29, 1889 - May 1, 1938)
by Joseph L R Belanger, 7 November 2002, primarily from Brother Florentius'
obituary in the Marist Brothers' Bulletin of Studies, June 1938, pp.7
21 years old he was named the first Master of ScholastIcs at St. Ann
s HermItage, Poughkeepsie. At 37 years old he founded Mt. St. Michael
Academy in the Bronx. At 46 years old he founded another great Marist
school, Central Catholic in Lawrence MA. Not surprising that at a young
49 years old he dropped dead of a heart attack. This human dynamo, administrative
genius, and exemplary religious was Bro. Mary Florentius, fms.
Ludger Poisson was born in the Province of Quebec, Canada, in the small
town of Richemond, on 29 April 1889. His devout Christian parents, Philippe
and Julie (Lambert) Poisson, named him Joseph Ludger; he was one of
twelve children they had. In 1899 the family moved temporarily to Lawrence
MA, where Ludger attended St. Anne's Grammar School, directed then by
Bro. Arigelicus, fms, future Assistant General. Brother soon noticed
the gentle piety and keen intelligence of the boy and asked him if he
would think about being a Brother. The boy and his parents were honored
by the invitation, and in 1901 Ludger went to the Juniorate in Iberville,
Canada. His steady character, self- confident initiative, and sincere
piety developed quickly and fully and were to be his trademarks until
entered the Novitiate in St. Hyacinthe on 4 April 1904. Bro. Cesidius,
founder of the North American Province and Provincial from 1885 to 1903,
was Master of Novices at that time. Ludger took the Marist Habit on
8 December 1904, and his First Vows on 8 December 1905. As usual, the
new Brother was appointed to manual work, in his case to cook for two
years. Despite a frail appearance, he was no wimp, as future events
were to show. He had a forceful character and strongly but charitably
defended well-thought out views. Thus it was that one year the Provincial
Council rejected his request to renew his Temporary Vows. Fortunately
the members of his community vigorously protested and the Council decision
was reversed. What a loss was averted! He pronounced his Final Vows
on 22 August 1910 and was named Master of Scholastics immediately afterwards.
There were then some 10 Student Brothers confided to him. He jovially
refused the title "Master" and simply called himself "the
student in charge." In fact, Master and students all studied together
for the "Life State Certificate" needed to teach in New York.
Brothers had founded St. Michael's School in 1907 in Montreal. It was
an English-speaking school for Irish immigrants. From the beginning
relations with the pastor, Fr. John Kiernan succeeded by Fr. Luke Callaghan,
were difficult, primarily over the Brothers' poor living conditions
and low salaries. Young Bro. Florentius was sent to smooth matters out
in 1912. The choice proved happy. Studies improved in the school and
religious spirit in the community. The new principal and director was
a man of details. He reorganized the programs of studies, scheduled
frequent tests, gave public rewards, personally controlled detention
sessions, established the Junior Holy Name Society with attractive spiritual
and sports programs. Though a devout and regular religious, he was still
his own man and often welcomed shaky vocations into his community .
work done at St. Michael's, Florentius was appointed to teach at St.
Ann's Academy, New York. The classroom, though, was not his preferred
element. He taught only from 1918-1920 at the Academy, then became Director
of St. Joseph's in Lowell MA and returned to the Academy as Principal
from 1922 to 1926. This is what he loved and was best at. The "beehive"
hummed. However, the opening of Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx
and the considerable problems it entailed led the Provincial and his
Council to entrust that heavy burden to Bro. Florentius. He obediently
left the Academy and launched the Mount on its illustrious history.
The huge undertaking, both the school and the community, took its toll.
He developed severe heart problems, was forced to take a year of rest
in 1931, and when generally better he was sent to direct St. Anne's
School, Lawrence MA, succeeding Bro. Constantin.
Lawrence in 1932 had several Catholic girls' high schools -- St. Anne's,
St. Mary's, St. Patrick's, Sacred Heart -- but none for boys. This deeply
troubled Bro. Florentius and he soon planned to remedy the situation.
The Brothers had, indeed, opened a parish one in 1920, but it had to
close in 1928. A city-wide school was needed, A central catholic high
school, supported by all the parishes in town. He entrusted his project
to St. Therese, the Little Flower, then shared his vision of a full
four-year Catholic high school for boys with the Pastors and civic leaders.
They enthusiastically supported he idea. On 16 September 1935 Central
Catholic High School was born, to the great joy of all the city. It
started in the Knights of Columbus building on Haverhill Street and
expanded later in rented classrooms in the Oliver Grammar School. Land
was purchased and plans were being prepared for a new school building
when Bro. Florentius died suddenly on 1 May 1938 of coronary thrombosis.
This strong character, eminent educator, and guardian of souls could
well say with the Psalmist, "Zeal for your house devours me!"
[Ps 119: 139]