January 19 – MEETINGS OF THE BROTHERS
MEETINGS OF THE BROTHERS
On 19 January 1865, which was a Thursday and a holiday, Br. Eugene-Marie, who was on his way back to Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre from Rome, called a meeting·of five communities to be held in the morning at Chalonnes-sur-Loir (80 km from Saint Laurent), and another of six communities to be held in the afternoon at Jallais (a little nearer). These were the first area meetings. We have no evidence of such previous meetings, apart from those held at Saint-Laurent, the Brothers’ rallying point on the occasion of annual retreats. About ten such meetings were held in the following months. The purpose of the Superior General was to give news and encouragement by word of mouth and above all to strengthen the family spirit.
Br. Hubert sometimes put area meetings on the back burner and did not encourage them very much because he thought they entailed expenses and were too frivolous; however, area meetings have never ceased and are now very much alive in many Provinces.
In Spain the Brothers come together every three months, and in Catalonia, where the schools are near each other, they meet more frequently.
In France the Province of Nantes started area meetings in 1971 when it was divided into seven areas for animation. The practice has never ceased and thus four, five or six communities are able to meet every three months.
In Thailand the meetings take place on the basis of categories: the superiors and headmasters meet every month, and the other Brothers twice a year according to their age group.
Other meetings are less frequent but bring more Brothers togethe!.In Spain, every year, all the Brothers meet for a week at La Aguilera and take stock. In Canada the Brothers in the Montreal area meet around their jubilarians in June and those in the Champlain area in September; 60% of all the Brothers celebrate together Christmas and the New Year. In India the Brothers often meet on the basis of categories: the headmasters, the bursars, the temporarily professed, etc.
The largest and longest gathering ever held in the Institute took place during the first fortnight of August 1976, when 300 Brothers from the three French Provinces came together at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre. It was called RN 76 (1976 Rencontre Nationale). It was a family gathering, as well as a time for study with guest speakers, a spiritual retreat, and a forum for exchange of views in daily meetings according to age groups. Another such gathering, though smaller and lasting only two days, took place at Saint-Laurent in 1983, and another one in 1992 which brought together 200 Brothers for three days.