The Marianist brothers and priests of the Province of the United States have announced their departure from ministry at St. John’s Residence for Boys in Rockaway Park, effective June 30. They have administered the home since 1937.
St. John’s began as an orphan asylum in 1826 and is now a contemporary program with a residential treatment center, diagnostic reception center, a non-secure detention group home and an educational service center.
Although many factors contributed to the decision, aging and diminishing personnel within the Province was the most critical, with only one Marianist in full-time ministry at the residence.
Father Martin Solma, S.M., provincial, said, “With a smaller number of brothers and priests and an effort to consolidate resources within the Province, sometimes hard choices have to be made. Regrettably, this was one of them.”
The termination of the Marianist involvement at St. John’s also will necessitate the closing of the brothers’ community that is housed there.
Brother Thomas Trager, S.M., executive director of the residence, said that services offered at St. John’s will remain in place. The new executive director will be Alissa Deakin, a longtime assistant to Brother Thomas.
The Marianist Province will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving next month to mark and honor both the order’s contribution to St. John’s and the many people who have given generously of themselves over the years.
Father Solma described St. John’s as a revered, longtime ministry for the Marianists.
“We will always be grateful for the many Marianists and staff members who have served at St. John’s, for the generous donors who have made St. John’s so successful, and for the members of the board, who have been so supportive and cooperative. We are gratified that the Marianists have served boys and families at risk for almost three-quarters of a century.”
The child-caring institution began to take its present-day form as St. John’s Home for boys when it opened in 1868 on the site near Albany and Troy aves. in Brooklyn. At that time, it was served by the Sisters of St. Joseph. At its peak, it cared for 1,000 boys.
It moved to Beach 111th St. in Rockaway Park in 1948. The diocese purchased The Hebrew Home for Convalescent Children and added three floors to the north end of the building in order to accommodate a dormitory, a chapel, and a residence area for the Marianist community. A later move to a newly constructed residence building on Beach 110th St. created room in the former dormitories for the school program, which up to that time had been located in a large white frame building near the play field.
In the United States, the Marianists sponsor three universities (University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio; St. Mary’s University in San Antonio; and Chaminade University of Honolulu) as well as 19 secondary and middle schools, seven parishes and several retreat centers.