June 18 – FOREIGN MISSIONS
Br. Martin de Vertou, called ‘good Monsieur Faucheux’ was one of the three pioneers in India (1903). He never left the school-cum-seminary in Pondichery, even . after he had retired. His old friends, the priests of the Foreign Missions, obtained from their Superior General permission to confer on him the title of honorary member of their society. This gives us an opportunity to say a few words about these priests with whom the Institute has always had close connections in Asia.
It is a society of apostolic life born in Paris about the middle of the 17th century as a result of a desire expressed by a number of priests and lay people to take part in missionary work, ·which until then was the preserve of religious. A seminary was founded for this purpose in 1663 in Paris. It exists to this day and it is at the same time the General House of the society.
The early missionaries arrived at Ayuathia, capital of Thailand, in 1662; Thailand was then the only country open to them in South-East Asia. They founded a seminary there in 1655 which supplied priests for Cochin China, Tonkin and China. When the Company of Jesus was abolished in the 18th century the priests of the Foreign Missions took over from them in India under the name of mission of Madurai (1776).
The first contacts between the priests of the Foreign Missions of Paris and the Brothers of Saint Gabriel took place in 1862, first by letter then during a visit to Saint Laurent by Fr. Pernot, Superior of their Paris seminary, preparatory to a foundation in Saigon. On 24 August 1863 the General Council voted in favour of sending Brothers to the mission in Cochin China by 10 votes to 4. But the Bishop of Lu on, under whose authority the Institute was then, vetoed the decision in view of the small number of Brothers in the Congregation.
In contrast, the visit made to Saint-Laurent in 1901 by Fr. Colombet, founder and headmaster of Assumption College, Bangkok, resulted in Brothers being sent to Bangkok; they arrived there in 1901 and this move was followed by the rapid growth of the District, and later the Province, of Thailand.
The expansion of the Congregation in India is also partly due to the priests of the Foreign Missions. It was Fr. Selosse, a past pupil of the Brothers in Lille, who made it possible in 1903 for the Brothers to go to Pondichery·where they taught in the seminary run by these priests. It was Fr. Combes, parish priest of Tindivanam, who made it possible for them to built a technical school there in 1904. It was Bishop Roy of Coimbatore who made it possible for them to take charge of Ootacamund College at the beginning of 1906. It was the Bishop of Mysore who made it possible for them to teach from 1901 to 1925 at St Joseph’s College, Bangalore, run by the priests of the Foreign Missions.