People and Places in Fr. Peter's Personal History  & Peter's Passing
Notes by an interested bystander
These are comments on the original 10 pages of notes written by Father Peter Cronin circa 1997, summarizing his life in the Legion and expressing his concerns about certain sect-like features of the Legion. They were prepared in 2003 to accompany the original document that was being offered to an exit counselor and an investigative journalist as background material. They may not be totally clear without Peter’s original notes on his Legionary History posted above.
Peter Cronin, born Drimnagh, Dublin, January 13, 1949
On July 10th, two weeks after graduating from high school, at the age of 16.6, Peter entered the Legion of Christ RC Religious Congregation [i.e. order] as a postulant. This was at Belgard Castle, Clondalkin, Co. Dublin, Ireland.
James Coindreau, ‘Jimmy’ in his previous lifetime, recruited Peter and led the Postulancy/Candidacy. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, as Santiago Coindreau Farías. [In northern Mexico it is fashionable for young people in the middle-upper classes to use Anglo names such as ‘Billy, Bobby, Jimmy, Henry...’] In the Legion always addressed respectfully as Father James or Padre Santiago, long before he was ever ordained a priest. Native Spanish speaker who spoke fluent English with a Mexican accent, which made him more endearing to us Irish teens of the 60s. Very ‘simpatico’ with ‘the gift of the gab’. First came to Ireland circa 1960 to found the LC in that country and recruited the first Irish members from the provinces and Dublin. Very enthusiastic leader. James made a tremendous impact on recruiting in Ireland for over a decade. He was ordained in his thirties and continued to do promotional work. He left the Legion on entering middle adulthood and joined the US air force as a chaplain.
Typical Legion ‘flexibility’ with the truth: When James C. worked in Ireland in the 60s he always called himself ‘Father James Coindreau’ despite the fact that he was not yet an ordained catholic priest. It would not have been acceptable for a non-priest to do vocation work in Ireland. But the Legion did not have a suitable English-speaking priest at that moment. James was their best shot. So he dressed like a priest and talked like a priest and called himself a priest and got by. When some of the Irish pastors later found our about this they were pretty upset.I assume Peter Cronin and his buddy, Kevin Carty, [he left after about 7 years, married a Spanish woman, had children, runs an English language institute in Santander, and founded a Legion alumni network still active in Spain;] thought he was a priest when he approached them.
Juan Manuel Correa: a Mexican LC seminarian, also simpático, who was very young at the time, was assistant to James C. He was never ordained to the priesthood but was also good working teen vocations. Possessed a sunny and optimistic disposition. He left about ten years later, before being ordained, and settled in Mexico City becoming a successful businessman. He bonded well with Ireland and the Irish, as did Father James. Remains on friendly terms with the Legionaries in Mexico.
Peter professed simple temporal [for three years] of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience according to the Constitutions of the Congregation of the Legion of Christ.
Juniorate Classical Studies in Salamanca: Spanish, Latin and Greek. Peter was good at Biblical New Testament Greek [koinoné] and later taught it in the LC seminary.
Father Rafael Arumi Blancafort, one of the first Spanish priests recruited to the Legion by Father Maciel, was Peter’s superior. From Catalonia, Spain, Fr. Arumí was, at the same time, Rector, Novice Instructor and Spiritual Director of everyone under his rule, a highly unorthodox triple role according to Canon Law. Peter will refer later to this double/triple role prohibited by RC Church Law [ i.e. Canon Law]
Juan Manuel Duenas Rojas, Rector of the Center for Higher Studies, Via Aurelia 677, Rome, Italy. He was also the Religious Superior and the Spiritual Director to his own subjects. The bystander, studied in Rome from 1963-1970, a theology student while Peter was a philosophy student. Except for the occasional game of intra mural soccer, there was no contact between these two ‘communities’, living on separate floors. So, altough we lived under the same roof, we had never 'met' or ‘known’ each other yet.
Pontifical Gregorian [Ecclesiastical] University, Rome, where Peter began his studies in Scholastic Philosophy.
Month-long Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Salamanca, Spain, under the guidance of
Don Antonio Oyarzábal. A Basque, like the Jesuit Founder, but not a Jesuit. [There is a whole history of Marcial Maciel’s relationship with the Jesuits. He was in an out of their seminaries, he plagiarized much of their rules and structure, availed himself of their hospitality during the foundation in Northern Spain, but he was always uncomfortable around them. He never invited a Jesuit. I doubt whether they would have come- to direct Spiritual Exercises.] So he would choose diocesan priests who had been trained by the Jesuits to lead the exercises. As the Founder and Superior General, and as the person who was paying them for their services, -generously, I assume- he could give them advice on what points to stress and thus how to direct ‘his’ religious during the week or month of exercises. Therefore, as Legionaries, we never experienced 100% pure Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. It was always ‘according to Maciel’.
Father Dueñas, Peter’s Spiritual Director, College Rector and Religious Superior in Rome, gives Peter orders to interrupt his studies and leave immediately for Mexico to work at the Irish Institute, thus beginning his period of Apostolic Practices. Peter was allowed to visit his home country, Ireland, for three days. The nights would be spent at the Legion house, not in his own home, in accordance with the rules. Apparently he was sent to the Irish Institute in Monterrey, Nuevo León State, Northern Mexico, to see how he would adjust to life outside the seminary and to learn the ropes. Soon he would be sent to the Instituto Irlandés in Mexico City
The original bilingual middle and high school for upper class Mexican boys, in the Tecamachalco, Mexico City Metropolitan area. Founded in 1966 by [Spanish] Father Juan Manuel Fernández-Amenábar and three Irish ‘brothers’, religious and students for the priesthood, Jack Keogh [Dublin, left Legion and priesthood, married with a daughter], John Walsh [Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, active Legionary priest, Women’s Section, Mexico], and David Hennessy [Dublin, left before ordination, married with children, successful businessman in Mexico].
