April 25, 2019
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DR#: 23 Brother Polycarp’s Rules of Conduct for Directors in our Schools


As second founder of the institute and first Brother superior general, Brother Polycarp was thrust into leadership roles as a young man early in his life as a Brother of the Sacred Heart.

In the document dated November 1854, Brother Polycarp articulates to his Brothers his understanding of the responsibilities and the burdens of leadership. Following his straightforward, no nonsense writing style, Rules of Conduct for Directors in our Schools identifies the three principal obligations those who take on the responsibility of director have.

Over 150 years ago, Brother Polycarp outlined three obligations upon which the solid leadership of our institutions today still depends: the responsibilities of directors in their own conduct, in their duties toward their Brothers, and in their duties with regard to the students for whom they care.

Faced with the challenges of leadership in a Brothers of the Sacred Heart school today, Brother Polycarp’s wisdom is a source of clarity, a guide to what is still really important in the role of leader, especially as a leader standing on the shoulders of those of Polycarp’s caliber.

Through this experience, participants will:

  • gain an understanding of the three principal obligations of directors in our schools as identified by Brother Polycarp over 150 years ago;
  • develop an insight into how these obligations are still relevant to our work today as leaders in the institute;
  • appreciate our second founder’s vision about the importance of sound, responsible leadership in the success of our schools and, therefore, the mission of the institute.

Rules of Conduct for Directors in our Schools, Brother Polycarp, November 1854

Options for Additional Readings

Selections from Brother Polycarp’s Rule

Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. The concept of ‘sanctification’ figures prominently in Brother Polycarp’s writings. How do you translate that into today’s language, specifically as it relates to these rules?
  2. Brother Polycarp addresses a setting where all of the teachers are Brothers. How can you make his advice in your leadership role useful in your setting which includes faculty and staff members who may be lay, Brothers or other religious?
  3. Take the time to re-write Brother Polycarp’s Rules of Conduct for yourself. Update and personalize the language to fit your setting and your leadership goals and style. Make it ‘work’ for you without diluting the power or clarity of his three principal obligations. Reflect on where you feel most challenged to live up to Brother Polycarp’s Rules.

Reflect quietly after each of the following statements about leadership:

Our relationship to our fellow human beings in the body of Christ is of paramount importance
Our roles as the ministers of Christ and our assignments as His beloved servants may vary

Some of us are leaders who have been granted a position of authority.

We ought to be aware that our social and educational status, regardless of what it means to our
      peers, does not impress our Lord.

We need to be reminded from time to time that with leadership comes responsibility, the
      responsibility to treat those who work with us as equals before God.

We are, every one of us, a minister of God.

There are those who serve God even in the process of serving us.

There are those who make it possible for us to fulfill our responsibilities in our arena of service.
We need each other.

Together, we seek to fulfill God’s objectives and advance His Kingdom upon our world.

We do so as members of the same family, the family of God and Christ, the family
      of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart schools.


Rules of Conduct for Directors in our schools, Brother Polycarp, November, 1854


Those brothers called to serve in the direction of a community school must be deeply conscious of both the importance of such an office and of its difficulties. Were they truly to understand its implications, far from seeking this position, they would rather tremble at the prospect of the responsibilities which will weigh upon their shoulders and for which they shall one day be answerable to God.

But if they are filled with the spirit of humility and obedience, and especially if they place all their confidence in God, whose will is revealed through the will of the Superiors, there will be nothing in the gravity of their task to cause them undue anxiety.

Directors have three principal obligations, each of equal importance, and each requiring an uncompromising commitment, though no single one must cause them to neglect the other two. These obligations are namely, their own sanctification by the faithful accomplishment of each of their duties and responsibilities, the sanctification of their brothers through the example and sound guidance they give them, and the sanctification of the children who attend the institution they direct by assuring them an education which is sound, and above all religious.

Everything in our institutions depends upon solid leadership without which whatever good is accomplished will not endure.

Part I -- Responsibilities of directors in their own conduct.

