Saint Benedict Center's main site is An online Journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Richmond, New Hampshire.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Fiddle Festival Fun Facts

The question has been asked, “What does the Richmond Blueberry Fiddle Festival do for Richmond”? Good questions deserves good answers. Here are a few:

1. Richmond businesses stand to profit financially. The Four Corners Store has, in the past, enjoyed a larger influx of business due to the crowds. Besides that, while the vendors / exhibitors do pay a booth rental fee to our school, all monies taken in are theirs to keep. Many of the vendors / exhibitors have been Richmond businesses.

2. Richmond residents get a cultural event that is fun, free, and family oriented. They can listen to hours of Bluegrass, Old-Time, Early Americana, and a little Gospel and Blues; they can learn old-fashioned dances (including contra and clogging). No admission fee is charged for any of these things. IHM School brings in revenue by the following means: the parking fee (new, as of 2007), booth rentals, certain games, the bake-off auction, voluntary donations, and the reasonably-priced food and drink concessions. All the music, workshops, and many of the games are entirely free. In the past, the popcorn has always been free. The classic car show, new this year, is also free.

3. Young Richmond residents can get exposure to fun, innocent music, learn from free workshops, and connect with teachers who can tutor them privately, if they are interested. Homemade music is more fun and more ennobling than wiring yourself to a an iPod to roast your brain on the nihilistic trash that often passes for entertainment nowadays. At least we think so.

4. That Richmond has such a free event is a way of practicing good will with residents of neighboring towns. The thinking goes like this: “Come to our free event. Bring your family and have fun in Richmond. You can dance, listen to music, and see how hospitable Richmond residents are.”

Note: Lamentably, we have outgrown Richmond’s Pavilion. Due to safety concerns, we have to move the event to Swanzey.* In the future, all the above benefits will remain, with two major changes: (1) People won’t be coming to our town to enjoy our hospitality at the event. (2) The Four Corners Store will not benefit from the Festival’s proximity. We wish there were a way to keep it in our lovely town. If it is possible in the future to bring it back to Richmond, we will do so.

* We will keep Richmond in the name, though. There are numerous precedents for this: “Keene Airport” is actually in Swanzey, and some ball clubs have their stadiums in places other than those from which they derive their name.

Friday, March 23, 2007

One More Rumor Put to Bed

After we completed the "Rumors" posting immediately below this one, it came to our attention that there was one rumor not yet addressed: Loreto Publications and SBC are the same thing. Well, they aren't. There is no affiliation, association, or parent- or successor-corporation relationship between the two. There never was any such arrangement. The two corporations are entirely independent from one another and always were. This is easily verifiable at the Secretary of State's office.

Personally speaking, those who run and work at Loreto are involved in SBC as congregants, friends, and supporters. But we also have U.S. military personnel who fit those categories. Last we checked, our Order hasn't had a corporate merger with the Department of Defense!

Please note the new feature on this blog: the long list, running down the right side of the page, of our favorite authors. It's designed to give a little insight into our thinking, for those who would like to know us better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Letter from the Prior, Brother André Marie: Exposing Some False and Misleading Rumors

Dear Neighbors,

Lately, many rumors have spread throughout town about Saint Benedict Center (SBC), our Catholic monastery, convent, chapel, and affiliated school. In this letter, I am appealing to the good people of Richmond — the ones who have made us feel at home in this beautiful town for the last 18 years — to consider the facts and see the falsity of these rumors. We are confident that the fair-minded, friendly, and neighborly people in town outnumber the few who are trying to disparage us.

Rumor #1: SBC is buying up all the property at the Morgan Reserve.
Response: Wrong! We have no interest in this land and consequently to this day have no idea if it’s even for sale. SBC did not desire to purchase the additional land it bought last year. We were effectively forced to do so because a town ordinance was changed in 2006, requiring educational and cultural usages in the town to have a minimum of 20 acres. In order to add one new building, we had to comply with the new ordinance. Prior to the recent purchase, there was enough usable room to build that structure on our existing land.

Rumor #2: SBC will be buying up all the property at the Four Corners (the intersection of Routes 32 and 119).
Response: Wrong again! We are neither land barons nor commercial proprietors. Again, as we are not interested in the land, we do not even know of its availability.

