May 18 – ASSISTANTS GENERAL
Two Assistants General died on 18 May: Br. Fortune in 1914, and Br. Jean Baptiste Rolandeau in 1997. The latter was an Assistant only for six years, whereas the former was elected seven times running and was an Assistant for 37 years (1877-1914). These two examples illustrate the difference between what happened in years past and what has happened since 1935: from then on no Assistant has served more than two six year terms of office.
The case of Br. Fortune is not the only one. Br. Apollinaire too was an Assistant for 37 years, from 1898 to 1935; however, from 1931 he ceased attending the Council meetings for health reasons. Five other Assistants served between 20 and 24 years: Br. Jeremie (1857-1877), Br. Leon (1862-1882). Br. Augustin (1908-1929), Br. Sebastien (1898-1922), Br. Benoit-Marie (1914-1935); the last two were later elected Superiors General.
Br. Jeremie entered the novitiate at the age of 36; first he was headmaster of three schools in Poitou before being elected Assistant to Br. Simeon. At the 1862 General Chapter he obtained on the second ballot as many votes as Br. Eugene-Marie who was eventually elected Superior General. Br. Jeremie was his Assistant for 15 years and was entrusted by him with the guidance of the young Brothers in their studies, as he was reputed to be the most educated man in the Congregation.
As for the two Assistants who served the longest, Br. Fortune served under three Superiors General, Bros. Eugene-Marie, Hubert and Martial, with equal loyalty and selflessness; he was highly valued because of his simplicity, his kindness and his openness. Br. Hubert sent him on an exploratory mission to Canada in 1884 and he greatly impressed the local authorities.
Br. Apollinaire, together with Br. Hermogene had lived together at the Saint Laurent boarding school during its halcyon days in the late 19th century.e was first the devoted supporter of Br. Martial. Br. Apollinaire took over from him after Br. Martial’s sudden death in 1922, then he was Assistant to Br. Sebastien, Superior General, until the end of the latter’s term of office. His broad-mindedness, his frank dealings, his lively expression won him many hearts.