April 25, 2019
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DR#: 21 The Young Poor Without Hope: Who Are They?


Who are the beneficiaries of the educative mission of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart?

In the Rule of Life, a number of articles state that our mission benefits “young people” without using other adjectives to describe them. According to the first sentence of the Preamble, however, the beneficiaries of André Coindre’s mission were young people who are ignorant, unprepared for life and indifferent to religious values. The second sentence names them in fewer words: “neglected and dechristianized youth.”

Brother Polycarp, whose Rule of 1846 was the one the first brothers brought to America, writes: “As many poor children shall be received free of charge as it is possible to do without ruining the school.” (Chapter XV, The Schools, 1)

In every generation we need to pose these questions: “To be faithful to the charism of the founders, which young people should we be reaching today? Among the young, which ones should we be admitting into our schools and centers?” Following reflection and using the research at the André Coindre International Center, the general chapter of 2000 took up those questions. The chapter reaffirmed Rule 155: “We need to give preference to deprived children.” In a circular coinciding with the convocation of the chapter (February 26, 1999), Brother Bernard Couvillion, superior general, attempted to show with nuance how André Coindre gave preference to poor youth without neglecting the financial health of the establishments which welcomed them.

Before gathering in Rome, the chapter delegates made studies in local and continental assemblies. The goal of these assemblies was to understand the cry of the poor nearest them and to describe the realities which limit their ability to reach young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Once in Rome, their communal research continued for two weeks. The chapter arrived at the consensus that the privileged beneficiaries of the institute’s life and mission are “the young who are poor and without hope.” It chose that expression intentionally to include the differing realities of poverty in the two hemispheres: “in the North, poverty is mostly of the relational, moral, spiritual and psychological order; … the South experiences material poverty, that is, lack of the basic human needs: food, clothing, education, shelter, health and security.”

Through this reading, the participants will:

  • identify youth whom André Coindre welcomed with predilection;
  • enter into a virtual dialogue with the delegates of the chapter of 2000 who grappled to understand, to name, and to respond to today’s “young people who are poor and without hope.”

1. André Coindre: young poor and without hope of his times

  • “Prospectus of 1818” in André Coindre Writings and Documents 3 — Pieux-Secours, pages 28-30.
  • For an example of “poor children from good backgrounds … young orphans,” meet Jean Coroy and others in pages 79-84 of the same booklet.
  • For an example of “children who have in the past given their parents serious cause for concern by their intransigence,” meet Jean Briançon in pages 6-8 of the circular A Patrimony of Hope (June 4, 2005)
  • For an example of “young prisoners who, having been incarcerated for a more or less lengthy period, find that no one will give them work,” meet Lespinasse in pages 48-49 of the circular The Way of Trust, based on Letter X on pp. 94-96 of Andre Coindre 1.

2. The General Chapter of 2000: young poor and without hope today

  • In Lord, when did we see you? (Acts of the General Chapter of July 2000), pages 6-10 study the synthesis description of the cry of the young poor as studied by the pre-chapter assemblies. Then read Ordinance 1 on page 26.
Options for Additional Readings
  •  Rule of Life: beneficiaries of our mission
    • Youth and children: Preamble, 8, 13, 70, 79, 118, 151, 157, 158, 159, 160, 168, 175, 176
    • The poor and neglected: 10, 11, 50, 80, 82, 85, 126, 150, 152, 155c.
  • Circular No. 5, “The Cry of the Poor” inserted in A Year of Favor from the Lord (February 26, 1999)
Suggestions for Journal Reflection

Enter the spirit of “A study of the cry of poor young people” (cf. Appendix A of A Year of Favor from the Lord)

  1. 1. Society. Profile for yourself a poor young person in the area around your school in reference to average family income, hope of employment, educational level, ethnic identity, social safety net, security. What are the effects of poverty on him / her? What is his / her attitude towards your school? What social injustices contribute to his / her poverty?
  2. 2. School. If you had been a delegate to the chapter of 2000, how would you have profiled your school’s students, by percentages?
    1.  students below the poverty line
    2.  students from working class families
    3.  students from middle class families
    4.  students from professional families

             What would be your school’s admissions and retention policies with respect to today’s young people              who match the profile of André Coindre’s youth?
  3. Personal response.
    1. Describe a materially poor young person in your school. What do think he / she hopes for? What does your school do to help him / her? As a leader in Coindre’s spirit, what more could you do for him / her, if anything?
    2. Describe a young person who suffers from moral, spiritual, relational, or psychological poverty or woundedness. What do think he / she hopes for? How can you respond?

