Saturday, 4 October 2014

The continuing influence of Lawrence Flanagan on the New York Carmelites

Rev. Lawrence Flanagan

During the late 1920s and 1930s, whilst his fellow alumni of Blackrock College, Eamon De Valera, was building his political career and international reputation back home in the post-war Irish Free State, later to become known as the Republic of Ireland, Reverend Lawrence Flanagan was building his own influence and position of authority within the Carmelite church in the province of St Elias, USA.

Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm. continues the history of the Carmelites in New York in a chapter called The Flanagan Years:

The triennial chapters of 1931, 1934, 1937 and 1940 were all held at Saint Simon Stock. At each one, Lawrence Flanagan was re-elected provincial. There was not universal suffrage at these chapters. Each definitor and prior had voice as did a representative from each house of more than three members. This allowed a small facility like Saint Simon’s to host chapters. One significant piece of legislation that raised hairs in Rome was that of the 1934 chapter permitting an allowance of $2 per week.  

Flanagan thought that besides the apostolates committed to the Carmelites, it was important to do missions, novenas and weekend assistance in parishes. He would send his priests far and wide and especially to country areas during the summer vacation season.

The proceeds from all this work was deposited in the bank for the future expansion of the commissariate. William Canary was the Carmelite lawyer at that time and when money was left in wills simply for “charity,” he would make the Carmelites that charity. Flanagan was generous to those who solicited donations and he used his influence to gain jobs, an improved position or an apartment for those who asked him. He oversaw the construction of O’Connor Hall at Saint Albert’s in 1927-9.

When Peter Elias Magennis finished his term as prior general in 1931, Lawrence Flanagan invited him to come to the Bronx. He gave missions, conferences, novenas and substituted for priests. He stated the work given him by Flanagan was to expand the order by founding new houses. Magennis continued what the Carmelites believed was a long-time friendship with the two Irish born Monsignors Cherry of Brooklyn. They were always going to speak to Bishop Molloy about obtaining a parish in Brooklyn for the Carmelites. It never transpired.

Lawrence Diether was the provincial of the Chicago based Most Pure Heart of Mary Province for 1924-36. He and Flanagan were on cordial terms and assisted one another in many ways. One of these was Diether’s loan of John Haffert to be the novice master at Middletown. No cash was involved but a New York Carmelite had to take Haffert’s place among the Chicago Carmelites. This was done on a yearly basis and Albert Daly was the first. He was followed by Sean Reid, Robert C. Murphy, Charles Grahame, Denis Murphy and then the final one, Columba Staunton. Those in this exchange formed friendships that endured for many years. When Denis McCarthy and John McGrath were sent home from Rome for what was called “heresy” (smoking), Diether took them into his theology program in Chicago.

When Peter Elias Magennis asked for money to restore San Martino ai Monti, a Carmelite church in Rome, Flanagan sent him $5,000 for which the general was very grateful. In 1930, Lawrence Flanagan felt the time was right and requested of Rome that his houses be formed into a province. This was granted March 24, 1931 and the first officials of the province were appointed by the general curia of the order. Commissary General Flanagan became Provincial Flanagan and attended the 1931 General Chapter in Rome as a provincial. This chapter elected Hilary Doswald, a German born member of the Chicago Province as prior general. 
Hilary Doswald

Flanagan was the banker for Hilary Doswald. After the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, Doswald was fearful of war in Europe and sent Flanagan funds to safeguard by depositing them in the United States. Later, he also sent securities.

Titus Brandsma visited both American provinces in 1935. He came to the Manhattan priory from the Chicago province and from there, John Howe, a professed student, drove him to Tarrytown and then to Saint Albert’s where he stayed and lectured to the novices and Carmelites.

On January 5, 1929, Hilary Doswald and Columba Downey arrived at Nablus in what was then British Palestine and opened a mission. Father Simon Schmitt and Brother Aloysius Scafidi, both of the Chicago Province, formed the community. With the assistance of an Arab, they ran a school for boys. The purpose of the foundation was the  return of the Carmelites to the Holy Land from where they originated.  Theological students were sent to Nablus for their studies. Those from this province who did so were Kevin Morrissey, Albert Schwartz and Joseph Einer Larsen. It was a difficult life there and the Moslem-Jewish conflicts added tension to the situation. Somehow, Morrissey and Larsen endured through it all and were ordained in the Holy Land May 21, 1932.

