The late 70’s early 80’s brought about many changes in the Carmelite Formation program in the United States. Changes in society and the Church gradually brought about a decrease in the number of vocations in the St Elias province. This reality influenced how and where formation was to be done.
1977 would be the last year for St Alberts Junior Seminary in Middletown, New York. 1978 would be the last year that students in the college formation program would attend Orange County Community College. By 1979 St Joseph priory, the theology house, on Harewood Rd. in Washington D.C. was sold to the Little Sisters of Poor.
Decisions were made in regards to new locations for houses of formation. When it was sold, St Joseph priory in Washington DC was a house of formation for students in their last two years of college (pre-novitiate) and for professed students studying theology and preparing for the priesthood. It was decided that a building would be rented on Lawrence Street to house those students, professed and non-professed, who were left at St Joseph’s priory when it closed along with any new students who had completed their BA degree. Robert Tracy, O.Carm. was appointed formation director.
In the early spring of 1978, the Provincial Council, on the recommendation of the Formation Commission, approved the establishment of a four-year college program to replace the existing college programs at St Albert’s in Middletown, NY and St. Joseph’s in Washington DC. From this point on, only students who had completed their BA degree would do their pre-novitiate or post-novitiate formation in Washington DC.
The decision was then made to establish a college, pre-novitiate formation program in the New York area. A sub-committee of the Formation Commission at the time was formed which consisted of Matthias DesLauriers, Martin Miller and Daniel Lynch. They were asked to research colleges and universities in the Metropolitan New York area. In the end, Iona College in New Rochelle, New York was eventually recommended and approved as the college where the collegiate seminarians would obtain their academic formation. Other colleges considered included: St Johns University in Queens, NY, Fordham University in the Bronx, NY and Siena College in Albany, NY. Cost of tuition, location and the ability to meet the philosophical requirements for theological studies were the main factors considered in making a decision on Iona College.
The next task was to locate a residence for the college formation program nearby Iona College. Matthias DesLauriers was to be the formation director so he spearheaded the search for a residence. Through various contacts he became aware of a house in Purchase, NY in 1978 that was possibly for sale. The house was owned by the Sisters of the Resurrection who used it as a house of formation until 1973.
The following is the history of the house that the St Elias Province eventually purchased and used as a college house of formation from 1979 – 1987. The house itself and its original owners are a part of the rich history of the life of nobility in the early 1900’s in the United States. The house and events that took place in it are also a part of our provincial history that should not be forgotten. Much of what is written is based on research done by the author and information gathered from our provincial archives. Some of it is based on the author’s personal recollection of having been a part of the establishing of the house.
The Arents Family
George Arents Jr. was born on May 7, 1875 in New York City. He was the son of George and Anne (Walter) Arents. His father was the treasurer of the American Tobacco Company and was a member of the New York Stock Exchange.
George Arents Jr. was educated at the Wilson Kellogg School of management and later studied in the school of Mines at Columbia University. George Arents later received an MA from Syracuse in 1933. He also served as Chairman for the Syracuse University Board of Trustees. In 1939 he set up an endowment fund for the Arents Pioneer Medal at Syracuse University which is to this day bestowed upon an alumnus student who showed excellence in their field of study. It is the highest alumni honor the University bestows.[i][i][i]
Carmelite Friars - North American Province of Saint Elias - P.O. Box 3079, Middletown, New York 10940-0890, Tel:(845) 344-2223, Fax: (845) 344-2210