From the earliest beginnings of Father Coindre’s mission, it was the young that drew his attention. The development of two religious communities to support, maintain and extend that apostolate came later as the work prospered. What prompted him to action was the situation of the young and his own compassion and concern for these abandoned young people. He could not turn his back on this need and sought not just a solution for the moment, but for the future as well.
His perspective is quite clear – the work is for the salvation of their souls as much as it is for their education as persons and as workers. This is, from its beginnings, an act of faith in a loving God.
Fortunately, Coindre was also cognizant of the reality that he could never achieve anything alone. The work began with committed lay people and generous donors who enabled the work to begin, and God willed that it prosper. It continued and grew with the commitment of men and women to this mission of caring for the young and with the commitment of the merchants and townspeople to the care and support of the works.
Today, we seek to care for the children we now encounter in many different settings. Our purpose continues to be not just the education of the young, but their formation. Therefore, our institutions are called to be places of faith, even in a troubled world. We may not experience the same economic and political extremes as early 19th century France, but we experience our own levels of confusion and concern. Young people today still echo Coindre’s description of the children of the Pieux Secours even though there is a two hundred year gap.
In establishing this work, Father Coindre consistently responded to the needs of his time as he encountered them. Notable is the fact that all of this work was done in partnership with others – local pastors, local donors, lay teachers and others. This work responded to their needs and to the needs of their communities while inspiring them as collaborators to respond to the needs of others. This pattern has been evident in the Brothers’ ministries in the two hundred years since those initial foundations.
May we each be prompted to action, by compassion, in hope and trust. May we seek to form the young in spite of their resistance, and do so in cooperation with parents, teachers, and all those who have the same goal – the total formation of the young not just for today but for tomorrow as well.
Through these readings, the participant will:
- reflect on Father Coindre’s responsive vision;
- consider the emphasis on cooperation that marked the beginnings of the Institute;
- consider how our mission continues to reflect those goals.
we have each made it
through the vagaries of childhood and adolescence,
in one way or another.
We have succeeded and have learnt much in the journey,
and now it is our turn to guide others to you,
along the convoluted journey of life.
Give us passion, Lord,
for the young people in our care,
a passion like theirs for life itself.
Give us vision,
to see in them the potential of things to come,
and the understanding to forgive the actions of today.
Give us hope,
to know that you inspire all our work
and the wisdom to place the outcome in your care.
may we be people of faith, of hope, and of love,
not simply in words, but in action too,
so that we might inspire those same values
in the young people we encounter.
Your concern for institutions both charitable and philanthropic encourages me to send you a prospectus for a new institution whose purpose is to foster the advancement of religion and morality among the working classes of Lyon. I am convinced that as soon as you become aware of its existence, your benevolence will be prompt to applaud it, your piety draw you to subscribe, and your charity compel you to contribute. As a testimony of your zeal for this noble work, please forward to me the enclosed pledge form signed in your hand. For me, it will stand as yet another witness of your trust; for you, another occasion for doing good. What is more you shall be the subject of eternal blessings and thanksgiving through the prayers of the poor unfortunates whose sufferings you shall be helping to alleviate.
I have the honor to be your servant,
Pledge made to the Charitable institution situated at the Chartreux, No.3, Chemin des Remparts, Lyon
I, the undersigned, __________ residing at __________hereby declare my pledge to the above institution of charity, in the amount of twenty-five francs for the year, which I shall deposit with the Gentlemen Collectors as designated in the prospectus.
Day __________ month __________ year __________
Charitable Institution for Young Boys
[Prospectus of 1818]
There exists in this city a recently established charitable institution which ought to be of interest to all friends of religion and good order. Its goal is to foster a love of virtue and work among young boys who find themselves without shelter or means. It consists of two separate workshops where the children are grouped according to the pattern of behavior they demonstrate. The first is termed the emulation workshop and the other is the probationers’ workshop.
The emulation workshop is intended for poor children from good backgrounds, whose character and morality are carefully attested. These are more often than not young orphans kept out of harm’s way in their early years, but who, lacking in appropriate supervision or pecuniary means, are unable to find an establishment willing to admit them. They are exposed to being led astray either through idleness or to the example of bad teachers. Any child who is of previously questionable conduct is rejected unless a lengthy trial period has provided convincing evidence that there has been a significant improvement in his behavior.
