Almost continuously since 1928, an order of Catholic brothers has worked in Springfield to take care of some of the community’s more vulnerable residents.
And to celebrate two anniversaries involving that work, Brother James Court and its predecessor St. James Trade School are the subject of a book chronicling their contributions.
“Images of America: St. James Trade School and Brother James Court” looks back at the former St. James Trade School, and the home for developmentally challenged men that stands on the school’s site today.
The book is available now through Arcadia Publishing and through Brother James Court (for ordering information, see below). Or, if you can wait just a little longer, the “official” release date in Springfield comes April 10 when Brother James Court hosts its annual Benefit Dinner and Auction at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center. Books will be sold at the dinner. (Dinner details are below.)
The book is a quick read. It consists mostly of photographs with captions that further explain St. James Trade School and Brother James Court. Brother Anthony Joseph McCoy and Phillip A. Shadid wrote the text. Many of the photographs came from 1936 St. James graduate Pete Bono of Springfield, who returned to his alma mater often with his camera. All three men will sign copies of the book at the dinner April 10.
Jay Landers, director of development at Brother James Court, said the book was proposed as a way to note the 80th anniversary of the opening of the trade school, and the 35th anniversary of the opening of Brother James Court.
“No one ever had a long-range plan to do a book,” Landers said.
But Bono’s photo collection jumpstarted the process of finding visual documentation. Shadid, a Springfield native, previously wrote an article about the former trade school and knew many of the key facts. And McCoy serves as mission effectiveness director at Brother James Court.
So the book became not just a way to raise money for Brother James Court, but also a way to note the contributions of a group of Franciscan brothers.
A history of helping
The Franciscan brothers arrived in Springfield in 1928. Within two years, they opened St. James Trade School, named for Brother James Wirth. He was the German founder of the Franciscan Brothers of the Holy Cross.
The Franciscans’ goal was to help orphaned or economically disadvantaged boys learn a trade so they could become productive members of society.
The first graduating class — of one student — was in 1932. Before closing in 1972, St. James Trade School graduated hundreds of boys, fielded baseball, football and basketball teams, organized school musical groups, and staged plays (with boys playing the parts of females).
One of the highlights over the years was the district champion basketball team of 1958-59. Frequently playing against schools with much larger enrollments, the team won 18 games while losing only seven. (Chalk graffiti in the Brother James Court garage trumpeting the accomplishment was discovered last year.)
Classes included mechanical drawing, automobile mechanics and shoemaking. St. James boys also bottled milk and made baked goods for local institutions.
However, by 1972, the expense of the school, combined with its low enrollment, a shortage of brothers to serve as instructors, and the loss of contracts to supply milk, baked goods and meat to local groups forced its closure.
Three years later, it was reborn as Brother James Court, where developmentally disabled men could live. The home provides a safe place for the men to live, pursue their spirituality, and learn domestic and job skills.
Today, 98 men live at Brother James Court, where they train for events in the Special Olympics, enjoy weekly music gatherings, and have many of their medical needs taken care of on-site.
Brother James Court employs 105 people.
Contact features editor Brien Murphy at 788-1515.
Brother James Court 16th annual Benefit Auction and Dinner
When: April 10. Booksigning 5:30-6:45 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m.
Where: President Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center, 701 E. Adams St., Springfield
Registration: $75 (includes dinner). To register, go online at www.brotherjamescourt.com, call 747-5905, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to Brother James Court, 2508 St. James Road, Springfield, IL 62707. Reservations due by Thursday.
“Images of America: St. James Trade School and Brother James Court”
Published by: Arcadia Publishing
Written by: Brother Anthony Joseph McCoy and Phillip A. Shadid. Pete Bono of Springfield, a St. James Trade School graduate, provided many of the book’s photographs.
To order a copy:
◦Contact Brother James Court at www.brotherjamescourt.com, or 747-5905 ($25).
◦The book also will be available at Brother James Court’s dinner/auction April 10. You do not have to purchase a dinner ticket to purchase a book April 10.
◦Contact Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or 888-313-2665.
◦Proceeds from book sales benefit Brother James Court.