February 16 – GENERAL BURSARS
The title of General Bursar was first used in the 1899 Constitutions. Before that the name procurator was used. Nowadays this title applies to the Brother in charge of looking after the interests of the Institute in its dealings with the Holy See.
In the early days of the Congregation, Br. Augustin, who was an expert organiser of material things and wanted to do everty thing by himself, was holding the offices of both Superior General and procurator. The first “real” procurator was Br. Denis (Francois Richard); he held the office from 1847 to 1867 under three Superiors General. The last one, Br. Eugene-Marie, spoke highly of this “wise financial administrator”. Before and after his mandate Br. Denis spent most of his long active life at St Gabriel’s School at Chatellerault and was its highly valued head.
The first General Bursar, Br. Sebastien who was an Assistant General, filled the post for a record time (1901-1922); by his competence and methodical work, he showed the way to his successors.” He was really the right man in the right place. In accepting in a spirit of service the dull soul-destroying job of filling hundreds of pages with figures, he kept the general accounts of the Institute in perfect order. By taking financial newspapers and associating with bankers he learned how to buy only safe stocks and shares without indulging in speculation. In 1912-1913, in the court case concerning our Brothers versus the unscrupulous manager of the silkworm-rearing company which our Brothers worked with in Abyssinia, he proved a model of rigour, level-headedness and conciliation.
Br. Sebastien’s successor was Br. Augustin (Gustave Badinter). At the 1929
General Chapter he was re-appointed but ceased to be an Assistant General. From then on the two offices were to be separate, but this was not always the case (Br. JuanCiervide held both simultaneously). Br. Julien who came later (1935-1946) wrote valuable Instructions aux economes.
His successors – and this is an innovation – came directly from their own Provinces where some were Provincial Bursars:
– Br. Alfred (1946-1959) from the French western Province;
– Br. Pierre Canisius (1959-1965) from the Province of Saint-Laurent;
– Br. Mathijs Claessens (1965-1981) from the Belgian Province;
– Br. Juan Ciervide (1981-1994) from the Spanish Province;
– Br. Jean-Guy Blais (1995-1997) from the Canadian Province;
– Bro Jose Paniego (since 1 January 1998) from the Spanish Province.
After returning to Belgium Br. Mathijs Claessens put his great competence at the service of his Province as Provincial Bursar for 11 years and specialised in the financial administration of several Congregations.