Rumor #3: The families that go to Mass at SBC on Sundays give their homes to SBC so that they do not have to pay real estate taxes.
Response: Wrong again! In the 18 years we have been here, not one single residence has been donated to SBC.

We are not in the illegal tax-shelter business. We understand that if we were to own a home not used for our non-profit, religious purposes, we may have to pay taxes on it. We do not own any such homes and do not plan on procuring them.

Rumor #4: The SBC families pay no real estate taxes and they have to give 60% of their income to SBC.
Response: Wrong again! Every private person who owns a private residence in Richmond pays real estate property taxes, school taxes, and, if they own a vehicle, automobile registration taxes and fees. As for the comical 60% figure, no person who attends SBC or IHM school for whatever function has to give any set amount as a donation. Their donations are purely voluntary.

Rumor #5: SBC is the largest nonprofit landowner in town.
Response: Wrong again! Check the tax records. The Cheshire County YMCA, a nonprofit corporation, owns almost three times the tax-exempt property SBC does (this includes all property — buildings and land — currently owned by the YMCA and SBC). Even the Town of Richmond owns more tax-exempt property than SBC — over a million dollars more. Look at the Town Report; the facts are all there.

What was just said is not a criticism of the YMCA or the Town, simply a correction of the false statement.

Rumor #6: SBC was formerly Blessed Sacrament, Inc. or Blessed Sacrament Community, Inc. (BSC).
Response: Wrong again! The professional communist liar, Vladimir Lenin, said “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Sadly, certain interested parties have been re-telling this lie over and over again until it has nearly “become the truth.” SBC is, and has always been, a totally separate New Hampshire corporation from BSC. SBC is a non-profit corporation, while BSC is a for-profit corporation. None of the incorporators, officers, or directors of the two corporations are the same. None of them have ever served on the other corporation. Check the records at the Secretary of State’s Office in Concord; examine the records at the Registry of Deeds in Keene; look at the Richmond Town Tax Office records; read the Town Report. These sources will only confirm my response to be true.

SBC purchased property from BSC 18 years ago in a legal and properly recorded land transaction. That does not make one a parent corporation or successor corporation of the other.

Rumor # 7: SBC proposes to build an enormous structure that will alter the town’s rural character.
Response: Wrong again! Of course, this one is more a matter of opinion than of fact, but please look at the facts to formulate your own informed opinion: The one-story building is a combination school / chapel designed to offer children a better learning environment. The proposed structure would give us just sufficient room to do what needs to be done — worship God and teach children. It will have six classrooms in the school section and a one-room oratory for the chapel space.

For comparison, consider these facts: Mountain View Bible Church in Dublin — a town with a population of 1,556 (source: Town Selectmen) — has a school-church building of 28,088 square feet. Wells Memorial School in Harrisville — population 1,015 (source: Town Selectmen) — is 16,000 square feet. Marlborough Elementary School in Marlborough — population 2,882 (source:— is 38,000 square feet. James Faulkner Elementary School in Stoddard — population 992 (source: Town Selectmen) — is 10,500 square feet. Westmoreland School in Westmoreland — population 1,787 (source: — is 25,400 square feet. Considering these figures, proportional to Richmond’s population of 1,203 (source: , our 10,206 square foot chapel-school building is modest indeed! (Sources for church / school square footage: individual institutions.)

Rumor #8: SBC refuses to pay their fair share of road and bridge upgrades required by additional traffic to their property.
Response: Wrong again — and a total calumny! Before we even submitted a site plan application we were sensitive to the potential needs and requirements of the town. Every year Fay Martin Road needs some work. And we are not the only people using the road and bridge. We have not taken logging trucks over the road and bridge causing damage. But, with absolutely no legal requirement to do so, we offered to pay for the cost of an upgrade proposed by the town road agent. The upgrade amount was far beyond our potential increased usage — and would have covered the entire area of Fay Martin Road that might be affected by our new building (down to the former Boscarino driveway, now our Priory at 115 Fay Martin Rd.). And the bridge was also considered. Based on what we discovered of the availability of state funding, we offered to pay 100% of the cost of repairs or installation of a new bridge — fronting all the money. We only asked to be reimbursed 80% of the money (exactly the portion funded by the state), whenever the state should reimburse the town. This was money coming from a state program, not by direct taxes to Richmond residents.

