August 14 – 98 PERPETUAL PROFESSIONS
98 PERPETUAL PROFESSIONS
A perpetual profession of 98 Brothers at the same time (86 of the West Province and 12 of the Centre-Midi Province) was witnessed only once in our history, on 14 August 1946, at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre. On 14, and not on 15, because the basilica of the parish, necessary due to the amplitude of the ceremonies, was not available on the day of the Assumption.
It was the time after the 1939-1945 war which had mobilised and kept as prisoners or workers of the compulsory work service in Germany several Brothers, whose final commitment was thus delayed. They gathered at Saint-Laurent and divided into two groups for two simultaneus retreats at the same time. During the celebration presided over by bishop Cazeaux, of Lu on, before an immense crowd, they pronounced their perpetual vows, one after the other, for forty minutes, before Br. Armand Joseph, interim Superior General.
One of the 98, Br. Patrice Bernard, a former prisoner, gave an account of the event in the review destined for the military Brothers of France Faites passer (there was no Provincial review then). Here is an extract of his long article.
“They are 98 brave hearts: youth, all vibrant with the years they held fast, with merit, in the absence of their ·elders; older ones, matured through forced labour in Germany; others older still, hardened by six years of war and captivity and free again, asking God to accept their liberty. They pronounce with one powerful voice the formula: “I give myself to God… for ever” and prostrate themselves before the altar in three rows. They now make a solemn adieu to the world… and this is the most touching of the minutes of this unforgettable day, when these 98 hearts of apostles declare in loud voice and facing heaven and earth: ‘Farewell, deceitful world!’ Many eyes are full of tears, of parents who had come there and proud of having a son vowing to lead the life of a different world”.
Fifty years later, on 6 August 1996, the event was commemorated in the same basilica around Br. Jean Friant. For various reasons (death, advanced age, distance, etc.), 31 only were present.
The other groups of perpetually professed are way behind in number:
32 Brothers, on 16-9-1875, at St-Laurent; 20 Brothers, on 21-7-1936, in Canada;
20 Brothers, on 25-12-1961, at Yercaud; 33 Brothers, on 6-8-1963, at St-Laurent.
The pronouncement of first vows had and continues to have bigger groups:
-in France: 42 (in 1824), 48 (in 1860), 50 (in 1875), 44 (in 1950);
-in Canada: 24 (in 1935);
-in India: 28 (in 1972), 29 (in 1980), 27 (in 1997), 30 (in 1998), 29 (in 1999).