February 9 – IN ETHIOPIA


It was at the invitation of Mgr. Jarosseau, a Capuchin born in Vendee, that the Institute went to help him in his vicariate apostolic in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). The first Brothers making up the mission travelled by rail (the railway was still being built), then with a caravan; the journey from Djibouti to Harrar took three weeks; they found that Harrar was a big trade centre at an altitude of about 5,400 feet. They started a school for Catholic children there, in a district where Catholics are a tiny minority among a Coptic and Muslim population.

In 1905, the Institute started an unusual undertaking. A friend of the priests in the mission, who was a representative of a Parisian company, had acquired from emperor Menelik a large piece of land (2,400 acres) in which to start two business concerns: silkworm rearing at Arguitti (or Laga Arba), and timberland and cattle-rearing at Alila. Mgr. Jarosseau considered these businesses as a possible way to strike roots in the country in case of persecutions. The Superior General, Br. Martial, unenthusiastic at first, agreed to send two Brothers there. However, in view of the methods used by the company, he withdrew them in 1911.

The true vocation of the Brothers in Abyssinia still lay in education. After the school at Harrar, they took charge of another one in the capital Addis Ababa in 1907; then of a third at Dire-Dawa in 1910 (when the first one was closed); then of a vocational school in the same town; and finally of another in Harrar in 1929.

The schools at Dire-Dawa and Addis Ababa were  granted a special status. Mgr. Jarosseau was short of financial resources and wanted to screen the Catholic schools behind a humanitarian objective because the Copts objected to Catholic schools; he held talks with the managing Director of the Franco- ·

Egyptian Railway and the Alliance Fran9aise Committee about the construction and running of the schools. In return the schools became secularised: the Brothers were to wear civilian dress, abstain from proselytising and from teaching catechism, although they were allowed to provide religious education outside the schools. All these schools closed in 1936 in the wake of the war between Italy and Ethiopia.

The Brothers teaching in Djibouti from 1900 to 1922