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Three Dominican Friars, forced to depart Saint Mary’s Church at the heart of Yale’s campus, have found a new home at Albertus Magnus College. 

The three friars remaining in New Haven – Friar Joachim Kenny, Friar Jordan Lenaghan and Friar Jonathan Kalisch – will live at a priory at 490 Prospect St. offered to them by the College, according to a Nov. 15 press release. Founded in 1925 by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, the College has strong ties to the Dominicans, a Catholic religious order established by St. Thomas Aquinas that emphasizes prayer, study, community and preaching. This move was part of a broad restructuring project which will replace the Dominican friars at Saint Mary’s Church with Diocesan priests from the Archdiocese of Hartford by Dec. 1, 2021. 

“As Dominicans, we are always open to explore new ministry opportunities that benefit the host institution, while allowing us to exercise more expansively our charism of teaching and preaching,” said Friar Jordan Lenaghan, subprior of the Saint Mary’s community. “So when Albertus Magnus College offered its 490 Prospect St. building to house our Dominican community, we immediately saw the advantages for both the College and the friars.”

As members of a Catholic religious order, Dominican friars report to the Province of Saint Joseph, a geographic group that includes Dominican friars and sisters in the Northeast United States, and to the Archdiocese of Hartford, a geographic group that includes Catholic churches in Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven, Connecticut. 

This arrangement is temporary and subject to evaluation by the Province of Saint Joseph, as well as Albertus Magnus College. In “about half a year,” both the province and the College will see “how it’s going from both sides,” Lenaghan explained. 

“No one could have expected this turn of events,” said the Very Rev. Jonathan Kalisch, one of the three friars who will move to 490 Prospect St. 

Nonetheless, the friars hope to deepen their relationship with Albertus Magnus College by providing pastoral care and giving lectures, according to Lenaghan.

In their search for a new home, the friars needed a “particular internal architectural configuration,” Lenaghan said. The friars sought spaces such as a refectory — a dining space large enough to accommodate a number of guests — a chapel, a library and a cloister, a private part of the priory with bedrooms and bathrooms for the friars. 

“The Prospect Street house will enable us to live our Dominican community life as we continue to serve our ministries in New Haven,” the Very Rev. R. Kenneth Letoile, prior provincial of the Dominican Province of Saint Joseph, wrote in a press release. 

This priory had a unique appeal to the friars, as well, because it is a historic Dominican property. For three decades, the priory “served as the convent for the Dominican sisters teaching in the parish grade school [St. Mary Elementary School],” Kalisch said.

According to city property records obtained by the New Haven Register, the priory house was then bought by the Overseas Ministries Study Center and sold to Albertus Magnus College in 2019.

The three friars have long-standing affiliations beyond Saint Mary’s Church. Lenaghan is the executive director of university religious life at Quinnipiac University and part-time chaplain at Albertus Magnus College, while Kenny is the Catholic chaplain at Quinnipiac University; Kalisch works full-time for the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic fraternal service organization based in New Haven. 

Although Kenny, Lenaghan and Kalisch will remain in New Haven since they have positions in the community, the other friars – the Rev. John Paul Walker and the Rev. Angelo “Henry” Camacho – will leave New Haven. 

KellyAnn Carpentier, a St. Mary’s churchgoer since 2017, said that despite her disappointment about the Dominican friars’ move from St. Mary’s, she is glad they are remaining in the city.

“It is an answered prayer that they’re staying here in New Haven so that they are able to continue their ministries,” Carpentier said. “With this in mind, I’m hopeful that the presence of the friars as part of Albertus Magnus will foster a greater interest in Catholicism and the Dominican way of life.”

Though the Dominican Friars will no longer be affiliated with Yale, a Dominican presence will still remain at the University. The Thomistic Institute at Yale, affiliated with the nationwide Thomistic Institute, organizes talks on Dominican theology and philosophy.  

To Sylvia Kryszczuk ’22, vice president of the Yale Thomistic Institute, this move is bittersweet. 

“The Dominicans are an asset to Yale’s Catholic community as a long-standing expression of Catholicism lived with intention, devotion, and zeal,” Kryszczuk wrote in an email to the News. “Even though their loss on Yale’s campus is deep and painful, their proximity at Albertus gives the parish some hope of a lasting connection… I hope the Dominican ministry and their impact on Yale will never be forgotten nor undervalued, and that one day there might be another chance for them to work with Yalies, a task they always took great joy in doing so generously.”

The Dominican Order was founded in 1216 by Saint Dominic. 

CHARLOTTE HUGHES