Compulsory retirement for teaching Brothers – at 60 in France, and at 55 in Gabon – is comparatively recent. Before this law there was no age-limit for teachers and some Brothers went on teaching until they were 70, 75 or 80. Br. Mamertin, whose anniversary occurs today, was still teaching at 74 years old. When Br. Maurice, who had founded and managed the school at Diego-Suarez in Madagascar, returned to France in 1923 after labouring 20 years in the tropics, he was 77. Instead of taking a well-earned rest he went on teaching until he was 87 and died two years later.

Retirement is not synonymous with absence of activity. A second career begins for the Brothers who believe that “old age is a privileged period for a new _growth and new fruitfulness”, as somebody put it in 1989 during a meeting of 25 newly-retired Brothers. The majority of the communities in France and Canada are now made up of elderly Brothers; many of them devote themselves to spiritual activities (leading prayer groups, the liturgy, teaching catechism) or socially-orientated activities (teaching literacy, visiting the sick and the elderly, counselling those who have been wounded by life in all sorts of ways).

Some retired Brothers volunteer to go and work in Africa or Latin America… or at the General House. Let us mention, among others, the French Brothers who used to teach in schools for the deaf and the blind who now use their skills to help teachers and pupils in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the People’s Republic of the Congo, etc.

Those formerly in authority in the Institute have set an example in this respect. Br. Gabriel-Marie, former Superior General, devoted seven years to the formation of juniors, novices and junior Brothers in Senegal. Br. Laurent, a former French Assistant General from 1946 to 1957, left for Africa for the first time when he was 54; he founded and was Superior of the novitiate at Notre-Dame d’Afrique in Brazzaville, then he taught at Lambarene (Gabon) and at Sangmelima (Cameroon); while there he fell ill and returned to France where he died aged 67 years. Br. Rene Simard, a former Canadian Assistant General from 1959 to 1965, left for Rwanda in 1969 at the age of 59. He stayed there for 25 years, teaching at the classical college in Nyanza before he became administrator and Superior of the school for the deaf and dumb at Butare, then he was in charge of the postulants and scholastics. The former Provincials were not to be outdone. At the end of the 20th century, three former French Provincials were working in Brazil; they had left France in 1974, 1987 and 1989.