Lawrence Flanagan sent his college students to Catholic University in Washington and had them reside at the Saint Therese House of Studies of the Chicago Province for the 1933 and 1935 years. In 1935, because of overcrowding, Flanagan rented a house on Randolph Street and Celestine Fitzpatrick was placed in charge of the students. He then purchased a house on Newton Street to where the students moved in May, 1939.  Whitefriars Hall, the theology house of the Chicago Province, was completed for the 1940-1 school year and seventeen of the province’s students resided there while six remained at Newton Street where Berthold Forrester was their prefect.

In 1940, Lawrence Flanagan bought five acres from the Atonement Fathers and Brothers with the idea of building his own residence. He sold the Newton Street house to the Franciscans, Third Order Regular, in 1941 and beginning with that September, all the New York students resided at Whitefriars Hall. Some college students attended Mount Carmel College at Niagara Falls, a house of the Most Pure Heart of Mary Province. 

The practice of sending students each year to Rome to study theology at San Alberto was continued by Flanagan. Emmanuel Hourihan, John Howe, Columba Staunton and Alphonsus Galligan went in 1938. They remained there until September, 1939 when Hilary Doswald closed San Alberto because war in Europe seemed imminent. Doswald himself went to Switzerland for a time and then came to New York to sit out the war at the Carmelite Sisters’ Saint Patrick’s Home in the Bronx.

Bishop John Cantwell visited Lawrence Flanagan in the Bronx and offered him the opportunity to build and staff a high school in Los Angeles. Flanagan and Patrick Russell left the Bronx for Los Angeles in January, 1934. Cantwell gave the Carmelites the site, land worth $42,000, but they had to build the school. Patrick Russell remained in California and began the process of building a school for a September, 1934 opening. In a period of comparatively primitive communication, Russell tried to coordinate architects, builders and chancery officials in Los Angeles with Flanagan and his advisors in New York, three thousand miles away. Russell also had to return east for a chapter that June where he spoke of what had transpired to that point in Los Angeles. He was able to open Mount Carmel High School that September with one class in the auditorium of the local parish, Saint Raphael’s. The Carmelites lived in a cottage nearby. Meanwhile the school building was under construction and Bishop Cantwell dedicated it in January, 1935. 

Mount Carmel School, Los Angeles
That fall, Bishop Cantwell transferred Saint Raphael’s Parish to the care of the Carmelites. It was a small parish having an income in 1936 of only $15,600 but the rectory was used as a residence for the high school teachers. At the start of the 1936-7 school year, the Mount Carmel enrolment was 205. 1938 was the first graduation of Mount Carmel and Kilian Lynch came from Tarrytown to the west coast to be the speaker. Lawrence Flanagan had invested over $100,000 of the province’s money in Los Angeles and according to his calculations, was not getting a good return on his investment. He was constantly trying to increase the money sent from California. In spite of this, permission was given to build a gym and indoor pool complex. Those stationed at Mount Carmel felt they were necessary to compete with other schools. It was dedicated in 1940, the year enrolment had risen to 450. There were thirteen Carmelites, living in four different locations, stationed at the school that year. It was not until 1950 that a priory to house all the Carmelites was built adjacent to the school complex. 

When Carmel Lynn was the pastor of Saint Raphael’s, he saw the need for and had the desire to build a parish grammar school but the parish debt precluded any construction. His successor, Kevin Flanagan, paid off the entire debt in the years 1943-4. He then made some initial contact with the chancery office about erecting a school. He went ahead and built it not thinking, presumably, that any more chancery office input was required. The school opened in 1947 with the Adrian Dominican Sisters staffing it.

Antonio Franco and Alberto Consalvo, Italian Carmelites known to many members of both provinces from the time of their Roman studies, came to the United States in 1938 and visited the houses of both provinces.

