Pastoral Letter Concerning the Apostolic Formation Center

Authored By: Bishop Daniel P. Reilly


Sent on December 31, 1985 to the parishes in Norwich, Connecticut which had been affected by the Apostolic Formation Center and its activity.

My brothers and sisters in the Lord:

On this first Sunday of the New Year, I extend to each of you and all of your loved ones best wishes for a blessed, peaceful and happy 1986.

I am writing to you about a matter of importance to the Diocese of Norwich and especially to this area of Tolland County, the Vernon Deanery of our Diocese. Today in many of the Catholic Churches in this area this pastoral letter is being read. It concerns the former Mary, Queen of the Apostles Center which was situated in Somers. Until a few years ago, it was known as the Apostolic Formation Center for Renew-All and also for a brief period of time was apparently called Our Lady of Grace Center. The mission of this Center was the religious formation of lay-catholics by lay-catholics.

In recent months articles appeared in the media alleging that some teachings and practices contrary to the Catholic faith had taken place at the Center. I wish to speak to you in the context of those allegations.

Mr. J. Roy Legere was the founder of the Apostolic Formation Center. He came to Somers from Warren, Massachusetts, where he began his apostolate. The original Center and its successor never enjoyed the official approval of the Church. However, over the years of its existence the leaders of the apostolate informed the Bishops of the Diocese of Norwich about their general work listing the number of retreats held and the numbers of people who attended them. The priests who ministered at the Center, although neither invited nor appointed by the Bishop, received the faculties of the Diocese of Norwich when their Superiors and/or Bishops indicated they were priests in good standing.

The sudden death of Mr. J. Roy Legere in December of 1978 was a cause of discord and division among some of those associated with the Center and much angry emotion surfaced. In mid-1980 I appointed a committee of three priests of the Diocese of Norwich to hold a series of public hearings to determine the nature of and reasons for this division. The findings were inconclusive but apparently the death of Mr. Legere had left a vacuum of leadership at the Center. Subsequently, Mr. Charles Shattuck became President of the Center. Its name was changed to Mary, Queen of the Apostles Formation Center in the hope of producing a new sense of unity and purpose. However, the problems continued and on June 1, 1985, I informed Mr. Shattuck that I was withdrawing the privilege of priest and Blessed Sacrament from the Center. This was done. On June 3, 1985, the Board of Directors closed the Center and it was subsequently sold. I informed Mr. Shattuck that he would not be allowed to re-open the Center in the Diocese of Norwich. Shortly thereafter, I also informed the Bishops of seventeen other dioceses where branches of the Center were said to exist that the Center had been closed at my initiative.

Shortly thereafter, a series of articles appeared in the media about practices alleged to have occurred at the former Apostolic Formation Center when Mr. J. Roy Legere served as its President.

I have investigated these allegations from a theological, moral, legal and psychological perspective. I have concluded that moral and theological breaches did occur by a small number of people involved in the former Apostolic Formation Center. Identifying publicly who these people were and what these breaches were serves no valid purpose. However, I have taken steps to insure that these breaches of religious and moral conduct have ceased and will not re-occur. I am very grateful to those who have assisted me and the Diocese of Norwich in this matter. A number of very competent and concerned people have given much time and effort to insure that a proper investigation was made for the welfare of all concerned.

In dealing with this matter, I have a very genuine pastoral concern for those hundreds and hundreds of good and sincere people who came to the Center seeking spiritual nourishment and counsel in the context of Catholic Church teaching. These people have been very disappointed and disillusioned by the adverse publicity which the Center has recently received. They were unaware of any problems at the Center and are incredulous about them today. Many of them have written letters to me and others stressing the good the Center has done for their Christian living. I would not want this to be harmed in any way.

However, my decision made last June 1, 1985, to withdraw the privilege of priest and Blessed Sacrament from Mary, Queen of the Apostles Formation Center in Somers stands firm and final. Neither it nor its predecessor, The Apostolic Formation Center, will be permitted to re-open in the Diocese of Norwich.

But I do wish to reach out to those people of good will who have found stronger faith and spiritual sustenance at the Center. The Diocese of Norwich stands ready to help any of them needing assistance at this time. Therefore, I am forming a Diocesan Committee to assist those people who found the Mary, Queen of Apostles Formation Center and the former Apostolic Formation Center for Renew-All to be a positive source of personal growth and holiness in their lives. In the near future an announcement will be made concerning the membership, the purpose, and the program of this committee.

As we begin this New Year, let us pray that the Lord will fill each of us with His love and peace and that together we may do our best for His greater glory and the salvation of His people.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

(Signed:) Daniel P. Reilly Bishop of Norwich

This document was taken from "Cults, Sects, and the New Age," by Rev. James J. LeBar, available from Our Sunday Visitor Press, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750.

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