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Brother Robert Jerome Magner, O.S.F.

Family History Notes:

Robert Jerome Magner was a Franciscan monk known as Brother Jerome and became an educator in several Catholic institutions.  He later became the president of St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York.  

Photo taken in the Alva Pearsall studio at Fulton St. opp Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn.


Magner, Jerome        Age : 23

        Country of Origin : Ireland

        Date of Arrival : Sep. 10, 1858

        Final Destination : USA

        Gender : Male

        Occupation : Monk

        Port of Debarkation : New York

        Ship's Name : Pacific

        Manifest ID Number : 901329

        Port of Embarkation : Galway

        Purpose for Travel : Staying in USA, but not a citizen of USA

        Mode of Travel : Steerage


Brother Robert Jerome Magner was the President of St. Francis College in Brooklyn.  St. Francis was founded by the Franciscan Brothers in 1858 and was the first private school in the diocese of Brooklyn.  Brother Jerome was Superior General from 1866 to 1872 and 1876 to 1894 and again 1897 to 1900.  Father Joseph Magner Kiely, nephew of Brother Magner, attended St. Francis.  

Brother Jerome brought his sisters, Elizabeth and Julia from Ireland in 1861.  He promised to find husbands for them in America.  Elizabeth married James Henebry and her sister, Julia, married Patrick Henebry, brother of James.

Brother Jerome was born in County Tipperary about 1835.  He "entered the Franciscan Brothers Monastery at Roundstone on March 21, 1857, received the habit on November 11, 1858 and was professed one year later.  He was transferred to Brooklyn mission in March 1862.  Four years later he was elected Superior General of the Brooklyn Congregation, a post he was destined to occupy at various periods for a total of twenty-seven years.  During other terms he served as Assistant Superior and General Consultor.  For a brief period he was also Master of Novices.  During his career he was associated with St. Patrick's Academy, St. Michael's in Flushing, and of course, St. Francis College.  It was during his administration that St. Francis College was incorporated by the State Legislature in 1868, and the College was empowered to grant degrees in 1884.  To this pioneer member we are indebted for the firm establishment of our Congregation in the Diocese of Brooklyn.  On December 12, 1912 death closed his long and fruitful religious life." source:  Franciscan Brothers Necrology

The village of Roundstone, County Galway, is on the Western arm of Bertaghboy Bay in Connemara, 48 miles west of Galway and 15 miles south of Clifden.  In 1835 a Franciscan monastery was established at Roundstone in the Archdiocese of Tuam . The old Franciscan Monastery, which was developed by the Industrial Development Authority, now houses the Bodhran Factory making the Bodhrán (pronounced bough-rawn) an 18" one sided drum made from Goatskin treated by a traditional process.

A 164-year link between the people of Kilkerrin, Ballinasloe, Co Galway, and the Franciscan Order was broken in August 2001 when the brothers close their monastery door for the last time. The Franciscans came to Kilkerrin in 1837 at the request of Archbishop John MacHale of Tuam, and since then they have ministered to the pastoral and educational needs of the parish.  Declining numbers have forced the friars to leave.

"Insula Sandtorum Et Doctorum."

"It is marvellous how, notwithstanding the manner in which this country is handicapped in matters educational, it is still regarded by foreigners, the Land of Scholars.  The latest proof of this comes from America--The greater Ireland beyond the seas.  Rev. Br. Jerome, O.S.F., is now in Ireland on a recruiting mission in the interests of his community--The Franciscans.  He wants healthy young men (18 to 26) of good education and character, suitable to take up education--the chief work of the Franciscans.  Iit is hoped that many of these may ultimately join the order, which has charge of the principal Catholic educational establishments in Brooklyn, as well as the other States.  Their College--over twenty Professors--has power to confer Degrees and annually a goodly number of B. A's pass through.  It is not a little strange that while the accredited representative (he has Introductory Letters from the Bishop of Brooklyn) of the Franciscans has received well nigh thirty applications within the past few months, only three of these came from Ulster--Belfast, Portadown and Enniskillen.  We do not encourage emigration in any form, but we think it right to say that if Ireland in days of old could spare sons to obtain for her the proud title of Land of Scholars surely she can still send men to retain that title.  Letters addressed: Rev. Br. Jerome, O.S.F., Franciscan Monastery, Clara will receive prompt attention."
source:  Belfast newspaper c. 1902

 Brother Jerome returned from Ireland with 25 young men in April 1903. 

Franciscans in Brooklyn

In 1858 the bishop of Brooklyn in New York, Bishop John Laughlin, invited the brothers into the diocese again to work in the educational apostolate. The community increased until 1900 it had 125 professed Brothers working in the cause of Christian education. They had charge of fourteen parish schools for boys, a college, two high schools, and a novitiate house situated at Centerport, Long Island. 

By the turn of the century there were three main groups of Irish brothers working in the United States: Loretto, PA,  Brooklyn, New York and Spalding, Nebraska. Each of these communities was connected with the community in Ireland, actively involved in the education of boys, and under the jurisdiction of their local diocesan bishops.

As their ministry in the United States continued the brothers were increasingly faced with the need for a stronger connection with the Franciscan family.  The first of the communities to petition for union with the Third Order Regular was the community in Brooklyn. Under the direction of Bros. Raphael Breheny and Linus Lynch, who at first tried to reorganize the community under the authority of the bishop, an official request was made in 1906 to the General, Most Rev. Angelo deMattia. However, the bishop of Brooklyn was against the proposed union. 

After the union of the Spalding brothers with the Order was approved, the brothers in Brooklyn who felt a strong desire to be part of the incorporation left New York in the spring of 1907 and joined their fellow friars in Nebraska. Apparently the first to leave was Bro. Raphael Breheny, who for many years had worked for the union of the Brooklyn community with the Order. Following his lead, at the end of the month of July, some twenty-three brothers left Brooklyn and under the direction of Brother Linus took their way to Spalding where they arrived in good time and were received by Brother William Osbelt, the superior of the house, Father Stanislaus Dujmovic, the General Delegate, and Brother Raphael Breheny.  

Bonaventure Kiley, TOR, "The Loretto Franciscans," in Bicentennial History of Loretto, Pennsylvania: 1976, ed. by Joseph J. Bentivegna, Ebensburg, PA: Damian Printing Co., 1976

John P.M, Doyle, TOR. (compiler) History of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance. Unpublished Manuscript, Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1947. 

Sowing Seeds, 140th Anniversary of the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn (1858-1998).

"Rev. Brother Jerome Magner was one of the pioneers of the Brooklyn foundation.  He outlived all the early members of the Community, dying December 12, 1912, after 54 well spent years in the Religious life.  He was a big man physically, mentally, and spiritually.  The great outpouring of people at his funeral testified to the esteem and veneration of his fellow citizens both clergy and laity.  One hundred twenty priests were present at the funeral Mass in St. Pauls's church"  Source:  1933 Diamond Anniversary Souvenir Journal page 29.


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