July 24 – BRO. FRANCIS NATHER
BRO. FRANCIS NATHER
The itinerary of Br. Francis Nather who died on 24 July 1959 gives us a good idea of the life of the first Indian rothers (See 10 February). Born in Madras on 11 February 1883, feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, he was given the name of Lourduswamy at baptism. His parents, very devout Christians, were poor workers. After his primary school, he could continue his studies at the Paris Foreign Mission Fathers’ school in Cuddalore, south of Pondichery. Then he learnt watch repairing and practised it at a big jeweller’s shop in Madras. Desiring to become a religious, he confided himself to a cousin and through him to a priest who contacted Br. Denis, the novice master in Tindivanam. The parents who were losing a bread winner opposed the idea, until his younger Brother found a remunerative job. He could then enter the novitiate. He was 30 years old. He took the religious habit – the same as in Europe – on 18 December 1913 and received the name of Francis Nather. During his two years of novitiate, he was impressed by Br. Denis and his Socius, Br. Louis Mary, the first Indian Brother, who would be his guru all his life. After his first profession on 18 December 1915, he remained at Tindivanam until January . 1938. First supervising the orphans of the industrial school, he was a precious companion to the French Brothers who spoke Tamil rather badly. Then, as in charge of the farm, he gave proof of great goodness towards his employees, often the poor dalits of the village, and he never ceased to come to their help. He was at the same time the service-minded and regular Director of the small community of the farm Brothers.
After spending a year at Montfort School, Yercaud, as its bursar, he took charge of another group of children in 1939. The juniorate of Coonoor had just been opened to receive about fifteen youths coming for the first time from Kerala. They knew only Malayalam and they were far away from their families. Br. Francis Nather, sent there as assistant to the Director of the juniorate, was their Tamil teacher. He was like a father to them, paying attention to all their needs.
He only remained for six years at Coonoor. In 1945 he felt tired though he was only 62 years old. He returned to his dear Tindivanam where he lived his last fourteen years rendering all types of service and spending his free time in the chapel, revealing to all a face shining with peace. From 1957, between April and July, he escaped the great summer heat of Tindivanam and took refuge on the 2000 m summit of Coonoor. It was there in 1959, he fell victim to an incurable malady: lung cancer. Breathe was a suffering, but he never complained. Entering the municipal hospital on 6 July, he was visited by his confreres each day and he would ask them to recite with him the prescribed prayers. The end being near, he received the favour of dying in the community. Returning to his Brothers on the morning of 24 July, he died the same evening.
He was buried in the parish cemetery alongside Br. Philip who died at age 34 some twenty five years earlier. When the latter, who had run the primary school, died on 28 July 1933, the parish priest of Coonoor said to Br. Eugene Mary, Director Principal: “You are forming your Indian Brothers very well. The death of Br. Philip is a loss to my whole parish for which he was an edification”.