The Scapular Militia was established in the spring of 1941. It was located in a house in the 28th Street parish and had as its purpose the providing of a scapular to every American serviceman. Hilary Doswald said “[Gabriel] Pausback and I” established it but a few years before, Donal O’Callaghan, then a student, presented the concept in an article in The Sword. When Gabriel Pausback left in 1944 to visitate Carmelite houses in Australia as the assistant general, John Mathias Haffert was engaged to  replace him. Haffert had been a student with the Chicago Carmelites and after leaving, taught French at Saint Albert’s, Middletown. He published Mary in Her Scapular Promise in 1940 and the book enjoyed a very large circulation. After several abortive attempts, Haffert began the publication of The Scapular with the January-February, 1942 issue. This bimonthly magazine was to be the organ of the Scapular Militia. Donal O’Callaghan was ordained in 1943 and was destined to join the Militia which he did on the completion of his studies in 1944.

 The Scapular Militia WWII Pamphlet. The Scapula was worn by a soldier and had a medal inside it. It read "Whosoever dies clothed in the Scapular shall not suffer Eternal Fire".

The Carmelite Review was the monthly publication of the Most Pure Heart of Mary Province and in 1941, Lawrence Flanagan agreed to having a New York edition featuring pertinent material and being mailed from his province. This arrangement endured until 1944 when the number of subscribers and  income declined to a point where it was no longer a worthwhile venture.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, there was a call for chaplains. Finbar Lynn, John McGrath and Alphonsus Galligan all served. Before the war, there was between the major Irish and New York superiors a problem involved with what we might call the Irish Shuttle. Some felt the young Irish priests who worked in America returned to Ireland old and worn out and unable to assist their mother province. The situation came to a head after the well educated and talented Kilian Lynch came over to teach at Marymount College, Tarrytown. Brocard Taylor, a Lawrence Flanagan foe, instigated the election of Lynch as the prior of Kinsale. After much negotiation, Lynch was relieved of the office but an agreement was made to give financial compensation to the Irish Province for Lynch and the others who served in the United States. In 1939, Irish working in the New York Province were to choose their province. When that time came, the agreement seems to have been forgotten. 

Mass stipends were sent from the United States to both Ireland and Rome as a form of assistance.  Because of the lack of mail service due to the World War II, no funds could change hands so Flanagan was sent to Ireland after the war and made a settlement in negotiations.

The Provincial Chapter of 1943 was held at Saint Simon Stock. Lawrence Flanagan made it clear he was not interested in another term. Kilian Lynch was elected over Mel Daly by a margin of five votes, The chapter of 1946 was held at Saint Albert’s, Lynch being reelected and houses in Auburn, New York and Pasadena, California were approved. With the war ended, a chapter was held in Rome in the spring of 1947 and Kilian Lynch was elected Prior General. That June 16, the definitors and priors met at Saint Albert’s to elect his successor.  Patrick Russell was chosen to complete Kilian Lynch’s term as provincial.        

Saint Simon Stock, a 13th century English Carmelite monk who
saw a vision of Mary and received from her the scapular

Chapter 8

Life in the 30's and 40's

Because of limited personnel and his hands on style of management, Lawrence Flanagan made many changes of his priests. In thirteen years, there were three pastors at Our Lady of the Scapular: Philip McGouran (1926-8), Vincent Smyth (1928-34) and Elias Holland (1937-9).  Stephen McGleenan (1937-9) succeeded them and after a rift with Flanagan was sent to California because the war prevented him from returning to Ireland.  Until the appointment of Kevin Flanagan (1940-3), Lawrence Flanagan served as pastor. 

The parish was the benefactor of two wills. Robert Green, a parishioner, composed his own will leaving his assets to a few including the Carmelite Church. The will was so complicated and contained so many conditions that only the lawyers benefitted from the will. Another parishioner, John McCarthy, left his house on 30th Street to the parish for use as a convent for the school’s sisters when his nephew, then living in the house, passed on.  The nephew died in 1933 and because he had assumed as his own his late wife’s relatives, the title was clouded. A number of attempts by Flanagan to utilize the house for sisters who would work in the parish were turned down by the archdiocese. The notion of using it as a provincial house was abandoned and the house was finally sold in the term of Kilian Lynch.
1939 was the golden jubilee of Our Lady of the Scapular and Flanagan, acting pastor, wanted an event worthy of the occasion. The Mass was on Sunday, November 12, with students from Saint Albert’s and Washington forming the choir and serving the Mass. 

