July 11 – SPANISH BROTHERS IN ASIA
SPANISH BROTHERS IN ASIA
The second missionary sector for Spain, after Venezuela (See 3 October), was Thailand. Br. Michel (Rene Leduc), Principal of Assumption College, made use of his coming to the General Chapter of 1920 to go to Spain to ask for missionaries. On 8 September 1920, he embarked at Barcelona with three French Brothers and two Spanish Brothers: Br. Ludovico-Marfa and Br. Montfort del Rosario. In all 25 Spanish Brothers arrived in Thailand between 1920 and 1935. We shall recall some of the great names as examples.
Br. Ludovico-Maria (1900-1960) was an intellectual and an artist. A true linguist: he spoke English, French, Italian, Thai, Latin and Sanskrit apart from Catalan his mother tongue and Spanish, and he could read Greek. He translated into Thai canticles and quite a number of religious books meant for Catholics; he taught Thai to several missionaries: priests, nuns and Brothers. His last house was the juniorate that he founded at Sriracha on 28 April 1948 and which he had transferred to Petriu twelve years later on 28 April 1960. He went there himself travelling through canals. The boat was overloaded and sank with all his books, songs and manuscripts… His great spirit of detachment was final an ardent devotee of Mary, he died on the following August 15.
Br. Montfort del Rosario (1900-1966) was a man of action. This Basque was tough by nature, had a strong temperament and dauntless faith. When all the French Brothers had to quit Thailand during the Second World War, he played a leading role in saving the Assumption College and the whole district. From 1953 to 1960, he was in charge of the boarding in Sriracha and constructed the major part of the school and the imposing chapel (See 19 May). .
Br. Gregorio Nacianceno (1906-1973), his compatriot, who spent the 48 years of his missionary life at the St Gabriel’s College in Bangkok as teacher and then as bursar, was so fast in stenography that he could win two international first prizes and several gold medals.
Br. Luis Gonzaga (1903-1986) was a reserved, modest and simple Castilian, who taught seventeen years at Bangkok before being sent to Singapore in 1938 as Principal of Holy Innocents’ High School. From 1953, he was in charge of Institutions especially in Malaysia (schools and the scholasticate).
Br. Vicente Marla (1915-1986) first of all studied French in France and English in India from 1932 to 1936, before starting to teach at St Gabriel’s in Bangkok. He remained there for almost forty years engaged in a triple activity as mathematics and science teacher, as animator of groups of the Legion of Mary for teachers and the most senior students, and finally as visitor and benefactor in the midst of the destitute in a very poor quarter. For twelve years towards the end, he was Director of the juniorate and the postulants’ home. Struck by cancer he wrote in his notebook shortly before he died: “May the will of God be done! I am the slave of the Father. I offer myself to Him through Jesus and through Mary, His beloved daughter, my mother and my absolute mistress”.