The probationers’ workshop is intended for children who have in the past given their parents serious cause for concern due to their intransigence or the gravity of their offense. Some of them, free-spirited and independent, are reluctant to give themselves over to any sedentary occupations; they often wander on the docks and public squares, a prey to all the evils of vagrancy and to the wiles of unsavory characters. Others have recently been victims of the behaviors from which it is our aim to shelter them. They are young prisoners who, having been incarcerated for a more or less lengthy period, find that no one will give them work. However, they are deserving of the special concern and of individual attention which has for some time been exercised on their behalf in an effort to set them on the path of goodness. Guilty at an age when boys tend to be reckless rather than wicked, impetuous rather than incorrigible, hope for their transformation must never be lost. They must be surrounded with every possible help in order to form them to good habits; they must be isolated, even while in prison, from exposure to the criminal contagion of the inmates. A farsighted prison administration has conceived a plan and has now implemented it; young prisoners have been isolated from the influence of perverse men. They are being formed within specially provided barracks in the two prisons of Roanne and Saint-Joseph. Placed under the supervision of a staff member who encourages them to diligence and teaches them the fundamentals of our religion, they have for the most part shown appreciable signs of contrition and improved behavior. Since the inception of this program, several of the boys considered sufficiently reliable and possessing sufficient instruction have been admitted to first holy communion, and others are also receiving instruction for the reception of this sacrament considered so vital to our Christian faith. Nevertheless, all these noble efforts would soon come to nothing if provisions are not made for them to extend beyond the prison walls. Like causes produce like results. And experience shows that such children soon return to prison if they are left a prey to people and circumstances like those responsible for their original downfall. What therefore is to be done? They are rejected wherever they go. Honest employers are unwilling to hire them. All the religious establishments refuse to admit them, despite the fact that substantial sums have been offered to cover the cost of apprenticeships. Are they therefore to be left to return to their former ways? Are all the noble expectations for them to perish, due to an inability to provide suitable accommodations for them? No, such a thing would be out of keeping with Christian charity. A safe haven must be found for them provided with workshops where they can be taught an honest trade. They need a sound grounding in the knowledge and practice of their religion and thus become both good Christians and good laborers so as to one day be upright heads of families and loyal subjects.
An establishment of this kind exists, and it is located in the parish of Saint-Bruno at No.3 Chemin des Remparts. Its premises are large, airy and walled in. Its two workshops are already furnished with equipment for several trades, with well-trained instructors able to form their students well. Boys already admitted into this establishment have conducted themselves most satisfactorily. They are all engaged in the manufacture of velvet or silk fabrics, either plain or patterned, using the "Jacquard" method. They receive room and board, are clothed and have their laundry done on site. They are given lessons in reading, handwriting and arithmetic, and all costs are met by the establishment. As for religion, it holds there a preeminent position. It is, after all, the primary goal of this charitable work. It is nurtured within the minds and hearts of the pupils with the utmost zeal and concern.
It goes without saying, however, that a fledgling establishment such as this is far from being self-sufficient. It has already been the beneficiary of a substantial outlay of funds. But more money will be required to meet the costs of taking on more pupils and to increase the number of machines for the trades, as well as for the purchase of beds and other necessary equipment. It may even become necessary to take on master tailors and master cobblers to teach such trades to children who show aptitudes for such trades. Those responsible for initiating this new venture hope to find collaborators who will assist them in developing this work, which has already taxed them beyond the limits of their resources. They have concluded that an annual appeal for pledges might be a good way to achieve this end. And they are therefore launching this appeal and are proposing it to the kind generosity of all the people of this city. The suggested amount for the pledge has been set at the modest sum of twenty-five francs, which can either be paid in one sum or in three installments.
The pledge-holders shall be listed among the patrons of the institution. They shall receive information on the progress of both the institution and its pupils. They shall have the right to submit the names of candidates for any available places. They will benefit, during their life and after their death, from the prayers which the pupils raise every day to heaven for their benefactors. They shall have the reassuring consolation of having made an enormous contribution to the material and spiritual well-being of these children, who might otherwise forever languish in misery and be a prey to depravity. They shall have the glory of propagating sound doctrines, of encouraging religious fervor and probity among the largest segment of the working class, whose industry has been from time immemorial one of the principal sources of the prosperity of this city. Finally, they shall be contributing at one and the same time to the glory of God, to the salvation of neighbor, to the interests of this city, and to that of the nation.
In Lyon pledges may be made at the following premises:
Mr. Jaricot, merchant, Place de la Comédie,
Mr. Mathon, merchant, Place de l'Herberie,
Mr. Bonnet, merchant, Place Louis-le-Grand,
Guyot Brothers, booksellers, Grande Rue Mercière,
n° 39, at the Trois Vertus Théologales
In Lyon, v. CUTTY PRESS, N° 8 Place Louis-le-Grand, facing the Rhône.