Gathering with the Brothers of Ploërmel
Sunday, February 21, 2016, the Brothers of the community of General House had the joy of welcoming our “cousins”, the Brothers of Christian Instruction, called Ploërmel. Fifteen Brothers of Ploërmel have partaken fraternally in our Eucharist and festive meal. Almost all the members of the General Council along with with Yannick Houssay, Superior General, and the Brothers of the community were present.
We may recall on this occasion the strong bond between our two Congregations. Our second “founder,” Father Gabriel Deshayes (1767-1841) who became parish priest of Auray, had realized that the rural parishes of Brittany suffered from a severe lack of teachers. In 1816, he welcomed young people in his presbytery and founded the “Little Brothers of Brittany”: 43 young people were formed in Auray novitiate between 1816 and 1823. On the other hand, Jean-Marie de La Mennais (1780-1860) a priest of Saint-Malo who became the Vicar General of Saint-Brieuc, was also concerned by the plight of the rural parishes. In 1817, he decided to train teachers for the countryside and later he founded a novitiate in Saint-Brieuc. Monsignor Deshayes and Monsignor De Lamennais met several times in 1817. On June 6, 1819 in Saint-Brieuc, they joined both the groups and founded the “Congregation of the Brothers of Christian Instruction”, with two novitiates: one in Auray and the other in Saint-Brieuc. Initially, they jointly led the Congregation. From 9 to 15 September 1820, a common retreat of Auray was held, with 50 Brothers and novices from Auray and Saint-Brieuc. At the conclusion of the retreat, held the first vows. In 1824, Fr. Deshayes bought the ancient Ursuline convent in Ploërmel to serve as Mother House as well as the novitiate in the Congregation. Monsignor Deshayes, named Superior of the Montfortian Congregations in 1821 and gradually leaves to Monsignor De Lamennais to lead the Congregation. Brothers of Ploërmel therefore consider Father Deshayes as a co-founder. From our side, we remember that in 1821, Father Deshayes brought to St. Laurent, a Brother (Augustin (Jean Éveno) and 9 novices from Auray, who were attached to Community of three Brothers of the Holy Spirit. It is from this providential contribution that the Brothers of the Holy Spirit experience an extraordinary development: thanks to Fr. Deshayes, the original draft of Father de Montfort to raise charitable schools is an unexpected achievement.
At 11.30, we joyfully celebrated the Eucharist for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, in the spirit of the Transfiguration well emphasized by Fr. Jaimon, our chaplain. Our thirty voices were very well supported by the guitar of Brother André Roberge. In front of the pulpit, portraits of Montfort, Gabriel Deshayes and Jean-Marie de Lamennais, reminded us our essential links. Our celebration ended with the hymn of Jubilee of Mercy.
At 12.30, an aperitif was an opportunity for fraternal exchanges, speeches and toasts welcome given by Brother Georges Le Vern, Superior of the Community, and by Brother John Kallarackal, Superior General. All the Brothers were introduced by the respective Superiors of the two communities.
At 13.00, an excellent meal prepared by our Sisters of St. Joseph of Kottayam revitalized our bodies and minds, in a cordial atmosphere. A delicious “tiramisù”, prepared with love by our Sisters, and two bottles of “spumante dolce”, opened successfully by the two Superiors General, have concluded our fraternal meal perfectly. The famous song of Hugues Aufray, “Santiano” in honor of the sailors of Saint-Malo, reminded us that Louis Marie Grignon, Gabriel Deshayes and Jean-Marie de Lamennais are Britons and sons of diocese of Saint-Malo. That is why we sang in conclusion:
« T’nez bon la barre, et t’nez bon le vent,
Hissez haut, fils de Saint-Malo !
Louis-Marie, Gabriel, Jean Marie,
Allons, voguons tous vers le Très-Haut ! »
Brother Yannick Houssay, Superior General of the Brothers of Ploërmel, concluded this fraternal meeting, highlighting again the deep ties between our two congregations.