July 29 – JOURNEYS OF THE SUPERIORS GENERAL
JOURNEYS OF THE SUPERIORS GENERAL
We can understand the intention of the General Council, which in its meeting of 29 July 1872 decided to contribute 5,000 francs, then 10,000 francs two years later to the railway company of France, if the project of the Fontenay-le-Comte to Cholet line passed in the vicinity of Saint-Laurent. Such a station would save the necessity of having to drive up to Cholet, 12 km away, and gain the time on travels so indispensable for all the Superiors. The first two Superiors General travelled on foot, by barouche, stagecoach, boat (in Southern France), and railways much later.
The first long journey of a Superior – it is worth spending a little time here – was that of Br. Simeon. Starting from Saint-Laurent on 6 November 1854, he stopped at Tours to greet the Archbishop; at Chatellerault to visit the Brothers; at Bordeaux to wait for the ship; at Toulouse where he met with a priest who asked for Brothers for a house of young detainees; at Poussan where Brothers had just arrived; at Marseilles where he climbed up to Notre-Dame de la Garde to pray; at Lorgues from where he went to visit Mr Auran, a distinguished benefactor, Mgr Jordany bishop of Frejus, and our schools of Bargemen and Entrecasteaux; at Corps in the hope, not realised, of going up to the shrine of La Salette; at Mees from where he went to Digne to meet with the bishop; at Lyon to pray at Fourvieres; at Versailles where four Brothers were working; at Lille where he remained for ten days; at our school for the deaf-dumb of Scissons; at Paris for a pilgrimage to Notre-Dame des Victoires; once again at Versailles for one more visit to the Brothers. He reached Saint-Laurent on 4 January 1865 after two months of travelling, and covering 3600 km.
Br. Eugene-Marie had the chance of arriving when the French railway network was being extended all over the country. He made several journeys, from Toulouse to Lille, from Saint-Laurent to Lorgues via Clermont-Ferrand to visit the Brothers, to settle problems and to start houses. Some Brothers criticised him. “If one knew”, he wrote to Br. Simeon, “the fatigue that overtakes me, and the journeys and the functions implied in my task, one would perhaps be more reserved in such censures”. With the expansion of the Institute outside of the French borders, another era wasbeginning. Br. Hubert went to Canada in May 1890, with an Assistant and some Brothers, to strengthen the fledgling colony. When his successor, Br. Martial, died in Liverpool, he was undertaking his seventh journey beyond the Atlantic. Evoking the year 1905 in a circular he had written: “Never have I undertaken so many and so long journeys than during this year just completed. They succeeded almost without interruption for nearly seven months: Belgium, Canada, England, Switzerland, France, and Italy saw me in their turn… The constant goal of all our movements was to contribute to the prosperity of the works of the Congregation. We are applying ourselves ceaselessly to encourage our Brothers in the fulfilment of their daily tasks, as in their efforts at religious perfection”.
The objectives of the following·Superiors also were hardly different. Br. Sebastien accomplished, from 10 September 1926 to 17 March 1927, his longest journey: Ethiopia, Thailand and India. Planes would give other possibilities. For example, Br. Gabriel-Marie could cover 28,000 km in a few months (October 1956- March 1957) to visit houses in South America and Africa. Br. Jean Friant made a trip round the world starting from 15 January to 5 March 1991 (Tanzania, South Pacific and Latin America).