Now there is another thing you should know: The SBC-hired engineer — and the engineers hired by the town — agreed that there was no need for the road or bridge to be upgraded due to our one building, not for engineering purposes, safety purposes, or any other reasons. Why not? Because all the studies showed so small an increase in traffic that such upgrades were not needed. We did not say that. It was the engineers — on both sides — who said it. We believe that our neighbors’ concerns on this issue have merit. So we have tried to be good neighbors, as indicated above.We have been engaged in the long and expensive process of trying to get site-plan approval for almost two years, without doing anything to cause undue pressure on the Planning Board. We have been responsive to requests from the Planning Board. Since we are not experts, we have hired experts to draw up and present plans, to file our application, to follow up with studies. We have followed the rules and been cooperative, even paying for the Planning Board to do further studies which only confirmed the initial studies we supplied. We ask for nothing out of the ordinary, only that the decisions be reasonable and based on applicable statutes, ordinances, etc. We also ask people to ignore the rumors and stick to the facts.

I have presented the facts to you. I hope the good people of Richmond, knowing these things, will be fair and reasonable too. That is all we ask of you, our neighbors. Thank you for your time and God bless you all!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Did You Know...? Two Books on Richmond History Were Typset at Saint Benedict Center

Mr. Robert Cohen, who was then (and is now) an employee here at Saint Benedict Center, did the typesetting for the book, The Town in the Forest: Life Story of Richmond, New Hampshire, by Neith Boyce. Bob also made the necessary arrangements to have the book printed by Turley Publications in Palmer, MA — the commercial printer whose services we used at that time.

Tim Harron, then a student at the Center’s IHM school (class of '91), helped with this project.

Mr. Cohen was a paid employee of Saint Benedict Center. We provided his services on an entirely volunteer basis as a good-will gesture to our neighbors in Richmond. Neither the Center nor Mr. Cohen nor Tim Harron made any money from this project.

The same is true of the book The Only Mill in Town: The Story of the Pail-Making Industry in Richmond, New Hampshire, by Richard A Martin. We typeset the book and dealt with our commercial printer to bring it into print, all pro bono.

Some Things Saint Benedict Center Does for the Town of Richmond

Some neighbors have asked what Saint Benedict Center does for the Town of Richmond. Here is a list which is by no means exhaustive:

  1. We provide religious services for Richmond residents. All are welcome to our Masses, our public Rosary, and other religious services not only on Sunday, but every day of the week. (Non-Catholic Richmond residents have come to our services.)
  2. We have night classes every Friday. They are free and open to the public.
  3. We provide a Catholic school that Richmond residents can send their children to. While religious instruction is mandatory for all students, we do not require the students to be Catholic to attend. We have had non-Catholic students.
  4. We have an annual Christmas pageant and other musical / entertainment programs five other times of the year (All Hallow’s Eve, Thanksgiving, Anniversary of the Order, St. Patrick’s Day, End of School Program.) They are free and open to the public. There are non-Catholic Richmond residents who have come to them.
  5. Our school puts on the Richmond Blueberry Fiddle Festival, begun at the suggestion of the former fire chief, Mr. Bud Jacobsen. (Bud, who is not Catholic, is the much-liked former owner of the 4-Corners Store. He has since moved down South.) The festival is a cultural event which provides free, wholesome family fun and entertainment to all comers. Yes, it is a fund raiser for our school. ALL advertising openly states that it is put on by our school. (Some have falsely accused us of "hiding" behind the name of Richmond.) Hundreds of people come to this event.
  6. On different occasions the brothers and sisters from the Center have organized our members to to assist handicapped, aged, or grieving neighbors, several of whom were folks who did not come here for Mass either because they were not Catholic or because they were non-practicing Catholics. For example, our neighbor, Mr. Grover LaBelle received much attention from us after his beloved wife died. The brothers visited him and gave him occasional car rides when he was sent to the Carpenter Home in Swanzey. (Both Grover and his beloved wife died Catholics, received into the Church here in our chapel.)
  7. Other little acts of neighborly charity would include this: Several "Center families" who live on Tully Brook Road assisted their new neighbor and his family to move into their new house. The gentleman is a Mormon bishop.
  8. It's not Richmond, but it pertains to a slightly wider "local community": Every week we visit the retirement home in Winchester (next town to the West) to visit with the residents. The staff there is appreciative of our charitable work of visiting with lonely and sick old folks. One of those residents benefits from regular rides to and from Sunday Mass.