Two passages inspired the prayer of the General Chapter of 2000 — Jesus’ announcement of his mission (Luke 4: 14-30) and his foretelling of the last judgment (Matthew 25: 31-46). Reflectively read these passages hearing Jesus name the poor and those without hope of his times.


1. André Coindre: young poor and without hope of his times

“Prospectus of 1818” in André Coindre Writings and Documents 3 — Pieux-Secours, pages 28-30.

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.

1. André Coindre: young poor and without hope of his times

For an example of “poor children from good backgrounds … young orphans,” meet Jean Coroy and others in pages 79-84 of the same booklet.

4 - A pedagogical innovation:

Apprentice contracts

The annual report of October 30, 1823 highlighted the many changes that had taken place at Pieux-Secours since 1818. Though significant, the founding of the Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1821 was only one of the transformations which Pieux-Secours had undergone over the course of those early years. The disappearance of young offenders, officially at least, the new criteria for selection of candidates for the workshops, the introduction of the board of directors and the ecclesiastical council, all bore testimony to the fact that the original little providence had put on a new face.

Interestingly, several notarial acts reveal the existence of an until now unknown feature involving the institution. The archives of the offices of the notary Casati preserve five apprentice contracts entered into by individuals and the administrators of Pieux-Secours for the apprenticeship of young boys. The first of these relates to Jean Coroy, and is dated July 20, 1822.

Between this date and January 2, 1825, the signing date of the last of these acts, four other such contracts were entered into under identical conditions. They involve five children, in point of fact, since two brothers, Barthelemy and Pierre-Marie Costemagne are the object of the same act, dated April 14, 1823. In each of the three first cases the situation is that of a widow and a working mother who entrusts her children to Pieux-Secours. In the last two a father, a saw-mill worker and farmer. None of the contracting parties is able to sign his own name. The contracts concern long-term commitments – from four and a half to eight and even nine years. The children involved ranged from 10 to 15 years of age and were to take their leave of the institution only at eighteen, or even at twenty in once case.

It would seem that as a result of the new policies adopted over the course of 1822 the board members who signed (in most cases Augustin Bonnet in his capacity as treasurer and André Terret) saw this as a new source of revenue for an institution considered on a sufficiently sound footing to enter into commitments for such lengths of time. The practice was to prove short-lived, however.

Here is the list of contracts signed in the study of Jean-César Casati as they appear in minutes preserved in the Archives departementales du Rhône, sub-series 3 E:

  • July 20, 1822: apprenticeship of Jean Coroy,
  • April I5, 1823: apprenticeship of Barthelemy and Pierre-Marie Costemagne,

§ November 20, 1823: apprenticeship of Jacques-Pascal Costemagne,

§ December 5, 1824: apprenticeship of Benoit Chapeau,

  • January 2, 1825: apprenticeship of Pierre Favreau.

Since the various contracts all share the same basic format, we include as an example the first in the collection, that of Jean Coroy.