  1. The primary concern of the directors must be their own personal sanctification through a continual progress in the practice of the Christian and religious virtues. Any good which they might have accomplished in others would hardly serve to justify them before God were they to neglect their own salvation and faithfulness to Him. This would be pointing out to others the way that leads to God and not following it oneself.
  2. Directors must be convinced that their own example is the surest way to lead members of the community to practice the Rule and to be faithful to the spirit of their calling. Unless they themselves practice the Rules with zeal and punctuality, any advice they might offer and any correction they might make would be either futile or ill-accepted. They must therefore be a kind of living Rule – its exemplar. As we read in the Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ himself began by deeds and only then went on to teach. Thus, he wished to make clear to everyone who would ever have the responsibility of leading others that the practice of virtue is the most important of all lessons to be learned.
  3. They shall often pray to our Lord and to Mary on behalf of the school over which they have been given responsibility, beseeching them for the gift of wisdom in the exercise of their duties toward all over whom they have authority in the establishment.
  4. Should it happen that they have neither the time nor the opportunity to consult the Superiors before opting for a particular course of action regarding a relatively important matter, they shall seek the counsel of the Lord. They shall then act with that same prudence and calm which they would have exercised if God himself had asked them to account for their actions. In all things, they shall keep constantly in mind that they are only directors and that they too are subject to the Rule and to their Superiors.
  5. They shall always guard scrupulously against condoning in themselves the kind of comportment which they would condemn in others. Neither shall they seek to grant to themselves exemptions either in respect to food, garb, in fact in anything exterior, nor shall they seek to avoid anything which might be distressing or humiliating for them. Their own good example and the merit, which they shall earn, shall lead them to accept such things willingly. Should they, however, foresee in these some potential problems such as the possibility of having to neglect other more important responsibilities, it might become necessary for others to be required to practice humility and submission.
  6. They shall ensure the regular prayer-life of the community, seeing to it that the community prayers are faithfully and appropriately accomplished. They themselves shall always lead by example in the practice of this exactness in the fulfillment of all the religious duties each day. They shall never exempt themselves from any without sufficient reason and shall do their utmost to make up for any lapses or tardiness, which might result from their legitimate commitments.
  7. They shall keep a sharp eye on everything, frequently assuring themselves that silence, good order and tidiness hold sway everywhere in the building and for all the employments. They shall never rely solely upon what is reported to them, nor shall they assume fidelity from those who have been given responsibility for these areas. Rather, they shall always seek to verify for themselves. Such vigilance is the surest way to maintain enthusiasm and good will.
  8. They shall never leave the establishment without good reason. Proper order and good management necessitate the presence of the director, and time lost in needless visits or discussions are always prejudicial to both the particular and the general good.
  9. They shall always strive to be thorough in their reports to Superiors, keeping them informed at regular intervals, as to the observance of all the prescriptions of the Rule. They will share with them their difficulties and their plans. They shall remember that Superiors, possessing as they do both the grace of God and an insight into his designs, are able to assist them by means of their insights and counsels.

Part II – Duties toward their Brothers.

  1. Their principal duty is to exercise a great zeal and an unfailing vigilance with regard to the spiritual progress of the brothers confided to their care. They shall continue to form them to the religious life, seeking always to sustain them and even to increase the fervor of the novitiate. To this end they must gain the confidence, the esteem and the respect of all through their own virtue.
  2. Theirs shall not be an attitude of domination, but rather shall they consider themselves as models for all and friends to each. They shall in no way seek profit from their position, except to strive to grow in virtue, in zeal and in dedication.
  3. Whenever they find it necessary to reprimand their brothers or make them aware of some fault, they shall do so in the spirit of charity, in this way, any such cautions shall always be received with humility and gratitude, as a service rendered, and as the accomplishment of a duty. In so doing they shall be imitating our Divine Savior, who was so gentle and so full of compassion toward sinners and the faint-hearted. In a word, they must strive to do unto others, as they would have others do unto them. Moreover, as it is better to prevent transgressions rather than to correct them, they shall recall that minor faults, when tolerated, soon make way for greater ones and pave the way for laxity.
  4. Should admonishments and corrections become ineffectual, rather than lose heart, they shall, having exhausted all means inspired them by charity, inform the Superiors who shall assume the correction and or redemption of the offending person.
  5. They shall often remind their brothers of the purpose of their vocation. That is, that their foremost mission is the religious instruction of the children, so as to lead them to the knowledge of the love of God, and to the practice of Religion. All their efforts must be directed toward the attainment of this goal, which gives glory to God and so merits his grace.
  6. They shall strive to preserve the spirit of perfect charity among the brothers, who ought to consider themselves as members of one family. Professing as they do the same goal, sharing the same hopes, consolations and sorrows, the brothers are to be examples to one another. In so doing, they shall imitate the members of the early Church who held all things in common, having but one heart and one soul.
    But this charity must be accomplished by mutual respect. They must shun all familiarity and especially particular friendships. Every sort of rivalry, all envy at another’s success or talents, is altogether incompatible with this charity. It matters little by whom the good is done, so long as good is accomplished, and for the glory of God.
  7. They shall see to it that during his free times, each brother maintains and even increases his competence for the instruction of children. The brother director shall support each of them by his good advice, by giving them model lessons, and especially through the example of his own diligence. It is not sufficient simply to be well prepared with regard to subject matter and teaching skills for particular classes. It is incumbent upon each brother to strive daily to increase his knowledge and skills so as to be available, if need be, for other more important roles or responsibilities.
  8. Ensuring the good health of their brothers is a strict duty of conscience. They shall therefore be attentive so as to guard against any imprudent activity, or any over-taxing work. They shall thus teach their brothers that to endanger their own health is tantamount to harming the very community to which they belong. The community has a right to their services, just as they have a right to its concern and care for them. Without accustoming them to over-caution or to self-indulgence which ill-befits community life, they shall nevertheless take all appropriate precautions with regard to clothing, to food, etc.As soon as a brother shows signs of exhaustion he must straightway be provided with the care, rest and medication which he requires.
  9. In the matter of food, each institution must seek to conform as much as possible to the norms established in the Motherhouse, both as regards quantity and quality, through the provision of meals which are simple, wholesome and varied. If it is true that we must not stray from the path of poverty, it is nevertheless vital that the brothers maintain the strength needed for the tiring work of teaching.

