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

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!

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