August 31 – ALMOST BROTHERS
About forty Brothers who left the Institute in 1903 later returned to its fold. Among the others, far greater in number, there is one category that deserves attention and esteem: those who, even though outside the body of the Institute, kept its spirit and behaved in such a way as to be almost considered as Brothers. Here are some examples.
Francois Cougoul was born in Auvergne and became Br. Salvius. At age 19 years, he was sent as teacher to the school ofNeuvy-en-Mauges in September 1890. He would never leave this school. In 1901, at the demand of the local nobility and encouraged by religious authorities, he got secularised on the spot in order to save the school. On 30 March 1941, the whole parish celebrated his fifty years presence at Neuvy. At his funeral on 24 March 1943, Canon Pasquier, Director of catholic education of the diocese of Angers would declare: “The sacrifice of those who hold on to their post has saved our schools and, with it and through it, considerable spiritual interests have been safeguarded: Christian life of our parishes, our right to teach under the gaze of Christ, and the faith of our children. After having accepted to return to the world through secularisation, having changed the shape of his dress, but not the quality of his life, Mr Francois Cougoul lived forty years more in your midst and devoted himself to his duties as teacher with an ardour which never diminished”.
At Combrand (Deux-Sevres), Mr Pierre Morand (ex-Br. Clovis) continued to say the prayers of the Congregation and, from his school, he provided vocations to seminaries and novitiates for thirty years. Several Brothers, such as Br. Jean de la Croix or Br. Montfort (Antoine Marchand) owed him their vocation.
At Thenezay (Deux-Sevres), the following plaque can be read above the entrance to the classes of the catholic school: “To the memory of Mr Pierre Jeannin, Principal of the school, 1895-1921. His pupils and grateful friends”. A former student of the school would write his souvenirs and while evoking the first Principal he knew there (it was in 1920) he would write: “Monsieur Jeannin, of the Brothers of St Gabriel”. So he had always considered him as a Brother.
At La Persagotiere, Mr Antoine Constantin (ex-Br. Privat) affirmed that he wanted to act “as per the opinions of my Sup riors and of competent and deeply religious men, and to ask for secularisation to prevent so important a work as teaching the deaf and dumb and the blind youth from falling into the hands of lay atheistic teachers”. He was the “lay” Principal of an Institution where the teachers were Brothers, and he lived somewhat their way. At the end of his life, while remaining “secularised”, he went to live with them at their house in San Remo (Italy), where he died on 20 November 1921.