April 25, 2019
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DR#: 4 Transition of Apostolate: Providences to Schools


Father André Coindre was a very practical and zealous man.  His apostolic work flowed from everything in his formation and his experience in ministry.

His concern for neglected and dechristianized youth led him to search for room in existing institutions to provide them with care and education, but he found none willing to accept them.  So, with the help of Claudine Thévenet and a group of laymen, two providences, or shelters, were founded to teach young people a trade.  One was for girls, and the other was for boys, which later grew into the Pieux Secours, his first formal institution.

While Father Coindre was preaching in the vast diocese of Lyons, he came to realize another great need – that of providing a basic education for children in the countryside.   His experience with the uneducated rural population caused him to think beyond his trade school apostolate in the city.     

The idea of an alternative apostolate to the trade school can be found in Coindre’s early writings.  In January 1822, he wrote to Brother Borgia, the director of the Pieux Secours, that if they were to begin another ministry, it would be a regular school.  Soon afterwards, he left Lyons to work with Bishop de Salamon in the diocese of St. Flour.  There, he opened a high school seminary in Monistrol, and shortly afterwards, two regular schools, one of which was for the training of his own Brothers.  This decision to form Brothers for teaching in regular schools demonstrated Coindre’s commitment to provide basic education for poor country youth.

So began the transition from the trade school started in Lyons in 1822.  By 1826, the Brothers were staffing only regular schools, with the exception of those who remained at the Pieux Secours.  Under Brother Polycarp’s leadership, the Brothers continued to expand their apostolate, and by 1859, they were ministering in 90 regular schools.

Through this experience, the participant will:

  • understand the reasons for the transition in Father Coindre’s apostolic endeavors;
  • reflect on how transitions are natural to one’s life experience;
  • consider what transitions are taking place in the apostolate today.
  • “New Orientation of the Institute” in Superiors General I, pp 24-26, by Brother Stanislaus, S.C., Rome, Italy
Options for Additional Readings
  • “Personality and Apostolic Intuitions,” text by Brother René Sanctorum, S.C., in the Workbook 5, Monsieur Coindre, pp 99-102, Rome 1986.
  • “Foundations of André Coindre” text by Brother Jean Roure, S.C.,  pp. 6-9
  • “An Example of Holiness, André Coindre,” text by Brother René Sanctorum, S.C., pp 14-15, “A holiness of availability”
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. Reflect on one significant transition you have experienced in your ministry as an educator?  What was the driving force(s) behind these transitions?  What continuing formation was necessary to facilitate these transitions? 
  2. Identify one transition you see taking place in your apostolate today?  As a leader in your school, how can you respond faithfully in Father Coindre’s charism?

Great God,

From the height of heaven, where you are today, sustain our courage always.

Look kindly on the large number among us who are ready to enter your ranks;

Like your Apostles, we await only the Holy Spirit.

Send him down upon us, then, with all his gifts.

May he enlighten us, may he inflame, us, may he consume us,
so that, contemplating you without ceasing…, 
we may be filled only with the desire of imitating you, 
of ascending like you one day all resplendent in glory.


André Coindre, in “Preaching Notes” pp. 222-223 tr


Rule of Life – Community in the School Setting

New Orientation of the Institute

Father Coindre had founded the Pieux-Secours to make a contribution to the education of the young people of Lyons.  He had not thought about regular schools for, in the city, the Brothers of the Christian Schools were providing this service already.

But, in his travels in the parishes, he soon realized the urgent need for schools in the country, especially now that the government had forbidden the nuns to take boys into their institutions.

So, some months after the foundation of our Institute, he decided to direct it toward the work of teaching.  He wrote to Brother Borgia on January 21, 1822: “If we start a second establishment, it will be to teach reading and writing to children, as do the Brothers of Doctrine.  (Brothers of the Christian Schools)  Consequently, I wish that you yourselves learn the methods of these Brothers by going, with my Brother (Father François) to visit their classes, questioning them about their procedures, and then teaching our Brothers what you will have learned.”

The first opportunity arose at Monistrol in Haute Loire.  At the beginning of 1823, the novitiate had been transferred to a house belonging to us.  In this same house a school was opened for the children of the parish.  The pupils who came were so numerous that soon they had to be lodged in another place.  It was at the same time a school of experience for the novices, who began teaching under the direction of their novice masters.

This work was soon well known by the pastors of the region, who began to ask for the services of the Brothers.

In 1824, three new schools were opened:

Le Monastier, Haute Loire – An elementary school with boarders, set up in an old castle, with three Brothers constituting the staff.

Pradelles, Haute Loire – Apparently an elementary school, probably with boarders; a personnel of four Brothers.

St. Symphorien, Loire – A private school, organized by the pastor and his council; with boarders; four Brothers.

In 1825, schools were opened at the following places:

Montfaucon, Haute Loire – Elementary school with boarders; four Brothers.

Fontaines-Cailloux, Loire – Seems to have been organized by the pastor; three Brothers.  One went on Sundays to the neighboring parish of Saint Martin to teach the catechism to the boys and to act as minder during the parish liturgical services.

Neulise, Loire – Seems to have been an elementary school; three Brothers.

Murat, Cantal – Seems to have been a free school; three Brothers.

From this time on, our chief work was teaching in schools, and thus the work of the Pieux-Secours was unique in our history.

The early schools were either “free” schools, that is, schools supported by the parish, or “communal” schools, in charge of the civil authorities, but founded at the request of pastors.  Most of them received as boarders children from the neighboring villages.

In general, the pupils were somewhat beyond elementary school age, judged by today’s standards.  Often they came for only a year or two before leaving for military service.

As these schools were in rural places, they were only about half filled in the springtime, as the country children left their books to tend the cattle or to work on the farm.  Only the sons of the townspeople, of the artisans, professional people, or shop-workers, finished the school year.  The Superior took advantage of these times to recall the younger Brothers no longer needed for teaching, to the novitiate at Monistrol or at Lyons, so that they could continue their own studies and become more efficient.

As means of support, our Brothers received a monthly tuition from the parents of the day pupils and the fees for keeping the boarders.  In nearly all the establishments a grant from the community or the parish made it possible for them to accept some poor boys without charge.

These primary schools, judging by the number of classes, did not go beyond what we now call the fourth grade, some of them not beyond the second.

The teaching, obviously consisted only in the elements of religion, reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Special stress was placed upon penmanship, which was taught very painstakingly, for at that time, before typewriters were available, good penmen were in demand in the offices of professional, industrial and commercial enterprises.  The better the penmanship, the better chance there was for employment in such establishments.

The chief styles of penmanship at the time and place were called the Ronde, the Batarde, and the Coulee.  According to a letter of Father Coindre, the Coulee was the most popular.  He wrote to Brother Borgia, in regard to the novices: “I believe that not all are capable of learning all the systems of penmanship.  Everybody wants the Coulee.  So have them practice this one above all; it will suffice.

Our schools soon had a good reputation.  Here is the testimony of the Rector of Clermont Academy, in an 1829 letter to Father François Coindre:

“The Bishop of Le Puy, with whose judgment I completely agree, has spoken to me in terms of high praise of the piety, zeal, and competence of your Brothers.  I believe I am serving the interests of religion, of good manners, and of family life, by helping as best I can, your worthy association.

“I would gladly see all the municipalities of the diocese of Le Puy enriched by the acquisition of the appreciable advantage that eight of them already enjoy.  The pastor of Murat daily admires the work and the piety of the Brothers who direct his school."

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