Part III – Duties with regard to the classes and the students.

  1. The directors, all the while fulfilling as conscientiously as possible their duties to their own class, must ensure that good order, proper supervision, and industry prevail in all the other classes as well. They shall not permit any deviation from authorized methods, and they shall require that the periods of time provided by the Rule for each discipline be adhered to. It is altogether desirable that they be given regular reports on the progress and behavior of the pupils in each class. They must also be kept informed of any problems, which the teachers might be encountering, and of the means being used to mold the minds and hearts of the children and thus form their characters. The regular classroom visitations must not be neglected. They must often call to the attention of the brothers the importance of a scrupulous vigilance over the children, especially with regard to right morals and decency.
  2. They shall regularly remind the brothers that the Rule forbids the use of corporal punishment of whatever sort and no matter how slight. Such punishments are incompatible with gentleness and Christian charity, and they always entail grave dangers.
  3. Training the children to habits of personal cleanliness requires attention. They shall ensure that the brothers fulfill this responsibility. It is expected that the children shall be formed to good behavior by lessons of politeness, good grooming; they must be taught self-control over their words and over their general behavior.
  4. It is imperative that they ensure that none of the brothers becomes over familiar with the pupils. They must not betray the least discrimination in their attitudes toward those children in their care, regardless of their respective backgrounds, talents or characters.

Part IV – Duties in their relations with persons outside the school community

  1. Their relations with persons outside the school community must be rare and always brief. Courtesy and the requirements of the establishments are the only valid motives for such contacts. The directors shall not, therefore, needlessly permit themselves any such contacts. They shall strictly proscribe them for all other members of the community. In these relations it is essential that they never exhibit the slightest partiality even towards the parents through favoritism, exaggerated deference, the granting of special permission or other such things that tend to arouse jealousy and animosity.
  2. Access to the house shall be strictly denied to women, except for very serious reasons. They shall not be authorized to remain within the building longer than is absolutely necessary, and they shall never be left alone. In all other cases, they shall be received at the front door or in the parlor and shall be expected to leave after the reason for their visit has been accomplished. During these visits, the parlor door must always remain open. Ideally no one from the community shall speak to them alone or without being in full view. These rules must also be observed with regard to those women who have been hired to work for the community. The Brother Director shall always be expected to be told the reason for any such visit, either before or after having given his permission.
  3. Allowing visits from other persons too often and too readily can create disturbances such as the loss of time, distractions or lack of attention to duties. Directors must end such visits, either by interrupting them or under the guise of some plausible reason turn away unwelcome visitors.
  4. The directors of institutions ought to maintain good relations with the pastors of the parishes they serve. They must seek their advice and direction, keeping in mind always that the mission of the institute ought to unite them in a special way to the clergy, whose friendship and support they can rely upon. They shall likewise maintain courteous and appropriate relations with the local civil authorities, without ever losing sight what is counseling in the Rule, namely that they refrain from discussion of, or participation in, any form of party politics.

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