April 18, 2014
 
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DR#: 1 Introductory Session A: The Founding Charism

Introduction

 Any history of a religious order has at its core the inspiration of the founder who was able to gather and inspire a group of men, in this case to take up a mission and to continue that mission as a gift to the Church for the past 200 years.  The legacy of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart is just such a legacy.  Through the preaching, fervor and inspiration of Father André Coindre, a group of men, initially ten in number, took vows in the Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.  Time and experience have changed many things including the name of the Institute, but nothing has altered its link to the founding charism and the desire to make the love of God known in our world through the ministry of education.

To introduce the Brothers’ foundation, you will explore glimpses of the history of the Institute in France and throughout the world.  No comprehensive study can be achieved this way.  However, our goal is to introduce you to the experiences that led to the formation of the Institute and to show how subsequent experience has continued to form our expression of the charism today.

This first exploration looks at foundation and the initial years of the Institute (1817-1841) from the beginning of the work of Pieux Secours, the first ministry, to the death of Father Coindre and the leadership of his brother, Father François Vincent Coindre.

Readings

  • Rule of Life, Preamble, Articles # 11, 112
  • André Coindre:  Missionary and Founder – Introduction (Brother René Sanctorum)
  • The Brothers of the Sacred Heart – Chapter I & II (selected parts)

Options for Additional Readings
  •  The Memoirs of Brother Xavier
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. Even from the earliest days of the Institute, the principle of subsidiarity (making decisions at the lowest appropriate level) was significant.  Father André Coindre turned everything over to the Brothers and their administration.  How is this trust and support for people in their roles evident in your experience?
     
  2. Learning from experience, rather than creating rules, was Father Coindre’s philosophy in developing the structures of the Institute.  He never sought to burden the Brothers with rules that would limit their ministries.  Where is that evident in your own experience in ministry with the Brothers?
     
  3. Nothing seemed to go smoothly in the first years of the Institute; the early death of the founder, his brother’s lack of business acumen, potential bankruptcy.  Yet in this era, and in each since, leaders have emerged, faithful to the founder, who have enabled the mission to continue.  In your own experience, who are the brothers and lay men and women who continue to gift you with a sense of the charism and its lived reality today?  How?
 
Prayer

Lord, in all of our history there is a deep faith in your provident care, in the reality of God among us,in the events of each day, of each era.

Time and time again, you have called us to place our faith in you, and use the talents and skills you have given to us to enable your mission to continue.

Today, new people enter into this mission each year, inspired by the desire to teach, growing in awareness of the charism,growing in understanding of what that means in the daily life of a school.

May we each bring the charism to life, in what we do and say, in how teach and serve, in our hope and our vision for the future.

Lord, we are constantly in need of your provident love.

Willing and able, yet fragile, we turn to you for strength and support, that in our turn, we might nurture the gift of the charism, for a new age,in new circumstances,that your love might be known.

Amen

Readings

Rule of Life
Brothers of the Sacred Heart, 2007

Preamble

To rescue young people from ignorance, to prepare them for life, and to give them a knowledge and love of religion, Father André Coindre, in 1821, founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

In the spirit of evangelism that marked the period, the founding of the Institute expressed a response to the needs of the time and place on behalf of neglected and dechristianized youth.

Father Coindre wanted the members of the Institute to be brothers living the values specific to the religious life and committing themselves in a stable way to the service of the Church and society.

Brother Borgia, Brother Xavier, and Brother Polycarp took care to preserve the heritage of the founder.  The Rule of 1843 describes in a definitive way the original grace of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.  It expresses clearly the elements essential to the life of a religious educator.

By the apostolic decree of July 22, 1894, the Church acknowledged the action of the Holy Spirit in the founding and history of our Institute, which it has approved as a pontifical institute of simple vows.  By the same action, the Church has confirmed the members of the Institute in their vocation and their mission.

The Spirit who inspired our founding and who has sustained us throughout our history remains constantly active in the Institute.  The present Rule of Life strives to translate the spiritual and apostolic thrust of our first Brothers into language which speaks to us today.  

 

Chapter II - The Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart

11. Charism of the Founder
The Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart owes its origin to the apostolic zeal of Father André Coindre for instructing neglected youth and bringing them to the knowledge and love of God.

The founding of our Institute was his response to the missionary needs of his time. Father Coindre and his first followers realized that the religious life had value in itself and that through it the work of education would be better assured.

