January 14 – LA PERSAGOTIERE
The famous Institution for the deaf and the blind at Nantes was born in Chartreuse d’Auray as a mixed school for deaf children, from where the boys were transferred in 1843 to the hospital complex of StJames in Nantes and from there on 15 November 1856 to La Persagotiere which consisted of a terrain of four and a h lf hectares around a master’s house on the banks ofthe Sevre river. The General Council of the Department voted unanimously the FF 115,000 necessary for the purchase and repairs.
The founder of the Institution was Br. Louis. During his long stay of 34 years at La Persagotiere- plus the 12 years in the Saint James complex- there was only one brief interruption. The Superiors appointed him to Orleans in 1874. He was there for hardly two months, because at Nantes both the Bishop and the Prefect moved heaven and earth to get him back. Knowing that a triumphal welcome was being prepared, he gotdown at the previous station and reached la Persagotiere on foot and quietly. That was his way of doing it. In 1857, when the Prefect Mr Chevreau wanted to include his · name among the benefactors on the marble plaque placed on the fa ade of the main building, he wrote to the Superior General: “Knowing more or less Br. Louis’ disposition, I do not expect you to ask him to agree to this display. May God give me the grace to see one day this name written in the book of life; I believe everything that religious modesty strives after is found there”. Needless to say that the objections of the interested party were not taken into account.
Yes, modest but known to the whole city of Nantes where, his welcoming attitude had made him lighten all burden, and he was called “the Bishop of the two bridges” (the two bridges on the Loire between the centre of Nantes and La Persagotiere). When he died there in 1890, the municipality arranged a splendid funeral, gave his name to the street leading to la Persagotiere and erected at the cemetery of Saint-Jacques his bust which showed a wrinkled face, white hair covered by a black skullcap and beautiful shining eyes exuding intelligence.
His death was going to bring about a crisis. He had spent his last years filling pages dealing with his favourite thesis: Gabriel Deshayes as the unique founder of the Brothers, and to win for it adepts in his circle. At his death, the Brothers and the chaplain intrigued about replacing him by his sub-director Br. Mathias who shared his ideas. Br. Narcisse, the Visitor, spent two months on the spot negotiating with the Prefect, the Bishop and the community so that the Director designated by the Superiors, Br. Privat, could take over.
It was Br. Privat (Antoine Constantin) who opened the section for the blind in After him, Br. Benoit alias Mr Lemesle, Director between two world wars, started the FISAF (See 1st April).
The last three Brother Directors, before the Institution started to be run by a lay person, were Br. Rene Cariou (Antoine de Jesus), from 1939 to 1949, Br. Joseph Allaire (1949-1974) and Br. Yvon Garrec (1974-1982).