Thomas Moylan: By 1971 ordained a priest [Rome,1969], had joined in 1961, beginning his novitiate in Ireland in 1962, a native of Dublin, Ireland, a high school graduate from St. Vincent’s Christian Brothers School, Glasnevin, Dublin, who, together with school mates Paul Lennon and John Devlin, had joined the Legion becoming part of the first official group of Irish candidates [about 20 traveled to Bundrowes House, Co. Donegal, July 1st, 1961]. Father Moylan would be the religious superior of the ‘brothers’ working at the Irish Institute, Mexico City.
Leopardstown: Novitiate of the Legion of Christ, Leopardstown, Co. Dublin. Part of the building was used to house Mexican ‘exchange’ students visiting for the summer or staying the year to learn English.
Peter is referring to ‘brothers’ Brian Stenson, Desmond Coates [Legionary priest in Australia, on the fringe of belonging to the Legion. His brother Peter Coates LC is still a prominent Legionary priest in in Monterrey, Mexico high society.
Peter is named Assistant [superior] to Philosophy students in Rome. It didn’t last long. I don’t remember how he explained his short career as Legionary superior; maybe something to do with not following the rules closely enough, or letting the students off the hook. That would be typical of him.
Peter spent the summer working with male 3rd degree members of the Regnum Christi lay movement in Spain. These were mostly young catholic university students.
Muddle in Mexico: the writer was at the time the first director of the School of Faith in Mexico City. Father Maciel wanted me out of there and sent Peter to replace me overnight. I remember Peter coming into my office and without guile telling me he was my replacement and could I ‘tell him all about the School of Faith as soon as possible’. I was to go to Cozumel, Quintana Roo ‘to accompany Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Religious in the Vatican, a Legion supporter, to help him rest during his vacation’. Provincial Superior of Mexico, Fr. Carlos Zancajo LC, knew nothing of the change. When he realized what had happened, after a couple of weeks, he sent Father Peter to Monterrey and brought me back. A year or so later Father Carlos was demoted. He ended up in Caracas, Venezuela, where, still officially a legionary, he teaches at the local Metropolitan University and as far as is known is still a member.
1979 July 8th,
Peter is sent from Cuernavaca, Morelos State, Mexico to Orange, Ct, USA, and is given the post of Assistant of Candidates.
1981, January 3rd,
Peter is Ordained to the Catholic Priesthood shortly before his 32nd birthday.
AFTER THE LEGION:
As I read his curriculum I am surprised by how long it took Fr. Peter to be ordained and how soon after ordination he started thinking of leaving. He had probably seen and experienced enough during the previous years to realize that the Legion was not for him. He did not want to make a rash decision and leave precipitously. Besides, he probably was not ready mentally or emotionally for the big step. He takes the step in July 1985 with a visit to Ireland. From Ireland he considers his options and prepares his move out of the Legion and into the diocesan priesthood with the help of contacts in the USA, some of them xlcs who have already made that transition. November I, 1985, he flies from Miami to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and is met by Fathers -both then with the archdiocese of Washington DC- Declan Murphy, [exit 83? from the Legion house in Potomac, Maryland] and Kevin Fagan [exit 1984 from Monterrey, Mexico, where he had been spiritual director of Regnum Christi men, presently auxiliar bishop of Washington DC diocese].
At that time the writer [exit from Quintana Roo Missions, Mexico, January ‘85] was at St. Matthew’s Parish in DC. Peter joins the archdiocese of Washington, feels comfortable in this lifestyle, 'pays his dues' with difficult assignments, is later incardinated and finally becomes pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Silver Spring, MD on July 1st, 1994. My reading is that Peter wanted, above all things, to be a priest. His experience with the Legion did not dissuade or make him deviate from his goal and calling. He remained sufficiently intact to be able to detach from the Legion and persevere in his priesthood.
IN RESPONSE TO OCCASIONAL INQUIRIES REGARDING FR. PETER'S PASSING.
Father Peter Cronin,
then pastor at St Michael de Archangel Parish in Silver Spring, MD, diocese of Washington DC, died suddenly at the age of 50 on September 19th, 1999; the cause of death appears to be an aneurysm. Peter was reading the Sunday papers during breakfast at the rectory between Masses when the tragedy occured. We, his friends, can only speculate in hindsight that Peter was experiencing very strong headaches during the months before his demise and that he may not have recognized the danger.
Peter was an organized and orderly person, and in general took good care of his health, visiting his doctor with regularity for check-ups, etc.. He was endowed with a good sense of humor and a hearty laugh [not entirely Legionary-like]. He was a kind, helpful, and wise person and priest. He was an enthusiastic golfer, and loved music, cultural diversity, family, and friends. Peter was an excellent administrator with a very pastoral touch and was at the height of his personal and priestly faculties and productivity when he died; this saddened all who knew him. He is dearly missed.
September 1992, on ‘retreat’ at a parishioner’s beach-front condo in Myrtle Beach, SC, as he stroll the sands with his friend, now Mr. Paul Lennon, they brainstorm about the isolation of ex-members. Soon after, Peter launches Network, a low key periodic letter to a short list of contacts he has collected in his characteristically friendly and organized way.
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