Br. David Lynch, executive director of the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd. His order has joined the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God to create one order. Photo by Michael Swan

Dwindling St. John of God welcomes Good Shepherd to help order stay afloat

  • February 5, 2015

Br. Marcellus Corkery was just getting ready to close up shop in Montreal. The few remaining Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God were elderly and their ministries in health care had all run their course or passed on to lay control.

“I was in the process of starting the extinction of our brothers here in Montreal,” Corkery told The Catholic Register.

Corkery was saved this painful task by taking on another. Corkery and his counterparts in the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd engineered a fusion of their two orders that will keep the Little Brothers’ ministries running just as they are and the name of the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God alive in Canada.

The fusion creates the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God Province of the Good Shepherd in North America.

For the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd the Jan. 19 fusion meant exchanging their three simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for solemn vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and hospitality. Come ceremonial occasions, the brothers will also have new black habits to replace their white ones. There are technical differences between a simple and solemn vow of poverty. Chastity and obedience are the same whether solemn or simple.

As for the vow of hospitality, it was surprisingly easy, said Br. David Lynch, the Good Shepherd executive director.

“I have lived my life from the instruction of our founder to be hospitable, compassionate, empathetic and flexible and have a profound respect for life,” Lynch said. “Those were our values before. It can be easily realigned with St. John of God.”

In part it’s easy because Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd founder Matthias Barrett began his religious life as a Hospitaller Brother of St. John of God before breaking away to found his own order in 1950.

“It’s a marriage, albeit an arranged marriage, but an easy marriage,” said Lynch.

The Hamilton, Ont., headquarters of Good Shepherd Ministries becomes the new provincial headquarters of the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God. The Good Shepherd shelter and recovery centre on Queen Street East in Toronto remains in operation under the same administration and board of directors as before.

The fusion process, in which brothers on both sides re-examined their foundations and their raison d’etre, brought the brothers back to their roots in serving the poor, said Lynch.

“You’re calling us back to be attentive to the cry of the poor, which is very much in line with the Holy Father at the moment. You cannot ignore the cry of the poor,” Lynch said.

“We’re on skid row every day with them.”

The St. John of God brothers have been in operation since they were founded in the first half of the 16th century by Portuguese soldier and hospital worker Joao de Deus. Today they operate shelters, hospitals, clinics and social service agencies in 52 countries.

Like many orders, the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God have seen a rapid decline in vocations in North America and Western Europe, but growth in Latin America, Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

“How many people think they can make a lifetime commitment? It’s a big deal,” said Lynch. “To perpetually profess poverty, chastity and obedience, it’s a big deal for young people.”

The Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, founded by an Irishman, were active in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Toronto, Hamilton, the United States and Haiti.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.