January 20 – IN COLOMBIA
What happened when the Brothers arrived in Colombia is strongly reminiscent of what had happened at Auray 130 years earlier. The Daughters of Wisdom, who were then in charge of their first school for deaf boys and girls in a former country house, asked Fr. Deshayes to send them Brothers to look after the deaf boys. In Colombia the Sisters who had been working in that country since 1905, were running two schools for disabled children, one in Bogota and the other in Medellfn. In an indirect way they caused the Brothers of St Gabriel to go and work in Colombia, as the following letter to Br. Gabriel-Marie, Superior General, dated 7 March 1958, testifies: “We are turning to you on behalf of the Colombian mothers with deaf and mute children. The girls are being looked after by the Daughters of Wisdom who help them to find their way in life. But the boys have virtually no one to look after them. We have heard of your work through the Daughters of Wisdom and we f el that if you come to Colombia our children will be saved.” ·
More similar appeals decided the Superior General to travel to Colombia in the summer of 1960; Br. Vincent Ferrer, a Spanish Assistant, accompanied him. The man in charge of the Ciesor establishment in Medellin was then looking for someone to take over; it was decided that the Brothers would start there and three of them arrived there in January 1961 (See 1 May).
Two attempts were made in 1962 to take charge of a similar establishment in Bogota, and also, in 1963, of Pius XII College at Pacho in the suburbs of Bogota, but the Brothers did not stay long: they withdrew from the two schools in-1964.-
From then on they confined themselves to working in Medellfn: at the Ciesor until 1986, and at the Tesoro from 1967. This property of some 19 acres became in tum (or concurrently) a juniorate, a vocation centre, a primary school, a secondary school and the main residence of the Brothers teaching in various schools in the city.
In 1993, when the Tesoro was put up for sale, three Brothers went to work with the Daughters of Wisdom in their school for the deaf and the blind in Bogota. The experiment came to an end in 1998. There are now only three Brothers in Medellfn; they are engaged in teaching the poor children of Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt Secondary School (one of the 743 centres run by the Fey Alegrfa Movement); they also teach at a school in Bello Orizonte; this school was built in an area without any transport link and the building materials were brought by men and horses.
The other two Montfortian Congregations arrived in Colombia almost simultaneously: the Company of Mary in 1904 and the Daughters of Wisdom in 1905. They have expanded considerably. At the end of the 20th century there were 61
Colombian-born priests and 154 Sisters, but no Colombian-born Brother of St Gabriel yet.