June 13 – THE EARLY THAI BROTHERS
THE EARLY THAI BROTHERS
On 4 March 1953 Br. Clement Mary wrote the following to the Superior General: “As a pupil of the Brothers of St Gabriel at Assumption College from the age of seven (in 1907) I have had the privilege to live with them and have highly valued the selfless and dedicated way of life of my dear teachers.” All the early Thai Brothers discovered their vocation while attending Gabrielite schools: the first four while attending Assumption College, Bangkok, and the fifth while attending Petriu College. At that time, between 1910 and 1940, there were no houses of formation in Thailand, so the early candidates were sent to Europe or Singapore for their novitiate. It is easy to imagine the difficulties they had to face in Europe in the way of climate, customs and languages. The first to travel to Europe was Br. Theophane Venard. He was born in 1891 and arrived in Europe, where he stayed 16 years: two years for his novitiate in Peruwelz (Belgium) and Neeritter (Holland), two years for his scholasticate at Peruwelz and Canet de Mar (Spain); he taught at Valls (Spain) for five years, and three years at Caldetas novitiate; then he spent four years studying for a degree in London. After returning to Thailand in 1927 he taught at St Gabriel’s College for 17 years and at Sriracha for nine years; he was headmaster of this school in the difficult times in the early days of the school during and after the war; then he was put in charge of the whole estate. He died in 1976 at the age of 85. By contrast, the second Thai Brother, Br. Rodriguez, who was born in 1895, was only 25 when he died. He had made his novitiate at Canet de Mar and was the first Brother to be buried in Caldetas cemetery in 1916.
The third Thai Brother, Br. Clement Mary, was born in 1908. He made his novitiate at Caldetas from 1927 to 1929, continued his studies at the French scholasticate at La Mothe-Achard, then in London, and finally at Loyola Institute, Madras. He returned to Thailand in 1935 and taught at Petriu, Assumption College, Bangkok; then he went to Chiengmai and spent eight years there, including five as headmaster. He ended his life as bursar at Assumption College and died in 1974 at the age of 66.
The fourth Thai Brother was Br. Clement de l’Assomption. He made his novitiate in Peruwelz from 1930 to 1932, then continued his studies at La Mothe-Achard and London until1936. In Thailand he taught at Chiengmai for 10 years, at Sriracha for 20 years, at a Bangkok parish school for four years, and again at Sriracha for seven years. He died on 1 January 1984, aged 73 or 75 years, depending on the actual date of birth.
The fifth Thai Brother was Br. Andrew. He was born in 1920 and was one of the second generation of Brothers. He began his novitiate in Singapore in 1942 but his novitiate was disrupted by the war (See 8 February). In Thailand he taught first at St Gabriel’s School, Bangkok, for 16 years, then he moved to Chiengmai and taught there, then to Thonburi as headmaster, to Petriu as a teacher, to· Korat as headmaster, and to Lampang where he was bursar and headmaster. Later on he worked as a printer at Viratham Press, and continued to make himself useful as bursar at St Gabriel’s School, where he ended his life in peace and quiet. As a result of all these Brothers living abroad for many years with Brothers of various nationalities, there is among them a great family spirit which may be the dominant feature of their religious personality. To this we have to add their simplicity, their kindness, their dedication and their piety.