St. Louis Marie of Montfort (1673-1716) founded an Institute of Religious Women, the Daughters of Wisdom, and a second one, of Brothers and Priests, named either the Company of Mary or the Community of the Holy Spirit. The same Superior General was responsible for the whole Montfortian Family. The headquarters were located at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre where Montfort had died and was buried.
Providence brought Fr Gabriel Deshayes (1767-1841) to be the seventh Superior General of the Montfortian Family. Thanks to his zeal, the members of the Community increased many fold. The Brothers who were engaged in education were transferred to the house called “St. Gabriel” and soon the inhabitants of this house were known under the name: “The Brothers of St. Gabriel”. This name replaced their former one: “The Brothers of the Holy Spirit” and became official when the Brothers were authorized to teach all over France by a decree of the Emperor Napoleon III, on March 3, 1853.
The history of the Brothers of St. Gabriel, since they became autonomous, can be divided into four distinctive parts:
In the 19th century, the Brothers committed themselves mainly in the field of education. They started or supported hundreds of Primary Schools. They also started some important Boarding Schools, 9 Institutions for the deaf and dumb and 5 for the blind. They also took charge of a few Orphanages and Primary Sections in Secondary Schools managed by Jesuits or other Priests. However, all these schools were situated in France except the ones started in Canada, in 1888, and Egypt, in 1890. Most of these schools were situated in the western part of France, some in the South-West (Provence) and the Centre (Auvergne), in the North and near Paris.
However, one of the most important contribution of the Brothers during this period was in the field of the education of the deaf and the blind. These children were among the most deprived of the French society. Thanks to the pioneering initiatives of Gabriel Deshayes, the Brothers of St. Gabriel and the Daughters of Wisdom were educating over one fourth of the deaf and the blind children who had access to education in France at the end of the 19th century.
The Congregation had to meet one of its most important upheaval in 1903, when the French government decided to close 3 000 Catholic Schools and banish 20 000 religious. That decision forced a number of Brothers to leave France and some settled in European countries while others left for Asia and Africa. Some of the foundations in Europe were short-lived: in Switzerland, in Holland, and in England while others still exist in Belgium, Italy, and Spain. In Africa, the war between Italy and Ethiopia, in 1935, brought the presence of the Brothers in Ethiopia to an end while the missions in Gabon and Madagascar went on for more than one century without interruption. For the same reason, the Brothers arrived in Thailand and in India in 1901 and 1903, respectively, and their works are still flourishing over there.
Because of its international dimension, the Institute, that was a diocesan Congregation so far, acquired the Pontifical Right in 1910. In 1936, the Brothers settled in two others countries: the Belgian Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Singapore.
After the trials of the World War II, deeply felt both in Europe (France, Belgium, Italy, England) and in South-East Asia (Singapore, Thailand) the Congregation started afresh. Twelve new Provinces were created during that period (1945-1965). The Institute expanded to eleven new countries: Brazil (1949), Senegal (1954), Malaysia (1955), Sri-Lanka (1956), Iraq (1957), Congo (1957), Central Africa (1957), Columbia (1961), Peru (1962), Cameroon (1964) and Rwanda (1965). The Brothers are still present in all these countries, except in Sri-Lanka and Iraq.
After the Council of Vatican II, the Congregation, like the Church, had to face some instability. But at the same time it was an opportunity to deepen its charism. The strength of the Congregation migrated from Europe and Canada towards Africa and Asia. The lay Collaborators started to play a noteworthy role in the educational mission of the Brothers, especially in Europe and Canada. In spite of the crisis lived in terms of the decrease in number of Brothers in several parts of the world, the Congregation is now even more missionary: The European Provinces started a mission in Haiti (1976) and Poland (1997).
The Brothers from Asia have gone as missionaries to such diverse countries as Papua New Guinea (1968), Mauritius (1969), Fiji (1973), Tanzania (1983), Tonga (1989), Madagascar (1997) and the Philippines (1998). Similarly Brothers from the African continent expanded to the Republic of Guinea (1995), Burundi (2006), and Burkina Faso (2007).