Apprenticeship of Jean Coroy, son

at the institution Pieux-Secours, July 20,1822

In the presence of Mr. Casati and his colleague, the undersigned, notaries in Lyon,

Mr. [...] Augustin Bonnet, merchant, residing in Lyon at No. 22 Place Louis-le-Grand, and André Terret, also a merchant, residing in Lyon at No. [21] Grande Rue des Capucins, members of the board of the institution of Pieux-Secours situated in Lyon at No.3 Montée de La Butte, and in this capacity acting for and in the name of the board of directors ... first party to this agreement,

and Mrs. Benoite Momes, widow of Jean-Claude Coroy, washerwoman, residing in Lyon at No. 12 Rue de la Charité, petitioning that her son Jean Coroy, born on Sep­tember 29, 1812 in Lyon, presently residing with her, be admitted into the silk workshop of the establishment in order to effect his apprenticeship ... second party to this agreement,

The preceding have reached an accord with regard to the following obligations:

Article 1. At the said institution and at the expense of the same, Jean Coroy shall be housed and cared for and shall have his laundry washed; he shall be given lessons in religion, reading, handwriting, instruction in the practice and theory of the fabrication of silk cloth, plain and pat­terned, in keeping with the regulations of the workshop.

Article 2. For his part, the aforementioned Jean Coroy, his mother acting as specific guarantor, promises to work diligently and faithfully with regard to everything concerning the trade, and not to undertake work elsewhere during the time of his apprenticeship, his mother having cautioned him to be docile, obedient, and faithful in this regard be it to his instructor or to any others in authority in the institution.

Article 3. The widow Mrs. Coroy, in the presence of a representative of the board, binds her son for eight years, complete and consecutive, commencing from September 29, 1822, and terminating upon the same date in 1830. She further promises, in the case of the absence of the aforesaid apprentice without valid cause and with permission in writing from the director of the institution and before his expired time, to return him to the institution and require him make good the period of time lost, becoming answerable for him before the administrator, and committing herself, therefore, should he not return, to indemnify the establishment in the amount of 300 francs.

Article 4. The work quota for the pupil shall be set on a level of parity with the practice in other comparable workshops in the city as soon as he is judged competent; whatever he produces in excess of his assigned quota shall be apportioned thus: one tenth of the wages resulting from surplus work shall be paid to him each month in cash or in clothing and the remainder retained by the administrators to be allocated to him at the termination of his commitments, when he leaves the workshop.

Article 5. In the case either of infringement of the regulations, unacceptable behavior, or lack of reasonable diligence, the young Coroy shall be dismissed from the workshop by decision of the board and be compelled to leave, on a day specified, and Mrs. Coroy, his mother shall be bound to re-accept him, without right or recourse to any right of appeal or judicial process whatever to release him from the consequences of the aforesaid decision. In the case of desertion from the workshop by the young pupil, he shall retain no claim to the sums of money which would otherwise be due him for supplementary work done, or any bonuses; any such monies shall be retained by the board, whatever the amount in question and this sum shall be distributed among the other laborers in the silk workshop in residence, who shall benefit thereby.

Article 6. Each month the instructor shall prepare a report on both the quality and amount of work completed by the pupils which shall serve a standard for the young Coroy and shall be signed by the aforesaid instructor and by one of the board members. Should the young Coroy suffer an illness over a period exceeding ten days, he shall make up the days lost at the end of the fixed period of his commitments.

Such are the agreements between the parties who have respectively promised to fulfill them or else be liable for all costs, damages and interests.

Contracted and enacted in Lyon, in chambers, in the year 1822, this twentieth day of July, having been read, and the widow Coroy having been requested to sign by the aforesaid notaries, said she was not able. Signed by Messrs. Bonnet and Terret along with the notaries.

Bonnet Andre Terret



________________________________ [registered] (in Lyon) the 26th day of July 1822



Received the sum of _________ (ten) centimes


Archives departementales, Rhone, 3 E 921


1. André Coindre: young poor and without hope of his times

For an example of “children who have in the past given their parents serious cause for concern by their intransigence,” meet Jean Briançon in pages 6-8 of the circular A Patrimony of Hope (June 4, 2005)

André structured Pieux Secours and carefully chose educators to help the boys he welcomed there to “con­ceive” four distinct “noble hopes”: to become good Christians, good laborers, upright heads of family, and faithful subjects. By inscribing these hopes in its prospectus, it is as though he set four bright stars in the firmament over his new work to shine permanently over its administrators and over the boys he brought from prison. These began re­sponding in surprising ways. Of all the forces that could assure a better world for them, he saw that none is so in­dispensable, none so powerful, as hope. Without hope those boys were only half-alive. With hope they began to dream and think and work.

