The Familiares Fratres Scholarum Christianarum, commonly referred to as "The Familiares", is an organization established by the De La Salle Christian Brothers of the Long Island-New England District. The word "Familiares" is a Latin noun designating more than an intimate friend, one who, while not born into the family, has become one in every sense of the term and has been accepted as such by the family.
In 1957 the New York Province was divided and the Long Island-New England area was made a Province with Brother Charles Henry, now Superior General, named as its first Visitor or Provincial. The new Province faced the problem of building a novitiate, Provincial headquarters and a requirement center at Narragansett, Rhode Island. Brother Charles Henry with the able assistance of Brother Boniface Joseph Neary and Community Counselling Service rallied the support of the Brothers of the Province in a fund raising drive that was to realize a million and a quarter dollars and virtually assure a debt free plant at Narragansett. A group of laymen became very active in this Drive and developed ever stronger ties with the Brothers. At the conclusion of the Narragansett Drive, Mr. James Reilly of Providence, Rhode Island, Mr. Jeremiah Buckley of Long Island, Brothers Charles Henry and Boniface Joseph formulated a plan to keep these key laymen together. The latin word Familiares was chosen as the name of the proposed organization. This term aptly describes the relationship of the men to the Brothers; they are intimate members of the family circle without being formal members of the Institute. The organization was not activated immediately since Brother Charles Henry left the Province to become American Assistant General in Rome in June 1961. In 1963, the new Provincial, Brother Joseph Finnegan, appointed Brother James McManus Director of Development with a mandate to organize the Familiares. Mr. L. S. Lavezzi became the first President and the group developed its objectives in By-Law form.
The critereon used over the years for membership in the Familiares has been a deep interest in the Brothers and their overall apostolate rather than a temporary interest in some particular project. The group is not intended to be large, but rather intimate and committed. Perhaps the vitality of the group twelve years later is best evidence by the fact that the original group is very much in tact while new members have come along and have come to share responsibility admirably. The group is composed of professional and business people of stature. Certainly no superficial program will attract and retain such men. The Familiares program must involve a religious as well as a social sharing with the Brothers. The interest and availability of the District Administration, especially the Visitor-Provincial are essential.
While it is not required that a member of the Familiares be a Roman Catholic, it is expected that these men be of high moral caliber. In fact, the organization would naturally appeal to such people. Actually, our Roberts Phillips, a Past President and officer Benefactor of the Institute, is of the Jewish faith. An annual retreat has been available to the men from 1963 on and in the last two years we have had a husband-wife retreat. At each of the four business dinner meetings each year, some aspect of the Brothers' life and apostolate is discussed by a member of the Province. The provincial is present unless he cannot possibly be on hand and other Brothers are invited in an effort to have the men know as many members of the District as possible. The Moderator sends copies of the Minutes as well as the regular Newsletter to each community to keep all of the Brothers informed. This year, small groups of Familiares visited two of the special apostolates of the District while they were in session. This will be done more frequently since it helps the men understand the needs of rapidly changing times in the Church and the Institute. In another era, most of the men knew rather well what the Brothers were doing. Today, unless one gets close to reality, he can fail to appreciate what is being by many Brother and other religious. My own experience over the years indicates that a real friendship develops between the Familiares and the Brothers and both groups find this supportive in their Christian lives. The Newsletter alerts all to the joys, illnesses, deaths etc. of the family members and a great mutual concern is very evident in the group. The wives of the Familiares have become more and more active in the organization and have become a great support to the organization. An incidental benefit to the Province has been to keep the Brothers in regular contact with our Affiliated Members and Benefactors throughout the various areas of the Province. All AFSC and BFSC are honorary or, if they choose, active members of the group and receive all the mailings. During Christmas week, the Visitor-Provincial and the Brothers of LI-NE sponsor an annual Mass-Dinner for all Affiliated Members, Benefactors and Familiares and their spouses at La Salle Military Academy, Oakdale, New York. This is a splendid family get together and, beginning this year, the induction of new affiliated members and Benefactors will be part of the religious ceremony. Twenty og=f the forty active members have been honored by the Institute as AFSC or BFSCs. This has not been an automatic process but has been recognition for long and unusual commitment and service to the Brothers.
The principal Annual social event of the Familiares is the Dinner Dance. This is a gala occasion and attracts several hundred people. The men and their wives work hard to make this a financial as well as a social success. Usually, they net about $15,000 for the Province. In addition, the men make an annual donation of $300 or more to the Brothers. Most do much more, but all do as much as their means permit. A small portion of their contribution is used to pay for the four business dinners. There are held at a centrally located restaurant and are well attended.
Over the years, many of the Familiares have been invaluable to the Visitor-Provincial and the District in a professional or business capacity. Being close to the Brothers, they seem honored when asked to be of service. Naturally, their personal acquaintance with Brother Charles Henry, our Superior General, and Brother Leo Kirby, U.S.A. Assistant General, has made these men most conscious of the universal character of the Institute.