Sister Catherine Goddard Clarke was the foundress of the original Saint Benedict Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was a married laywoman. Later (1949), she would become one of the founding members of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She was also one of the Center's "three teachers," whom we have described elsewhere in the following manner:
In 1940, a prominent Catholic laywoman, Catherine Goddard Clarke, sought permission of the then Archbishop of Boston, William Cardinal O'Connell, to establish an educational oasis of Catholic truth close to the renowned secular universities that dominated the area. The cardinal agreed to the project, admonishing Mrs. Clarke to "teach the Faith without compromise." So it was that Saint Benedict Center quietly came into existence that year at the intersection of Bow and Arrow Streets in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Center's initial purpose was to provide religious instruction for the Catholic students of the universities. In keeping with the instructions of Cardinal O'Connell, its policy was to teach the authentic doctrines of the Church through the study of Holy Scripture and the writings of the Fathers, Doctors, and Saints of the Church. This program of studies achieved immediate success, filling the spiritual vacuum created by an obvious deficiency in the neighboring academic institutions. The Center was attended in large and growing numbers.
In 1942 the well-known and loved Jesuit priest, Father Leonard Feeney, became associated with the work of the Center, counseling students, lecturing, and eventually becoming — by general demand, and by appointment from his superiors in the Society of Jesus and the Archdiocese of Boston — the spiritual director of Saint Benedict Center. An author and poet in his own right, Father Feeney was hailed by his Jesuit Provincial as "the greatest theologian we have in the United States by far," and was also acclaimed publicly as "America's Chesterton." Before long, Father was lecturing on Holy Scripture to a packed Center every Thursday evening, while Mrs. Clarke enjoyed equal success with her Monday evening lectures on Church History.
Later in 1942, while on a research fellowship at Harvard University, Professor Fakhri Maluf of Lebanon visited the Center. Within a short time, Father Feeney asked Doctor Maluf to begin Tuesday evening lectures on philosophy.
These three teachers formed a beautiful union which had a balance and blend that captured and inspired the hearts and minds of those who were studying their Catholic Faith at the Center. They are the founders of what ultimately became the Crusade of Saint Benedict Center.