Brother honored by Anglicans
Since the Reformation in the 16th century, the Anglican and Catholic churches in England have been two separate, though very similar, branches of Christianity.
Now a Brother of the Sacred Heart who was born in Woonsocket has become a bridge between them.
Brother Clement Pelletier, 71, was named an Honorary Canon last month at one of the most prominent cathedrals in England, the Cathedral Church at St. Albans. He is the first Roman Catholic ever to be given that honor at that cathedral.
As an Honorary Canon, Brother Clement will be a part of the procession of clergy at all special ceremonies at the Protestant cathedral, and he is given a seat of honor in a special stall inside the church.
It was a struggling Catholic school that brought him from Woonsocket to St. Albans, a town about 20 miles outside of London, in 1955. And it was it was his interest in the beautiful and historic Anglican cathedral that led to this honor.
Brother Clement, born Maurice Pelletier, grew up on Bennett Street. He graduated from Mount St. Charles Academy and took his vows as a Brother of the Sacred Heart shortly after in 1949.
As a member of the religious order dedicated to teaching, six years later he was asked to move to England to join a group of brothers in taking over a small Catholic school in St. Albans. He served as a teacher, and rose through the ranks to deputy head, superior and finally headmaster in 1980.
Since he arrived, the school has grown from about 65 students to 950. There he made a name for himself by knowing the names of every boy in the school and sending each one a card on his birthday, along with a Mars bar for the younger boys.
Brother Clement retired in 1995, and says his retirement gave him the time to finally get involved with the great cathedral. The school has one of the best views available of the cathedral, and Brother Clement had long been interested in it.
Originally built as a shrine to St. Albans, who died around 250 A.D., parts of the building date back to 793 and it is considered one of the foremost cathedrals in England in terms of architecture. Though it is a Protestant cathedral, St. Albans is also a major tourist attraction.
It is very accepting of other Christians, including the Catholics who make up roughly 10 percent of England's population, Brother Clement said.
A Catholic Mass is even celebrated there once each week. “I think it's because they're very broad minded and they are incorporating all the people who are believers in Jesus,” he said, adding that the dividing line between the Catholic and Protestant faiths in England has been getting thinner as the years pass.
He began working at the abbey as a tour guide, and later started working as the Catholic chaplain, welcoming people and offering spiritual guidance whenever necessary.
On Nov. 4, the cathedral made him an Honorary Canon, giving him a special seat previously occupied by the late archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Runcie. He now serves as a bridge between the two faiths at the cathedral, joining the other canons for meetings several times a year and taking part in special ceremonies there.
He said he's glad to serve in this unique capacity.“I have my Catholic faith, but I'm prepared to show my faith in Christianity,” he said.