Chapter VIII - The Heart of Christ

112.  Christ in our Life
Our founders made us heirs of their devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And so Christ, in his mystery of love, holds first place in our life as Brothers of the Sacred Heart. He is our reference point and the center of our  motivations, just as he is the very principle of our total self-offering and of our apostolic action.

 

André Coindre 1787-1826  Missionary and Founder
by Brother René Sanctorum, S.C.

INTRODUCTION

In 1815, on a freezing November or December afternoon, two little girl orphans – tattered, chilled to the bone, and famished – were huddled up against the door of Saint Nizier Church, a few steps from here. The elder of the two couldn't be more than four years old, the other was less than three. 

How many men and women, on their way home or tending to their affairs, hurried by without seeing, or without taking notice, before a young priest, twenty-eight years old, stopped, asked the children what they were doing there, and took the smaller one into his arm and the other by the hand, wondering what he was going to do with them. 

This priest was called André Coindre, and this encounter led to the foundation of two institutes: the Religious of Jesus-Mary – whose foundress we are well acquainted with, Blessed Claudine Thévenet — and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, who are hosting here, today, their superior general, Brother Jean-Charles Daigneault, and two assistants general, Brothers Marcel Rivière and Jean Roure — all three having come from Rome specially for this occasion. 

Twenty-eight years before the event just described, another encounter left its mark on the life of André Coindre, a decisive one, without which the event we have now considered could not have taken place and without which the event we are living here, this afternoon, could never have happened either: the baptism of André Coindre, in this very parish of Saint Nizier, decidedly a place of great spiritual significance to our Founder.

Claudine Thévenet, who was to be very closely associated with him, was also baptized in this church, thirteen years earlier, on 31 March 1774. 

We are celebrating, in fact, a few weeks behind the exact date, the bicentenary of the baptism of André Coindre, received on 28 February 1787. And I wish, on this occasion, to retrace his life in a few words.

 

The Brothers of the Sacred Heart – Chapter I & II (selected parts)

Rev. André Coindre
Founder and First Superior General (1821-1826)

Childhood and Youth

André Coindre first saw the light of day in Lyon, France, February 26, 1787.  He was the son of Vincent Coindre and Marie Mifflet whose modest home was just a few paces from the Church of St. Nizier.  The parents were of very limited means; the father, at first a tailor, later became a distributing agent of salt which, in those times, was a State monopoly. 

Two more children were to grace the family circle: a boy Francis Vincent, whom we shall meet again; and a daughter, Marie, who eventually became Mrs. Malligand and resided for many years as a neighbor to our Brothers. 

If his parents did not have an abundance of material goods, they did possess a strong, active faith and an ardent love of God, which enabled them not only to withstand the spiritual ravages of the Revolution but also to raise their children in the ways of virtue in spite of the many obstacles and even dangers of those troublous times. 

By the time that André was old enough to attend school, the churches had been closed by the military. Catholic schools were swept out of existence and the priests either had fled to safety or gone into hiding at the peril of their lives.  The open practice of religion was declared a crime against the State. 

It was his own mother who initiated André into the truths of faith and the practices of piety and who warded off from him contacts with the depraved youth of his own age who were carried along by the revolutionary current.  God came to her assistance.  She found in the neighborhood a teacher so remarkable and extraordinary that she believed him to be a priest in disguise.  To him she entrusted her little André, then just eight years old. 

Other priests in secular garb were living in a neighboring inn.  They were not slow to discover the good dispositions of the boy.  They also took a hand in his education and implanted in his heart the germ of the priestly vocation. 

In 1795, the Government abandoned its futile attempt to establish a schismatic church.  Immediately priests re-appeared as if by magic, in defiance of renewed threats of persecution and Catholic life was openly resumed in churches and chapels.  Henceforth, André heard Mass regularly and followed catechetical instructions, but not yet in the Church of St. Nizier which continued to remain in the hands of the schismatics.  This church returned to Catholic worship only in 1802, upon the proclamation of the Concordat. 

 
The Acolyte and the Priest

It is believed that, in 1802, André became an altar boy in his own parish church of St. Nizier and that, together with some of his companions, he took lessons in Latin from one of the assistant priests.  In this select group of students he was noted for excellence of conduct and application.  Meanwhile his desire for the priesthood became definite.  At the age of seventeen he was admitted to the minor seminary of the diocese, at Argentière, where he ranked among the best of the students. 

