Ridgefield in the 20th Century was home to several novitiates, schools operated by religious congregations that trained future priests, sisters or brothers. The largest and longest-lived novitiate belonged to the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, then commonly called the Holy Ghost Fathers. Now officially known as the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, or the Spiritans, the missionary order bought the former Cheesman estate on Prospect Ridge and trained novices there from 1922 to 1971.
The operation of a novitiate in the center of town attracted a number of young Ridgefield Catholic men. One was Francis McGlynn, who wanted to become a missionary in Africa. He wound up, however, spending most of his career within 20 miles of his birthplace, not as a parish priest but as a leader and scholar of national reputation, a theologian and professor of theology who taught decades of future missionaries.