Flanagan was the celebrant with John Maher and Kieran Hickey as deacon and subdeacon. Monsignor William Courtney, pastor of neighboring Saint Stephen’s, preached. Archbishop Spellman presided but was unable to attend the clergy luncheon at the Commodore Hotel.  Monsignor Michael Lavelle replaced him as the luncheon speaker. In the spring, a dinner dance was held with entertainment by stars of Broadway and vaudeville.

Irish born Sean Reid, pastor 1943-64, revived in many ways the Irish connections of the parish. His promotion of the moral fitness of William O’Dwyer to be the city’s mayor was frowned upon by the chancery office and when Reid championed at O’Dwyer’s inauguration equal rights for Afro Americans and more welfare for the needy, the chancery office was once again annoyed. The parish had incurred a debt in building the new priory and debts remained from the original land purchase and church construction. Smyth had consolidated all of these into the one debt of $200,000 which was finally satisfied by Sean Reid in 1946.

Monsignor Brady, involved in hospital work, offered Vincent Smyth a new parish for the Carmelites if they would give up Our Lady of the Scapular and Bellevue Hospital. Though three meetings were held while Flanagan was in California, nothing came from this proposal for it seems Brady was acting without authority and speaking on his own.

The parish lost some territory when the Midtown Tunnel was opened in 1939. The tunnel brought about the suppression of the Parish of Saint Gabriel and its territory was divided among the neighboring parishes. The Carmelites’ 33rd Street was taken from their parish and given to Sacred Hearts. There was nothing that could be done but Flanagan did write to the chancery office expressing his unhappiness.

There were some complaints in the early 1940's from the chancery office about the service given at Bellevue. Discussions with the officials took place and it appears matters were exaggerated. It did give the Carmelites an opportunity to present the large amount of work being done in the hospital.

The original 29th Street priory, converted to the school sisters’ convent, was deeded to the parish from the Carmelites. This was part of Cardinal Spellman’s plan to have all  parish facilities owned by the parish corporation. The price given the Carmelites was the same they paid more than fifty years before.

Bellevue Hospital

Elias Vella was made the pastor of Saint Simon Stock when Gerard O’Farrell became the Commissary General in 1926 on the death of Denis O’Connor. Louis Gerhard became pastor in 1928 but left for his native Australia the following year. Patrick Russell then became pastor and built the parish high school. The Sisters of Mercy staffed the parish schools and lived in two adjacent houses on Ryer Avenue. Construction costs and running expenses brought a heavy debt to the parish. 

February, 1927, a congress of the Scapular Confraternity was held at Saint Simon Stock to mark the seven hundredth anniversary of the approval of the Carmelite rule. Hugh Devlin preached at the Benediction. Entertainment in the school hall followed the religious services. Films were made of the event. After being shown locally, they were stored for the next congress in one hundred years! 

The summer of 1930 saw the return of Mel Daly from his studies in Rome and he was appointed to Saint Simon Stock. That school year of 1930-1 had an enrolment of 466 in the grammar school and ninety-five in the high school. The first high school graduation was in 1933 with Lawrence Flanagan as the main speaker. For that first graduation, the students   published the first yearbook, The Mantuan, featuring material of the two Carmelite faculty
members, Kieran Hickey and Berthold Forrester. Flanagan was so proud of the publication, he sent a copy to Cardinal Hayes. In 1934, Mel Daly was appointed pastor beginning a term that would endure for twenty-seven years. It is difficult to state the exact debt of Saint Simon Stock because of the constant additions made to the school building. With the usual collections and additional fund raisers, Daly was able to reduce the debt.  He had the idea of building a modern convent for the large staff of sisters who taught at  the schools. The main obstacle was the assembly of parcels of land for an area large enough to be the site of the convent.

The silver jubilee of the parish was celebrated in 1947 with the usual religious ceremonies and a jubilee dinner at the Commodore Hotel. A souvenir journal giving the history of the parish in both words and pictures was published to commemorate the occasion. Peter Elias Magennis was pleased with the nearly completed O’Connor Hall at Saint Albert’s when he saw it in 1928. Lawrence Flanagan was able to bring the Corpus Christi Carmelite Sisters to Saint Albert’s to do the domestic work. They were given the original house, “The Thistles,” for their residence.

