The life we have in our Brotherhood has particular relevance and importance for the greater Body of Christ which is the Church. She who has given us new birth in water and the Spirit and who nourishes us with sacramental power deserves a witness from us that is wholehearted, radical and without compromise.
- Fr. Philip Merdinger
These prophetic words from Isaiah were proclaimed regularly with conviction at the powerful retreats, conferences, and prayer meetings in the early years of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (read Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on the CCR). Originally the prophet spoke of a second exodus for the Jews in captivity to return to their homeland. Catholics in the renewal applied the text to a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church in the 20th century. Adult conversions to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and a greater release of the Spirit’s gifts took place among Catholics by the millions. From these profound experiences came a new wave of renewal and evangelization in Church history.
The Brotherhood of Hope emerged from these works of the Spirit. From the first years of our community, we have wanted to respond radically to God by offering ourselves completely to Christ Jesus and His Kingdom. In contemplating the Lord's generosity, we remember with gratitude some of the great blessings we have received from God during our history.
Our Community began on September 14th, 1980, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. That’s when five lay men and I professed our first temporary vows. Sprung from a warm and loving association of committed Catholics in New Jersey, the People of Hope, and inspired by a vision of consecrated brothers in Michigan called the Servants of the Word, we had a vision for a new form of fraternal common life as lay brothers. It was also in New Jersey that we initiated our first apostolic work: campus ministry at Rutgers University, where we evangelized others to a deep relationship with Christ and the power of the Spirit.
Our life and mission extended into Florida about a decade later when Bishop John Smith invited us to serve in his then-diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Soon thereafter we began our campus outreach at Florida State University in Tallahassee. The generosity of those who befriended us was matched only by the immense potential for Catholic evangelization that we experienced on campus. Working with a team of priests, laity, and religious, this mission has borne abundant and lasting fruit: graduates in strong marriages, singles serving in their parishes or starting youth outreaches, and solid vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Through an unexpected and random encounter with Bernard Cardinal Law in 1995 (on our front porch in NJ), we were graciously invited to establish our headquarters in Boston, MA, where we received our canonical approval in 1998. In 2000, two of our members were ordained priests in Boston, and the community began outreach to college students at the Catholic Center at Boston University, where we still serve.
During our silver anniversary year, we were invited by Cardinal Seán O'Malley to begin our evangelistic work at Northeastern University in Boston. That same year, Bishop Bootkoski of Metuchen, NJ asked the Brotherhood to return to our roots by serving again at Rutgers University.
There is so much to be grateful for: joyful and dedicated Brothers, a common life that supports our vision and summons us to radical holiness, the care of Bishops, the love and affection of so many friends, the support of gracious benefactors, hundreds of young people who have also “caught the vision” and now evangelize others to the Lord Jesus and His Church. All this and more stirs our hearts to a gratefulness beyond words.
Isaiah’s proclamation still sounds as fresh as ever: “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth. Do you not see it?”