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The Little Brothers of St Francis were founded in the Archdiocese of Boston in 1970. They follow an adaptation of the Rule for Hermits written by Saint Francis of Assisi and live the contemplative life among the poorest of the poor. The congregation was founded by Brother James Curran.

Brother James, who was then employed by the Opera Company of Boston, felt called to follow a life of prayer and service among the poor. In this goal, he was guided by the Franciscan friars who provided him counseling and spiritual direction. The first home of the community was Brother James' apartment on Beacon Hill in downtown Boston. He eventually gained the blessing of the archbishop, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, who was himself a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. The cardinal allowed him to take religious vows and to wear a Franciscan habit, even though he was alone at that point. He soon adopted a habit made of denim, which quickly became the distinguishing mark of the community, earning them the nickname of the "Bluejean Franciscans."

His way of life was to keep working at his secular job, while spending several hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He then would go out among the homeless who would congregate in downtown Boston, especially around the Boston Common, and distribute food and coffee, as well as other necessities of life.

As other men came to join him, the community eventually relocated to a house in the Mission Hill section of Boston, which is where it is still based.

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