May 27 – FUND-RAISING BROTHERS
There were Brothers raising funds on behalf of the schools for the deaf and dumb throughout the 19th century. It was always difficult to find enough resources to maintain the houses of formation and the rest homes for the elderly Brothers. The large sums offered spontaneously by benefactors were not enough. It was necessary to resort to expedients. Br. Simeon spent the last ten years of his life writing countless begging letters. Br. Eugene-Marie sent a booklet stating the needs of the Congregation (See 4 March) to families, benefactors and parishes. Br. Hubert was the first to appoint a fund raiser, or rather to encourage the first move in that direction made in 1897 by a Brother who thought that the Institute was lagging behind others in that respect.
It was Br. Nicephore who, at 55 years old, dared to embark on that demanding adventure. Br. Pothin, his companion at Mondragon, wrote: “Braving the cold in winter and the heat in summer, he used to walk from one place to another, arrived exhausted in the evening and sometimes had difficulty finding a lodging for the night… When autumn came he would walk through Languedoc, and making a long detour, returned to Provence where rich foreigners were wintering along the coast… Although he had to face occasional humiliations, which he always took with much calm and cheerfulness, he was also given substantial alms… When he had finished begging on the Riviera in April he would leave and walking round the northern Alpes-Maritimes and Var, would walk to Toulon; there he stayed a fortnight, touring every place in the surrounding area. From Toulon he would make his way to Marseilles, Avignon, and Valence and would walk the
- length and breadth of the Alps every summer. He also visited part of Sw tzerland. Then (after 1903) he would invariably return to San Remo or Saluzzo (Italy) in late August or early September. After a fervent retreat and a few days’ rest, he would take up his painful routine as a beggar.” He did this for 19 years until his death!
Other Brothers in all parts of France emulated Br. Nicephore. In France Br. Gilles, a sexagenarian, with Br. Martial’s written permission to beg dated 3 April 1899, walked 30 or 40 km a day. An older Brother, Br. Martyrius begged for alms for a long time in northern France after 1903.
There are fund-raising Brothers even today but they use other means on a large scale. They are the Brothers in Asia and Africa who in person or by letter knock on the doors of European embassies, NGO’s, or bodies like Misereor in Germany and Manos Unidas in Spain.