John Maher had become prior of Saint Albert’s in 1933 and followed the academic program of Catholic University with whom he hoped to become affiliated with. The Saint Albert’s faculty sent  Flanagan suggestions concerning candidates for the brotherhood. They wished to have twenty-one as the cut-off age. They also asked for instructional materials and an improvement in faculty regarding age and qualification. The novitiate with John Haffert as novice master was also located at Saint Albert’s. Part of it was the first building the Carmelites had constructed on the property. Maher was anxious to speak in schools to recruit students but time did not permit him to do this. He had employed John Mathias Haffert to teach French and  Haffert began a students’ French publication. He sent a copy of La Presse de St. Albert to Hilary Doswald. The general was not amused. He criticized the publication to John Maher at whose feet he laid the blame for its defects. 

Albert Daly (1940-3) succeeded Maher as the prior. The night of February 13, 1943, a fire totally destroyed the Grey house which was used for the kitchen and dining room. It was to this structure that the novitiate building had been attached. The burned building was replaced by a new one that included a faculty dining room. The Corpus Christi Carmelite Sisters had been able to obtain a house in Middletown and commuted to the seminary.  When their number was increased to six and given additional duties, a house on the grounds was given three of them to use as their convent.
The Marian, picturing and describing seminary life for the purpose of recruiting students, was publish in yearbook form in 1944. At the end of World War II, “The Thistles” was modernized and expanded. Kilian Lynch began a landscaping project on the grounds using the professed students as his laborers with he, himself, on hand to direct them.
While John Maher was stationed at Saint Albert’s, he acted as the pastor of Holy Name Church in Otisville which was a mission of Middletown’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel. During his tenure, parishioners petitioned for him to reside there and also raised questions about the disposition of funds and church improvements. Cardinal Hayes was brought into the situation and Lawrence Flanagan drew his attention the truth of matters in Otisville.

Joseph Larsen cared for Otisville when John Maher was the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middletown. For the seventy-fifth anniversary of the parish in 1941, Larsen added a vestibule to the church and put running water into Lyceum Hall, the parish centre. Lawrence Flanagan was the celebrant for the anniversary Mass and he was very pleased at this as Otisville had been his first assignment in the United States.

John Maher wanted to build a mission church in nearby Burlingham where the area’s summer vacationers attended Mass in the auditorium of the R. H. Macy camp. Patrick Tobin donated the land for the church and it was to be named after his patron. The plans seem not to have gone any further. Maher had a few disputes with Saint Joseph’s, the other Middletown parish, over boundaries and insisted there were none but the chancery office showed Lawrence Flanagan the boundaries drawn in Cardinal Hayes’ own hand. When Berthold Forrester’s time in Washington at the Newton Street house was to come to an end in 1941, John Maher tried to have Flanagan assign him to Mount Carmel. He succeeded but Forrester had to work in Bellevue during the week and serve at Mount Carmel on the weekends. In 1945, Our Lady of the Scapular, Unionville, the last of Mount Carmel’s missions was started. It was located in the former Saint Paul’s Methodist Church of that village.
Saint Simon Stock Church and Priory 1920

The Carmelites at Transfiguration Parish in Tarrytown were also the chaplains for the Mercy Sisters and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary.  Both were located on the high, long hill above the town. Louis Gerhard was the pastor (1922-4) and was succeeded by Dominic Hastings who served until 1933. Vincent Smyth then served as pastor until 1937. Kilian Lynch had come to Tarrytown in 1931 to teach philosophy at Marymount.  He added to his duties that of pastor after Smyth returned to Ireland. John Anthony Wholley was named pastor when Kilian Lynch was elected provincial in 1943.  Wholley had come to Transfiguration as an assistant in 1934 and would serve as pastor eighteen years until 1961.

The fortieth anniversary of the parish was celebrated in 1938 with a solemn Mass on May 15 and vespers that evening followed by a social. Wholley was in charge of the journal published for the occasion. In 1942, Lawrence Flanagan had located a house for sale close to Transfiguration Church and  thought it would be a good residence for his college level professed students.  He was unable to obtain it because the Archdiocese of New York would not allow any more tax exempt property in Westchester County.

The golden jubilee of the parish was celebrated in the fall of 1947. Helene Margaret wrote the parish history for the souvenir booklet published to commemorate the event.

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