The Father Andrew Ansbro, C.P., Collection: Knowing the Background in Order to Understand Father Ansbro’s Personal Papers
Father Andrew Ansbro, C.P., died on February 9, 1993. A few years before, he had agreed to organize his papers which dated back to the 1930s consisting of letters, reports, etc. Most of the collection is connected with the Catholic Career Conferences (CCC).
CCC originated as the St. Gabriel’s Club in 1942. Its purpose was exclusively to help direct boys and young men in their search for a religious vocation. The meetings were held monthly in the library of Immaculate Conception Monastery, Jamaica, NY. Father also started the St. Jeanne’s Club at Our Lady of Wisdom Academy, Ozone Park, NY, and the Patricians at The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica, NY, where the emphasis was broadened to include spiritual preparation for marriage, nursing, and other lay careers as well as religious life.
The need for a more formal, spiritually-oriented approach to the guidance of many people was accomplished by monthly meetings—separate for boys and girls, “mock” religious professions, and receptions where members dressed in the habits of various congregations. The St. Gabriel’s Club developed into the Catholic Center Club and finally into the Catholic Career Conferences, which were co-ed. Both provided meetings on religious life, marriage, and lay careers.
As CCC developed further there were, during each week, meetings of five Legion of Mary Praesidia. These were divided into junior and senior parts and provided spiritual centering. Each week, too, the CCC Legion members visited Rusk Institute and Goldwater Memorial Hospital, both in Manhattan, Mary Immaculate Hospital, Jamaica, NY, St. Rose’s Cancer Home, Manhattan, and aged shut-ins in their homes. In addition, they visited the Jamaica Children’s Shelter and assisted in preparing members for First Communion and taking them to confession and to mass. Members also ran a pamphlet cart in the Jamaica business district.
Always, Fr. Andrew was available for individual counseling and confession, often to the moment he would come into the Legion of Mary meetings for a short talk.
There were the religious “receptions” and “professions” already mentioned. At these CCCers dressed in garb of particular religious congregations and secular clergy, would briefly describe the spirit and work of those they represented after Father had discussed the nature and significance of the priestly and religious calling. At other monthly meetings there would be presentations and discussions of careers in nursing, law or business.
More elaborate functions were held at monthly meetings. At these there might be a “mock” wedding complete with bride, groom, maid-of-honor, and best man. After there was cake and coffee. These meetings and their focus were well-planned and repeated annually. Fr. Andrew gave special attention to nursing as well as to religious life and marriage.
Annual functions included the boys’ retreat, the girls’ retreat, and what was called the Traveling Troup. This last involved a bus trip of girls to share a day with a congregation and to observe its work.
Each summer was the CCC Communion Breakfast, many times celebrated at Mary Immaculate Hospital. Fr. Patrick Peyton spoke one year. There were also missionaries, a Medical Missionary Sister, former Passionist China missionaries, as well as sisters, priests, and lay people from various specialties in the United States. Usually one of the CCCers also spoke, highlighting the previous year’s activity.
Each spring there was a dinner for the Legion members. Also for a number of years, CCC acquired a booth at the Knights of Columbus Armory Home Shows. What would CCCers have done with the annual outing and picnic at Jones Beach? On the way they crowded into the back of an open truck and sang to the tune of a guitar.
Another annual event was the Solemn Engagement Ceremony, held after careful preparation and discussions on engagement and marriage. Nothing mock about this. After discussions on the particular evening, one or several couples (usually the latter), with Fr. Andrew presiding, became engaged. Beautiful!
Consider further growth of CCC—the Mothers’ Club, which gave fmancial support; the CCC families—Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bullis, especially, who provided home and family life for members who needed them.
Nor was it surprising that from CCC there came lay missionaries. Some went to the Passionists in Jamaica, West Indies, others went out to teach in the Indian Mission in Dakota.
Changing needs in the 1960s brought changes in schedules and differing emphasis during meetings. Whereas all the meetings and ceremonies already mentioned were during the week, Sunday evenings were now the occasion of more focused discussion on the spiritual life and more wide-ranging discussion on professional and lay careers. So CCCers and professionals, unable to attend mid-week meetings, were accommodated.
For many years Fr. Andrew directed St. Andrew’s Retreat House near Walden, NY. (The residence takes its name from the nearby road which is named for an old Episcopal Church.) CCCers—young, old and older—regularly called Father there or just dropped in for a visit. They also came for the annual reunion.
The annual reunion. This was more than a get together. The centerpiece of these reunions was Saturday night mass. More people came for that than stayed for the picnic the next day. Significant? Not surprising, though, for CCCers who “just dropped in” usually visited the chapel—coming and going. That was the spirit—the phone contacts, the dropping in, the annual reunions—all means of renewal.
Home masses for CCC families became more common. This indicated the increased involvement of second and third generation CCCers.
The Communion Breakfasts continue, three since Fr. Andrew’s death. These have been for remembrance of him. They have also examined what CCC continues to mean. They are nothing gloomy, serious—always joyful. In addition, there is a newsletter which keeps CCCers in touch and affords individuals the chance to tell what CCC has meant and still means to them and theirs.
Which brings us back to the beginning. These papers have not been examined and studied; but from the extent of Fr. Andrew’s known influence, from the consistent comments by those who were his friends, it seems reasonable to infer that his work, as it may be shown in these papers, will give insight into a good chunk of vocation history in the United States. More specifically it will assist in appreciating more deeply the nature and influence of Passionist spirituality. For many years into his vocation work, he continued as part of the Mission Band.
Father Andrew never pushed anyone to a choice of vocation—he counseled, he directed, and as his vocation work grew, so did his vision.