May 24 – SURVIVAL OF THE BROTHERS AFTER 1903
SURVIVAL OF THE BROTHERS AFTER 1903
Br. Arcade was appointed tutor to a family living in Foussais (Vendee) in October 1899. What was a very unusual appointment before 1903 was not so unusual after 1903, as from then on the Brothers still looked on themselves as religious while bearing the marks of secularisation: they had given up their religious names, no longer wore their cassocks and were holders of a secularisation certificate testifying that they were released from their vows.
What work did they do in France? They taught as “laymen” in the 40 or so schools they were still running, especially in western France, or in 10 or so schools they had agreed to run temporarily in western France, in south-eastern France or elsewhere, for example at the school run by priests at Mesnieres-en-Bray.
- The others obtained paid jobs in order to keep alive and to provide for the Congregation :badly in need of resources, especially for the care ()f the elderly at the Mother House. Some became bakers, or cooks, or wine merchants, home nurses, sacristans, catechists, school bursars, etc.
One of the commonest jobs was as tutors at a country house or to a well-off family. Br. Hormisdas, former head of St Gabriel’s school at Saint-Laurent and former Assistant, lived at the country house of La Bliniere, from 1903 to 1909, then with a family in Les Lues (Vendee) from 1910 to 1917. As he was 82 he declined a new offer of a job, because, he wrote, “the good marquis would like me to look after the children at night besides giving lessons for seven hours daily and taking the children for a two-hour walk every day.”
While surviving materially, how did they get on morally and spiritually? In 1904 a Brother voluntarily left Mane where he had worked in the employment of a baker for 15 months and got a job as a cook at the Jesuit school in Avignon because there he was able to attend Mass every day. In 1906 a Brother who was a tutor and had lost his job because of the death of his pupil wrote to the chaplain at Saint-Laurent resquesting a similar job on condition that “I work in an excellent family where I will be able to do my spiritual exercises” and that “I live not too far from the church.” From 1904 the Brothers teaching in schools were able to obtain copies of Petit guide du religieux secularise destine aux freres employes dans l’enseignement fibre. Br. Gabriel-Joseph, who had been made responsible by Br. Martial for “saving” the Mother House, proved to be far more than a manager. Br. Gabriel-Marie has written about him: “He was familiar with the habits of local traders and enjoyed their regional speech; he disguised himself as one of them and while seeming to travel about for financial reasons, would stay between two fairs in one or other of our houses” and gave the Brothers the latest news and directives.