Little Brothers of St. Francis

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The Little Brothers of St. Francis was a Roman Catholic, religious community of Religious Brothers founded in the Archdiocese of Boston in 1970 by Brother James T. Curran, L.B.S.F. (June 13, 1932 - June 28, 2015). Belonging to the Third Order of Saint Francis and canonically designated as a Private Association of the Faithful, the community was spiritually affiliated to the Order of Friars Minor. Members followed the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and a way of life based on an adaptation of the Rule for Hermitages, written by St. Francis of Assisi. The Little Brothers of St. Francis embraced a contemplative life among the "poorest of the poor." Striving to be poor in spirit and in fact, they faithfully served the needs of the homeless primarily through prayer and presence.[1]

Over the years, in addition to befriending countless numbers of Boston's homeless men and women, the Little Brothers of St. Francis also befriended and were befriended by many well-known Catholic priests, religious, and humanitarians, including: Dom Basil Pennington, Ade Bethune, Mother Antonia, Mother Teresa, Jean Vanier, Little Sister Magdeleine of Jesus, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. John Hardon, and several others.


Brother James, who was then employed by the Opera Company of Boston, felt called to follow a life of prayer and service among the poor. In this goal, he was guided by the Franciscan friars of Immaculate Conception Province who provided him fraternal support and spiritual direction. The first home of the community was his apartment on Beacon Hill in downtown Boston. He eventually gained the blessing of the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, who was himself a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. The cardinal allowed him to take religious vows and to wear a Franciscan habit, even though he was alone at that point. He soon adopted a habit made of denim, which quickly became the distinguishing mark of the community, earning them the nickname of the "Blue jean Franciscans."

Brother James' way of life was to keep working at his job, while spending several hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He then would go out among the homeless who would congregate in downtown Boston, especially around the Boston Common, and distribute peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, coffee, underwear, t-shirts, and white cotton socks.

As other men came to join him, the community eventually relocated to a house in the Mission Hill section of Boston, among the city's poorest. The community never grew large, however, numbering seven Brothers at its peak around 2008.

In 2006, Brother James received the Institute on Religious Life's Pro Fidelitate et Virtute Award for his fidelity to his vocation as a religious brother and for supporting the IRL as a Board Member, coordinator of the Boston Regional Meeting, and as Chairman of the Forum of Superiors of Men's Communities.

On November 23, 2008 the Archdiocese of Boston awarded Brother James with the Cheverus Award Medal in order to recognize his service to the Church and to God's people.

On August 29, 2009 four members of the Little Brothers of St. Francis were invited by Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, to serve as acolytes at the Funeral Mass of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. The Mass was held at the Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the parish to which the Little Brothers of St. Francis' belonged and where they attended daily Mass.

In 2012, due to declining health, Brother James became a resident of the Don Orione Nursing Home in East Boston. In the community's last newsletter of November 2012, it was announced that the community was disbanding. Another religious congregation, the Brotherhood of Hope, has acquired the property at 785-789 Parker Street, Mission Hill, MA.

Brother James met Sister Death on Sunday, June 28, 2015, entering eternal life. At the time of his passing, Brother James was a resident at St. Joseph Manor Health Care in Brockton, MA. The Mass of Christian Burial was held at Mission Church (Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help) in Roxbury, MA on July 1, 2015. Interment was held at Mount Benedict Cemetery in West Roxbury, MA.


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