Today, the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel are present in 31 countries, carrying out their mission in education in all its aspects: Primary Schools, Secondary Schools, University Colleges, Vocational and Informal education, Schools for the physically and mentally challenged, social and human rights activities, religious and human formation, etc. Religious, lay Associates and various Collaborators work together to bring in a more just and fraternal society, inspired by the Charism of Montfort and the audacity of Gabriel Deshayes.
Montfortian Mission Today:Education without Boundaries
The dawn of the Third Millennium has thrown open new challenges and opportunities for the Brothers of St. Gabriel in their core mission of education. The above glimpses from their history show the courage, the commitment and the spirit of innovation in the Congregation. This is an inheritance that has to be sustained to face a new world order in the making, without ever loosing sight of the vision of the founders, Montfort and Gabriel Deshayes.
Vocation of Brother Mathurin Rangeard, catechist, singer, animator, schoolmaster.
First Profession of 4 of the Brothers of the Holy Spirit: Louis, Philippe, Nicolas and Gabriel. Brothers, followers of Montfort, are called by him to run charitable schools at La Rochelle.
27 April 1716: Before his death, Montfort foresees that one section of the «Brothers of the Holy Spirit» devotes itself to the «charitable schools».
Brother Jacques looks after the charitable school at Saint-Laurent, from 1717 to 1720, at Nantes, from 1724 to 1727. Brother Joseau succeeds him at Saint-Laurent, from 1722 to 1759.
Saint-Laurent: purchase of the house “Chêne-Vert” to accommodate the Brothers of the Holy Spirit who take care of the charitable school and to look after the poor.
5 Brothers of the Holy Spirit are massacred by the revolutionary troops.
Fr Deshayes, Superior General of the Montfortian Congregations, gives to the small group of the Brothers of the Holy Spirit an extraordinary impetus, especially for the teachers.
The Congregation of the Brothers of the Christian Instruction of the Holy Spirit is officially recognized in 5 Departments in the West. Fr Deshayes gives them a Rule.
On September 22, 42 Brothers make their Religious Profession. Brother Athanase is sent to the Chartreuse of Auray to initiate the education of the deaf, and then to take care of the group of boys. Fr Deshayes later founded several schools for the deaf, boys and girls.
Father Deshayes named Brother Augustin (Jean Éveno), Director of the group of the Brothers, and Brother Siméon (François Brevet), Deputy Director and Master of Novices.
On October 15, 33 Brothers and Novices of the Holy Spirit move out to Maison Supiot. From then on it was called “St.Gabriel”.
Foundation of Saint-Gabriel Boarding School at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre.
The new Rule of the Brothers of the Christian Instruction is approved by the Bishop of Luçon, stating that from now on the Brothers will have a Superior General, chosen from among them and by them.
Death of Fr Deshayes, who performed a tremendous work: in 1841, there are 26 Fathers and 42 Brothers (+ 8 Novices) attached to Holy Spirit House; 99 Brothers and 36 Novices attached to Saint Gabriel House; 1593 Daughters of Wisdom and 95 Novices.
The group of the Brothers of the Christian Instruction of Saint Gabriel becomes an independent Congregation.
The Congregation is officially recognized throughout France, under the name of « Congregation of the Brothers of the Christian Instruction of Saint Gabriel. »
At Loudun, first congress of the Brothers involved in the teaching of the deaf.
1st General Chapter of the Congregation, with the Chapter delegates chosen by the Brothers.
1st Provincial in the history of the Congregation: Brother Louis de Gonzague, Provincial of South from 1860 to 1890..
Creation of a unique feature in the Congregation: that of Brother Visitor for the Houses of the Deaf. Brother Hubert held that function from 1862 to 1883. The function will continue till 1905.
The Circular of Rev. Bro. Eugene Marie on « The Need for Studies ». One of the key priorities of the Superior is the professional and pedagogical formation of the Brothers, their preparation for the official exams.