The importance of all four hopes is clear in the story of Vincent Briançon, a 13-year-old whom André wel­comed at Pieux Secours in June 1821. Son of a hardware dealer in a neighboring city, Vincent came secretly to Lyon for refuge after running away from home. It was a time of sectarian polemics. He was sent off to school, but his family did not approve of the Catholic schoolmaster. The Catholic side of his family helped him to convert from Protestantism against the will of his father. His aunts and cousins, with the complicity of a parish priest, gave him an alias, hid him in the sacristy, and even disguised him as a girl so he could escape his father's anger. With their coaching he wrote a scribbled note: dear papa if only you could understand what I am going threw and how much I wish I could see you however I had to get away from you I can't be faithful to my god without drawing down your rage ... I will pray to the good lord for you maybe one day I will have the hap­piness to accomplish my fondest hopes. In the meantime the police were looking for him; the Protestant minister, con­vinced Vincent had been kidnapped to become a forced convert, was stirring up a public furor in the square of city hall.

From Lyon the boy sent the authorities a note – like the other one full of mistakes and scratch-outs and without punctuation: I am no longer in Annonay it is useless to look for me you will not find me nobody took me or kid­naped me and I took off to escape from my parens who I heard wanted me to bleed I don't have any doubts what they have in store for me my father threatened to put the little punk away if I ran it was to excape the guillotine my parents have waiting for me and I've been running until today and found a safe place I have the honor sirs to be your very humble servant.

Vincent’s “fondest hopes” were being frustrated in all four of the points of hope named in the prospectus: reli­gious, instructional, family, civic. His determination to flee despite the costs dramatizes something I once heard – that a healthy adolescent can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope.

Though the documents in our archives about Vincent describe conditions nearly 200 years ago, I see him as a symbol of the youth of today who have little choice but to defer indefinitely their noble hopes touching on God, work, family and country. I see Vincent in the rock-­throwing Palestinian boys caught in an impossible reli­gious war, and in the Africans who earn a high school di­ploma but find neither a job nor a study grant for further studies. Vincent is an American child trapped in a divided and violent home. He brings to mind the bright young Hai­tian who has to leave her country to find a place to be se­cure and productive.

The four hopes Andre named are classic. They form a morning star constellation which is still visible and still fascinating today to young people on every continent.

1. André Coindre: young poor and without hope of his times

For an example of “young prisoners who, having been incarcerated for a more or less lengthy period, find that no one will give them work,” meet Lespinasse in pages 48-49 of the circular The Way of Trust, based on Letter X on pp. 94-96 of Andre Coindre 1.

Letter of September 13, 1823

To find the documentation underlying this definition1, let’s go back in time as did the three cranes in difficulty who returned to the arctic refuge that had been their starting point. Back to when Pieux-Secours is in its seventh year as a refuge and springboard to a second chance for orphan and delinquent boys. Back 180 years to September 1823, when there are 41 residents in the attic dormitory and six­teen looms on two floors of workshops. Xavier is the chief educator. Brother Borgia Guillet is director. A lay board of directors oversees the administration.

We arrive just after Borgia receives bad news about Lespinasse, one of the older boys. He was one of the pro­bationers whom André had characterized in the Prospectus of 1818 as “intransigent” and “free-spirited,” but who “under supervision” had shown “appreciable signs of con­trition and improved behavior.” Lespinasse was adept enough with the looms to be entrusted with teaching weaving skills to incoming recruits and new brothers. The bad news was that he had left the dormitory undetected during the night, and according to one of his cousins, committed a serious misdeed. We don’t know exactly what it was, but it was so delicate a matter that Borgia dis­patched to the founder a letter asking for advice. Since Borgia’s letter was lost, we will never know what Lespi­nasse did.

It’s probably better that way; he can represent the young people of today with educational, behavioral or other problems who were the object of the chapter dele­gates’ concern.

