May 25 – OLD BOYS ASSOCIATIONS
OLD BOYS ASSOCIATIONS
It would seem that the idea of setting up an old boys association was first mooted at St Gabriel’s boarding school. The first reunion of the old boys took place on Whit Monday, 25 May 1896. The “Whit Monday” reunion has taken place every year since then and the old boys sing the song written by Br. Hermogene in 1901, when he was head of the school:
A great occasion
Given by God,
Is for Saint-Gabriel
This fraternal gathering.
At the same time the association started its own magazine Echo Saint Gabriel.
More than a hundred years later both the association and its magazine still exist, thus setting a record! As the old boys live far apart, local associations bringing them together at regular intervals have been set up: there are about ten of them in western France.
Similar associations have been set up in other countries:
– in Canada the best-known one is the association of Saint-Arsene Orphanage that is very much alive (See 17 November);
– in India the oldest one is the Yercaud Old Boys Association whose members meet twice · a year;
– in Belgium it was started by Br. Fridolin first at Etterbeek then at Liedekerke; the latter’s magazine Le Trait d’Union is now 46 years old and its 539th issue was published in April1999, etc.
In France the associations of old deaf and dumb pupils are the most active. In Nantes Br. Louis started spiritual retreats for the former pupils. His move was taken up in 1892 Poitiers, where 23 former pupils made a three-day retreat at Easter, and in Toulouse, where the headmaster Br. Jacques invited the former pupils from twelve dioceses to meet in a Jesuit house in Montauban from 4 to 8 May.
Yearly festive meals for past deaf and dumb pupils soon began to be organised in various places: in 1892 in Poitiers, in 1895 in Orleans. This marked the beginning of the true associations which came into being in the 20th century. Then, on 18 September
1949, under the impulse of Br. Henri Papin, head of the school in Orleans, the National Union of associations of Catholic schools for the deaf and dumb was started. It numbers eleven associations and is managed by deaf people. The Union held its first congress in Montpellier in 1950 and has held its annual meeting ever since. Among other things, it has organised pilgrimages to Lourdes and Rome.