Beatification of the Father de Montfort at Rome by Pope Leo XIII. September 25: arrival of six Brothers in Canada. (The first establishment outside of France.)
Arrival of the Brothers in the United States of America and Egypt (1st establishment in Africa)
Arrival of the Brothers in Thailand (1st establishment in Asia).
Arrival of the Brothers in Belgium, Gabon, and Djibouti.
In France, persecution against the Church and the Congregations: nationalization of the schools, secularization.
Arrival of the Brothers in Switzerland, in England, in Italy, in Spain, in Netherland, in India, and in Madagascar. Installation of the Central Administration in Belgium.
February 19: Decree of Approbation of the Institute by the Holy See, and approval of the Constitutions « ad experimentum ».
Official Approval of the Constitutions by the Holy See.
Spanish Civil War: between July and November, 49 Brothers and their Chaplain are massacred. The process of the beatification of these martyrs will begin in 2001.
July 20: canonization of St Louis-Marie de Montfort, in Rome, by Pope Pius XII.
Installation of the General House in Rome.
Year of the largest number of Brothers: 1785 Brothers and 109 Novices, therefore close to 1900 members
Election of Brother Romain Landry, Canadian: 1st Superior General who is not French.
May 30, massacre of 7 Brothers (6 Belgians and 1 Dutch) at Buta, Congo.
1st Session of 24th Special General Chapter for the revision of the Rule of Life and Constitutions: decision to create Provincial Chapters and introduction to priesthood for the needs of the Congregation.
1st Council of the Institute in Rome, regrouping the Central Administration, the Provincials and the District Superiors.
April 28: Final Approval of the Rule of Life and the Constitutions by the Holy See.
May 16: Beatification of Marie-Louise Trichet, in Rome, by Pope John Paul II
July 20: Entering of the Feast of Saint Louis Marie in the Roman Universal Calendar.
September 19: Pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II to the tomb of St. Louis-Marie, at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre.
June 29: Message of Pope John Paul II to the Montfortian Family on the 50th anniversary of Montfort’s Canonization.
September 27-29: Historical meeting of the 3 Councils of the Institute of the 3 Congregations at the Generalate of the Brothers of St. Gabriel in Rome.
On 29: Celebration of the Unity of the Montfortian Family.
Arrival of the Brothers in Poland, Philippines and in the State of Sabah (Malaysia).
The General Council authorises the Province of Spain to begin the process of the beatification of the 49 presumed martyrs Brothers of Spain and their Chaplain.
November 17: Creation of the «Gabrielite Secretariat for Justice and Peace» (GSJP)
December 8: Letter of Pope John Paul II to the Superiors General of the Montfortian Family, on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the « discovery » of the Treatise of the True Devotion.
December 4: The official opening of the documentation on the 50 presumed martyrs Brothers of Spain, sent by the Archdiocese of Barcelona, by the Congregation for the causes of Saints, in Vatican.
March 25: Setting up of 2 new Provinces: Pune and Hyderabad (in charge of the Sector of Tanzania) by the division of the Province of “Central India”
August 17: Foundation in Burkina-Faso, at Dedougou, by the Brothers of the Provinces of Senegal, Kinshasa and Brazzaville.
July 01: Setting up of 2 new Provinces: Kinshasa and Brazzaville. The Sector of Rwanda – Burundi is in link with the Central Administration.
|2008||September 15-26: Cap-de-la-Madeleine (Canada): 14th Council of the Institute.|
|2009||February 15 – June 30: Generalate: 3rd International IMI programme with 5 DOW, 10 SMM et 10 BSG.
March 25: Release of the Document “Partnership General Guidelines” to implement the new forms of relationship between the Laity and the Brothers of St. Gabriel.
|2010||February 19: Centenary of the Decree of Approbation of the Institute by the Holy See.
October: Release of the Document: « Montfortian Education Charter – Montfortian Education in the 21st Century”
October 04-15: Hyderabad (India): 15th Council of the Institute.
|2011||August 22: Foundation in Kenya (Nairobi)|
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