Legion of Christ to open Overbrook Academy boarding school

Legion of Christ to open Overbrook Academy boarding school

SMITHFIELD - Now that they've been approved for a special use permit from the town's zoning board, officials from the Legion of Christ will transition the facilities at 60 Austin Ave. from Mater Ecclesiae College to a boarding school for 6th- through 9th-grade girls called Overbrook Academy.

The school, which will be located on 44 acres in Greenville, is set to open in the fall.

The permit was approved by Zoning Board of Review members at their Feb. 25 meeting and will allow the Legion to run the boarding school in a planned development district.

Zoning board Chairman George McKinnon told The Valley Breeze & Observer that officials from the Legion of Christ did not mention making any changes to the facilities.

Jim Fair, spokesman for the Legion, said that he doesn't expect any changes other than rearranging furniture.

"The buildings are ideally suited to the school," he said.

Officials from the Legion announced last fall that Mater Ecclesiae College will close at the end of the current school year, citing poor enrollment as a major reason.

The organization has also gone through turmoil over the past four or five years.

The Legion was taken over by the Vatican in 2010, under Pope Benedict XVI's direction, after it was discovered that the organization's founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children with two women.

The main difference between Mater Ecclesiae College and Overbrook Academy is the age of the students, Fair said.

"In both cases, the facility is operated by the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women," he added.

The younger students, approximately 150 of them, are set to move onto campus in August.

Fair said that many of the students are from Latin America. He described the program like a year abroad.

Founded in the 1980s and currently located in Warwick, the academy is an accredited international Catholic boarding school that offers a one-year program with a strong focus on English as a second language and overall personal development in the Catholic tradition.

According to a brochure for Overbrook Academy, "We help families who want to give their kids the opportunity to learn or perfect another language (English or French), experience a new culture, visit new countries, participate in different activities and sports, make friends from different nationalities, and grow in maturity, responsibility, and independence."

Fair told The Observer in January that moving the boarding school to the property in Greenville "ensures a continued peaceful, respectful, academic use of the property."

All of the students will live on campus, and will receive daily Mass, meals, and classes.

In addition to the students, there will be about 30 staff members, 15 of whom will live on campus with the students.