André’s letter of response2 amounts to a narrative definition of a pedagogy of trust. In a rambling and non­systematic way, letting his intuitions lead him, the founder details several counsels for dealing with Lespinasse.


1 A pedagogy based on trust is a contemplative process leading to an intervention into the course of growth of a young person, for whom we risk affective and social energy in the name of God’s compassion.

2 Andre Coindre I, Letter X, p. 94-96.

Letter X of Fr. André Coindre

[Tence, September 13, 1823.]

My very dear Brother,

How distressed I am by the behavior of Lespinasse! And how delicate is the whole business! If his cousin was your only source for this information, you have good rea­son to fear betraying the trust he had in him and thus be­ing the cause of an irreconcilable enmity between them. Here is a prudent way to proceed until my brother gets there. If what happened is still secret and has not yet leaked out, take him aside and tell him just between the two of you and the four walls that you know he did not remain in the house all the time! Tell him that, if he does not own up to everything, you are going to inform me. Tell him also that you know more than he thinks, and that if you were to tell me everything, he would deserve twenty times over to be sent packing.

He is well aware that his father is not a man to be trifled with; so he will beg you not to say anything and he will admit. You must come down hard on him; you must for­bid him from going out at all, unless he is accompanied by a reliable brother. You must forbid him to go quite so often to see my mother and that, if he complains to her, you will tell me the whole story. Be sure to make it clear to him that should any pupil learn of his behavior, should he dare speak in a way which is the least bit dishonor­able, the very next day he will be sent on his way. Tell him that you have my full backing to act, should there ever be any real scandal for the pupils; tell him that you hold his future in your hands and that you took pity on him solely in the hope that the severe reprimand which he has re­ceived will cause him to change his ways. After that be sure to have him watched like milk on the boil, and if he gives you the slightest further trouble, fill him with dread at the possibility of your revealing everything to me.

That is what I consider to be the best course of action. You will have done your duty, you will have forestalled any number of offenses that he might have been guilty of had you caused him to leave forthwith. As this business is still not public, I presume, and therefore not a scandal for the others, the expulsion of the individual is not alto­gether expedient, but stick to your guns. Teach your brothers to be more scrupulous in their supervision; allow no pupil to leave unless he is accompanied by a reliable brother.

I shall be delighted to distribute the awards, but you will have to have them study their catechism and the gospels, learn one or two dialogues from Jules Chrétien1, and prepare topics that were not given for recitations in previous years. It would be important to include a few dialogues on the love of work, or on the importance for workers to have a good education. You might ask Mr. Casati2 to talk on that subject, or do it yourself if you feel that you are up to it. Someone could correct your text.

Father Magat would be of more use in Fourvière than here, because there he would replace Father Montagnac who wants to go to Le Puy3. Of course, Father Montagnac would need to apply for his faculties in Le Puy, but I doubt they would refuse.

All my love to my dearest mother and to my good sister.

Please do send me soon that Prospectus of the Brothers of Christian Schools; it is imperative that I receive it before I can get on with other things.

Best wishes to you and to our very dear brothers. Say nothing to them about the behavior of Lespinasse. See to it nevertheless that he is closely watched, and trust him no longer with the supervision of the other students. Be sure to give him a severe reprimand which he will never forget. Praised be Jesus Christ.

Your father,

Tence, September 13, 18234.


The Honorable Brother Director

of the brothers of Pieux-Secours,

3 Montee de la Butte,

Lyon, Rhone.


1 A pen-name for vicar-general Bochard.

2 Mr. Casati, notary, appears to have been a close collaborator with Pieux-Secours.

3 change of personnel which concerns the missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Monistrol.

4 Added later: Received on the 15th

2. The General Chapter of 2000: young poor and without hope today

In Lord, when did we see you? (Acts of the General Chapter of July 2000), pages 6-10 study the synthesis description of the cry of the young poor as studied by the pre-chapter assemblies. Then read Ordinance 1 on page 26.

– See following pages --

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