Agape Community -- Brockton, MA
Brothers and Sisters,
How do you find daily and regular support for gospel-based peacemaking and spiritual rootedness?
Places like the Agape Community in Brockton, MA, are refuges in the midst of this strange land.
How can we take small steps toward creating these kinds of refuge spaces in our own communities? What are you already doing?
On Earth Peace
What is The Agape Community?
The Agape Community is a lay Catholic residential community with non-profit status, co-founded in 1982 in Brockton, MA by Suzanne Belote Shanley, Brayton Shanley and Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, with a vision of ministry in peace education with a primary focus on Catholic schools from elementary through colleges and universities, and including an ecumenical and interfaith embrace. The community began with a focus on prayer (three times a day), evangelical simplicity and peacemaking witness in the world.
In 1987, co-founders, Suzanne Belote Shanley and Brayton Shanley moved with their daughter, Teresa, to 32 acres of land in the Quabbin Reservoir watershed where they and hundreds of volunteers built the first community building, Francis House, with interest free loans, donations, and generous gifts from donors who supported the Franciscan charism of simple living, the healing power of nature and solitude, and peace education.. Agape's large organic garden feeds the community as well as others in the area.
In 1997, Agape launched a second building project, a straw bale house with solar energy, compost toilet, wood cook and wood heating stoves, named after St. Brigid of Ireland. The sustainable community experiment is designed to inspire people to live a more simple, creative lifestyle emphasizing a theology grounded in a sound ecology rather than consumption.
Who Lives at The Agape Community?
Permanent residents: Co-founders Brayton Shanley and Suzanne Belote Shanley and daughter, Teresa Ellen Shanley, join with those who reside for short or long periods at Agape. Such residents have included interns from numerous colleges and other pilgrims including a couple from Ithaca, New York, who spent their sabbatical with Agape while on leave from the Philosophy Department at Ithaca College and a psychology practice in family therapy. Other interns have included students from Marlboro College, Amherst College, Boston College, Xavier College, Ohio, Smith College, and scores of others. On occasion, Agape offers hospitality and short-term housing for those in need, including people leaving prison, in immediate need of housing or at risk for violence. Agape has offered refuge for a couples in crisis, including mediation and housing.
What Is The Agape Education Ministry?
A comprehensive listing of Agape Ministries:
- St. Mary of the Angel's parish in Roxbury MA.; Latino youth from Joven a Joven in Lawrence, MA.; CCD youth from parishes throughout Massachusetts; a year long program on gospel nonviolence at Cathedral High School in Springfield, MA, a two year program at North Cambridge Catholic in Cambridge MA. developing the school's first Peer Mediation Program for largely inner city youth with a partial grant from The Sisters of St. Joseph.
- In 2002, on the occasion of Agape's 20th Anniversary, the community hosted an anniversary event at Holy Cross College, with the sponsorship of Bishop Daniel Reilly and Prof. David O'Brien, chair of the Center for the Study of Ethics and Culture, with a keynote address by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, Michigan.
- Also in 2002, Agape launched with Bishop Reilly, in the Catholic Colleges in the Diocese of Worcester, including Holy Cross, Assumption, and Anna Maria Colleges, a program entitled: Catholic Conscience Formation on War and Peace, endorsed by the Presidents and campus ministers of the respective colleges.
- For the past three years, Agape co-founders, Brayton Shanley and Suzanne Belote Shanley, have co-taught a course for Worcester State College at the College and at Agape with Professor Courtney Schlosser of Worcester State's Department of Philosophy.
- Since 1990, Agape has hosted two college retreats a year, attracting hundreds of college students from throughout the New England area and beyond. Students respond to a variety of approaches including meditation, silence, learning about simple lifestyle and gospel based peacemaking.
How Is Agape Governed?
Agape's vision and mission are guided by its Mission Council consisting of twelve people, including lay and religious with backgrounds in education and ministry. Agape's chaplain for the past seven years, Fr. David Gill SJ; Boston College, is also pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Parish, Roxbury, MA.
In 2003, The Agape Community became a non-profit corporation.
Who Supports Agape?
- Support for the Agape's endeavors has come from the various Catholic Dioceses in Massachusetts and New England for whom Agape offers programs in parishes, schools and colleges, as well as hosting programs on site.
- Agape has been the recipient of grants from religious orders over the years including Dominican Sisters of Illinois; Sisters of St. Joseph, School Sisters of St. Joseph, Notre Dame Sisters in Massachusetts, to mention a few.
- Donations and grants have sustained the community in its outreach to inner city youth, including successive years of youth retreats at Agape.
- Individual support of the community is the lifeblood of its work. Some Friends of Agape choose to send a small or large amount once a month, a week, or once a year.
- Our sustenance for the counseling work, hospitality, intern ministry, spiritual direction, hosting retreatants at the Hermitage, is never fee for service. Rather, as stewards of the community, we depend solely on donations for the ministry above, as well as for our ministry of mission through invitation by host sites.