaincy are hospital, nursing home, and gaol.
A Brother at hand to anoint a dying person
The Brothers in India have established and maintain quite a number of educational institutions in the poorer areas of the country. There is no government support for this work.
Nirmala Inter College and Gyan Jyothi School, Chamasari in Mussoorie
Evening School, Meerut
National Open School, Evening School and sampark (adoption of Jharera Village - all in Mount St. Mary's School, New Delhi
Indira Gandhi National Open University Study Centre
St. James School, Binnaguri
St. Patrick's Hindi Medium School, Binnaguri
Daniel Delany Secondary School, Manendergarh
St. Patrik's Tamil Medium secondary School, Trichy
St. Patrick's Technical training Centre, Trichy
A Brother teaching at one of the many Congregational funded schools in India
A Congregational Response
Through the vision, leadership, and courage of Congregation Leader Br Jerome Ellens, the Congregation has established a school at Dormaa, Ghana: Delany Academy. It was a bicentennial project that all the Brothers of the Congregation agreed to support in any way they could. Generous donations of land were made by the local leaders, but apart from that all finance for the project has to be raised by the Congregation. This is mainly achieved through the fundraising skills of several Brothers and several bodies set up by the Brothers as well as the amazing generosity of many individuals, families, schools, organisations, and companies. (3 Videos )
Students enjoying their lunch break at Delany Academy - food provided by the school.
While there are many people, schools, and organisations, making so many of these Patrician projects possible, there are a few Brothers who have made raising project funds a major ministry.
Br Jerome Ellens, Congregation Leader (2004 - 2016)
Br Paul Brennan, Kenya