April / May - 2020 Vol. 109

Brotherhood of Hope July 2019

Brotherhood of Hope: Celebrating 40 Years of Faithfulness
by Brother Ken Appuzo

2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the Brotherhood of Hope!

Since September 14, 1980, the Lord has guided our community and entrusted to us the mission of building up His kingdom.

God's grace and the strength of the Holy Spirit has grown our Brotherhood from a few laymen and our founder, Fr. Philip, to a flourishing community of 25 consecrated religious Brothers, 18 of whom are perpetually vowed.

The 40 years reflect three dynamics: God's faithfulness, our commitment as Brothers, and your faithfulness as our friends who make it possible!

Throughout 2020, we are pleased to reflect with you at our major milestones, and to look ahead at our vision and goals for the future.

Our story
Every so often someone asks me: “What did you have in mind when you began the Brotherhood; what was your plan?” Well, honestly, I didn’t have one! The Brotherhood was a surprise gift from the Lord, wholly His own initiative!
        —Fr. Philip Merdinger, B.H.
In 1980, Fr. Philip Merdinger and five laymen founded the Brotherhood of Hope, consecrating themselves to God through private vows.

Six years earlier, Fr. Philip, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, had experienced a new conversion as he was prayed with by lay people involved in the Catholic charismatic renewal. Out of this experience, Fr Philip called together a Brotherhood built on:

    A personal relationship with Jesus Christ,
    The powerful witness of joyful brotherhood,
    The gifts and promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Our founding brothers were attracted to Fr. Philip's vision for a fraternal common life, to become “a family in the order of grace.” The Brotherhood grew as more men, having experienced the transforming power of Christ, chose to give up everything to live and to serve together.

Fr. Philip’s prior experience as a campus chaplain convicted him of the dire lack of faith on college campuses. He saw the immense potential for college students, hungry for the truth, to be transformed by the Gospel, so he made college campus outreach an integral part of the brothers’ mission.

We began our first apostolate in New Jersey, ministering to students at Rutgers University. Through God’s providence we moved our headquarters to Boston in the 1990s. By the grace of God, we have grown to 25 vowed brothers, serving on five campuses, with five households in four states. 

Today, the Brotherhood of Hope is blazing the way for this generation to renew the Church.

Br. Ken Apuzzo has served as General Superior of the Brotherhood of Hope since 2013. Born in New York, USA, he met the Brotherhood as a student at Rutgers University. Since professing his first vows in 1982, he has served at campus ministries nationwide. He currently leads the Catholic campus ministry at the University of Minnesota.

What is brotherhood?
by Br. Patrick Reilly

This article originally appeared in The Boston Pilot's "Vocations Awareness" special feature on November 1, 2019.

People often ask me, "What is a brother?" I like to turn that question around and ask, "What is brotherhood?"

In today's secular society, brotherhood is most often associated with a group of men bound together by a common cause. We see it in sports and the military, but it’s becoming harder to find examples of genuine brotherhood today.

In the Catholic Church, the vocation to religious brotherhood is one of the oldest vocations we have. Our commitment to being men joined together on a mission is expressed in our name. There aren't a lot of brotherhoods in the Church, but that is definitely who we are.

And we’re certainly not gathered around as a sports team. What brings us together is the true source of life, Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus is enough, and our simple and celibate lives witness to this fact. And we believe that the Lord has this unique calling — not only for us, but for other men as well.

A vocation to religious life is a radical calling
Perhaps the military analogy comes closest to capturing our calling. As brothers, we are “spiritual marines” in and for the Church. Our mission to college students places us at the front lines of spiritual battle in the New Evangelization. But we also serve together in “tight units” of teamwork. We live together, pray together and serve together under the inspiration that Jesus Christ is all-sufficient.

This is our founding charism. It sustains us. It emboldens us to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). It fills us with the desire to be Christ’s brothers, men set apart for the Lord. We represent his Church on college campuses, where we bring students the hope of salvation that can only come from Jesus Christ.

We are blazing the way for this generation to renew the Church. We represent the Catholic Church on five campuses across the United States: Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts); Rutgers University (New Brunswick, New Jersey); Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida); University of Central Florida (Orlanda, Florida); and University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minnesota).

Many of our alumni go on to bring renewal far beyond campus as leaders and lifelong evangelists. More than 100 alumni are pursuing priesthood or religious life.

The beginnings of our brotherhood
We began our spiritual mission in 1980 in Newark, New Jersey. Today we are based in the Archdiocese of Boston under the supervision of Cardinal Seán O’Malley.

As consecrated men, we take lifelong vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. We live as celibate brothers because we believe that our consecration to Jesus is enough to fulfill our deepest desires. Likewise, we are brother-evangelists because Crhist alone can satisfy the lost. The anchor of hope (Hebrews 6:19) is our symbol because only he can give lasting hope to people.

Brother Ken Apuzzo, our general superior, beautifully captures our brotherhood community with this reflection:

"The charity, unity and loyalty we have in the Brotherhood of Hope is rarely seen amongst a group of men. Almost every day of my life with the brothers, a brother will share something from his day that inspires me to be more Christ-like, and to be more generous in offering my life for the good of others.”

Today, the Brotherhood of Hope has 18 perpetually professed brothers and 24 men in various stages of initial formation. Our process of formation takes about seven years. The novitiate year is the most intensive component and the only period of full-time formation. After that “spiritual boot camp,” brothers typically profess temporary vows for five years before professing perpetual vows. They also serve in the brotherhood’s campus ministries during this period.

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