‘…like a weaver who severs the last thread…’
Brother Julian Lane of The Franciscan Brothers wrote the following letter upon the brothers’ departure from Morris School for Boys. The letter was published in the Searcy Daily Citizen September 6, 2000.
We experience it when the final episode of our favorite television show is aired; or what a stagehand feel as the final curtain falls on a long-running Broadway show; or the experience of a parent explaining to a child the death of a pet – how does one explain and accept that all good things of this world sooner or later come to an end?
In the late spring of 1993, Morris School for Boys, outside Searcy, closed its doors, but religious community life in the Franciscan Brothers’ residence (St. Anthony Friary) continued. The small remaining community prayed, ate and worked together attempting to keep the buildings and grounds presentable.
Eventually, the 200-acre campus went on the market. Several interested parties toured the facility and twice the Franciscan Brothers stood on the threshold of a sale. Now, seven years after the school’s closing, the property has passed into the hands of a local industrial firm, who in turn has worked out an agreement with a local Christian school for a continued use of the buildings.
Thus, the dream of Bishop John B. Morris, the founder of the school that bears his name, continues as a Christian institution of learning in the northeastern area of the state.
The three remaining Franciscan Brothers recently said farewell to their 11 confreres resting in the small cemetery in the northeast corner of the campus and traveled to their new locations in Arkansas, Ohio and Kentucky.
To bring the 79-year stay of the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis at Armstrong Springs, nine miles west of Searcy, to closure, a Mass was held in the small Friary chapel. It commemorated the history of how this Franciscan Community turned its philosophy of educating poor neglected youth at a minimum cost into an active and fruitful ministry of caring and educating hundreds of young men of all faiths and backgrounds to face a world of the future.
Present in the sanctuary for this simple and quiet service were the Reverend Robert Dienert, pastor of St. James Catholic Church, Searcy, and the Reverend William Thomas, a former teacher and coach at the school, now pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church, West Memphis. Along with the last remaining members of the staff, Brothers Maurus Disabella, Julian Lane and Blaise Betley, were former staff members Brother Richard Sanker, presently teaching at the Catholic High School, Little Rock; plus Brothers Edward (Simon) Fischesser, OSB and Joseph Koehler, OSB, of Subiaco Abbey. Also in attendance were local long-time neighbors and helpful benefactors of the Franciscan Brothers and the school. A simple supper followed in the brothers’ recreation room. A cookie and punch reception was also held.
There are numerous members of the clergy, loyal friends and local businesses that have supported the Brothers’ endeavors over the years and for these we will always be thankful and eternally grateful.
Thus, the final curtain comes down on the work of the Franciscan Brothers at Morris School for Boys and the last sentence of another chapter in the history of the Catholic church in Arkansas has been written. Or as Isaiah mentions in Chapter 38, verse 12 of his writings, "…like a weaver who severs the last thread…," so the tapestry that is Morris School and its Franciscan Brothers is now complete. And with this celebration, it can be hung in the hallowed halls of time.
(Brother Julian Lane may be contacted at 723 Main Street, Hamilton, OH 45013.)