A Legacy Gift

Five priests known as “The Abbey Fathers”—Albert Contons, Daniel Gilmartin, John Mahoney, Daniel Barrett and Daniel Hannigan— all taught at St. Sebastian’s, most of them for more than 20 years during the 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s. Their nickname was derived from a beautiful property they owned together with Rev. Robert Bryson and Msgr. John Connor in Marshfield, MA, called “The Abbey.”

Today, only one of the five, Monsignor Contons, is still living; but through a generous gift to St. Sebastian’s, he has honored their memory while giving back to the School that they all loved. In 1953, when Monsignor Contons started teaching at St. Sebastian’s, there was a group of priests who would rent a house for the summer and he decided to join them. It became a tradition and after a few summers, the priests decided it only made sense to buy a house that they could all enjoy for years to come. 

On April 19, 1956, the group of St. Sebastian’s priests became the proud owners of the home in Marshfield. It was the first house they looked at together and it quickly was dubbed “The Abbey.”  The title was perfect; it honored the real estate agent who helped them find the home and advised them so wisely (her first name was Abbey), and also seemed fitting for its religious association.   

When “The Abbey Fathers” first bought the house, it needed much repair. Thankfully, Father Barrett was an excellent carpenter, and each day he would give everyone an assignment. They would work until late afternoon when they would head off to the beach. After a couple of years, the house was in tip-top shape and there was more time to relax during the summers and on days off.

Many fond memories were created at “The Abbey” over the next several decades. In addition to Father Barrett’s invaluable carpentry skills, he was also an excellent cook and prepared countless scrumptious meals. The house had a gorgeous view of the ocean and river. The priests would watch the boats from the wraparound porch, with a breeze even on the warmest day. There were lots of days at the beach and “sailing the seven seas” on Father Hannigan’s boat. Students and alumni who lived in the area would stop by to visit, and in later years, to help.   

Meanwhile, most of the five priests continued to teach at St. Sebastian’s and touched the lives of many young Arrows.  Father Gilmartin, a “gentle giant,” taught Math and was a very successful basketball coach, winning two New England Championships. Father Barrett, a Latin teacher and School librarian, demanded only the very best. Father Mahoney, also demanding but well-liked, taught Math and served as School photographer and track coach. Father Hannigan taught Latin, Math and Religion and coached football and hockey. Monsignor Contons, the great intellect of the group, taught Latin and French and coached tennis. 

For 56 years, including the time they taught at St. Sebastian’s, “The Abbey” served as a great escape. But after all of his friends and co-owners passed away, Monsignor Contons made the decision to sell the house. He thinks the Fathers would be pleased by his choice to give a significant portion of the real estate sale to St. Sebastian’s. “I see it as a way to help the School and its students, while also keeping the Fathers’ memory alive.”  The Abbey Scholarship Fund leaves a legacy that revives their devotion to this school and will help future generations of Arrows. 

“The phenomenally generous gift of $350,000 to our endowment for financial aid evinces the selfless dedication of our priest faculty, who only yesterday called their students to greatness in the classroom and now and forever nurture and support Arrows of today and tomorrow,” states Headmaster Bill Burke. “The future of our School will depend, to a very large extent, upon the philanthropy of donors who support our endowment in the loving spirit of Msgr. Contons and his brother priests.”

For information on how you can leave your own legacy to St. Sebastian’s or add to the Abbey Scholarship Fund, contact Rich Arms, Director of Development, at 781-247-0116 or richard_arms@stsebs.org. Whether it is a gift of real estate, a deferred gift, or to leave St. Sebastian’s in your will, you can have an impact on the School’s future success.