After 35 years, Hope House Ministries is reuniting with its roots.
Earlier this year, in light of financial difficulties and a lack of manpower, the Franciscan Brothers of the Little Portion Friary on Old Post Road in Mount Sinai announced their building was closing. But this past spring, Father Francis Pizzarelli approached the brothers about acquiring part of the property, and now it can still have a future.
According to Pizzarelli, his Port Jefferson-based nonprofit Hope House Ministries began at the Little Portion Friary location, when it rented the friary’s guesthouse. The group has since grown, adding local properties such as the Pax Christi Hospitality Center on Oakland Avenue in Port Jefferson, where it shelters homeless men. Now it will return to where it all started.
Pizzarelli said the brothers were going to sell the 44-acre property to a developer who was going to build condominiums. Instead, Hope House will rent four acres of the lot — with the rent going toward the land’s purchase price — while the remaining 40 acres will go to Suffolk County. Hope House will change the facility’s name to Hope Academy at Little Portion Friary and use the building to further assist and support the people who are battling addiction.
With Long Island facing heroin addiction in particular as a widespread problem, Pizzarelli said he didn’t have enough space to help, so he first purchased an apartment house in Port Jefferson to accommodate those individuals brought in for assistance.
“What the friary is going to provide for me is greater space,” Pizzarelli said.
The young men who currently reside at the apartment house will be moved to the friary, and the additional space will give them more room to reflect and help further their treatment, the priest said.
The building required basic maintenance and renovations, including repainting the bedrooms, replacing carpets and cleaning the facility.
“When the brothers realized they had to leave, they weren’t going to spend money on a building that might have been demolished,” Pizzarelli said.
Hope House began renovating the building in September. Residents like Ann Moran of Sound Beach described the friary as a “little known secret” in the Mount Sinai area. She was pleased about the friary’s new future, saying, “I’m delighted that Hope House is taking it over and the [friary] won’t be closing.”
Pizzarelli said his neighbors were also thrilled that Hope House was preserving the friary’s nearly eight and a half decades of service to the community.
Despite the changes, one local tradition will remain — the bakery is and will still be open for business. For many years, the brothers were known locally for baking bread and have passed the baton to Hope House, which has been selling bread since October.
Pizzarelli said he kept the bakery “not so much to make money, but to basically honor the brothers and their 86 years.”
The labyrinth and chapel will also be available for community members to use.
According to the Little Portion Friary website, the friary helped serve the community through “prayer, study and work.” The brothers of the friary occasionally took in homeless people or others who simply needed a safe place to go.
The Franciscan brothers are currently in San Francisco and were not available for comment, but Pizzarelli said the brothers were also pleased to know the friary would be used for a good cause.
“The Franciscan brothers have always been supportive of this ministry and are grateful that [the] ministry will continue to give life to this holy ground.”