In 1809, he entered the major seminary of St. Irenaeus in Lyon itself and there he developed a great piety and a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin.  He was ordained priest by Cardinal Fesch, Archbishop of Lyon, on June 14, 1812. 

He launched at once into his ministry at Bourg (Ain) and from the start, he revealed himself a priest full of zeal and charity and a preacher of no mean ability.  In fact, the following year he was chosen to pronounce before the intellectual elite of Lyons, gathered in the venerable Cathedral of St. John, the primatial church of Gaul, a discourse ordered by Napoleon himself on the glories of the French armies.  Two years later he preached, in the same church, the entire series of sermons customary during the season of Advent.

Orphanage for Girls 

Father Coindre did not fail to observe children of both sexes idling in the streets and evidently in want of parental care and support.  He could not remain indifferent to the sad lot of these unfortunate ones and resolved to do something to assist them.

In 1816, he gathered a few small girls in one of the rooms at the Charterhouse and placed them in the care of the Pious Union , an association of young ladies which he himself had organized.  To assure the stability of the work, he persuaded Miss Claudine Thévenet, the President of the Association, to found a religious Congregation devoted to the education of children.  With the co-operation of some of her associates, she organized, in 1818, the Ladies of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary which, in 1841, took the name of Sisters of Jesus-Mary. 

The new Congregation with its wards moved to more spacious quarters in the vicinity of the Church of St. Bruno; then, in 1820, to a permanent home on the hillside of Fourvière. 

Orphanage for Boys

Father Coindre's plan for the welfare of neglected children was only half completed.  In 1817, he came to the assistance of the boys.  Following the same pattern as for the girls, he gathered five or six of the lads in a room at the Charterhouse.  There, under the direction of a certain Mr. Jenton, they began their apprenticeship in the silk industry which was one of the chief industries of Lyon at that time.  As their numbers increased, they were moved to more spacious quarters, which also, in time became too small.  Evidently, the work needed a permanent location extensive enough to provide for further development. 

Jointly with his father, Father Coindre bought two and a half acres of the former Carthusian farm, close to the Church of St. Bruno.  It was a splendid site, bordering on the Chemin de la Butte which led down to the River Saône.  It contained a small residence suitable for the Coindre family; and another, farther in, that used to be the dwelling of the farmer.  This latter structure was enlarged and, in 1820, under the name of Pieux-Secours, it was occupied by the boys.  All seemed to be going well; but the zealous priest would have felt more confident about the permanence of his work if an Institute of Brothers were in charge.  He decided to found one. 

The First Disciples of Father Coindre 

Father Coindre presented his plan to the personnel of his school.  Anthony Jenton, the head man, was not interested; in fact, he withdrew shortly after from the work.  William Arnaud, the overseer, asked for time to think it over; then he gave this admirable answer: “I know the world well enough to feel capable, with God's grace, to despise it.”  Thereupon Father Coindre gave him a warm embrace and said: “You shall be the first member of the little Congregation which I am about to found.”  Francis Porchet, the teacher, was also willing to become a religious.

In a retreat given at Belleville, Father Coindre had met Claude Mélinond, a young teacher who wanted to embrace the religious life, but as he was a cripple, some Congregations to which he had applied refused to admit him.  The priest declared that he would find a way to help him realize his desire.  Now that the project of a new Institute was about to take life, Father Coindre wrote to Mélinond inviting him to report at the Pieux-Secours if he still wanted to be a religious.  Mélinond came at once.

Thus, Father Coindre had three excellent subjects, enough to start his Congregation: William Arnaud, twenty-two years old, with a year's experience at the Pieux-Secours; Francis Porchet, whose age is unknown, a teacher at the Pieux-Secours from 1820; Claude Mélinond, age twenty-two, a school teacher for a number of years who wished to continue in the same occupation as a religious. 

Let us bow in grateful reverence to these first disciples of Father Coindre.  Great is their merit to have given themselves to a work which seemed of doubtful issue and, greater still, to have persevered in it until death. 

Valbenoîte

In the spring of 1821, Father Coindre was preaching a mission at St. Etienne.  While visiting the former Benedictine Abbey of Valbenoîte on the outskirts of the city, he was surprised to find seven men living in a house next to the Abbey, in community, under the direction of the parish priest.  They were not religious, since they had no vows, and each kept his own earnings; neither were they engaged in any social work as they performed distinct employments in the city, meeting together only during their free time.  They were simply good souls who shunned the world, and this common trait had drawn them together . 

Father Coindre lay before them his plans for the new Institute.  He told them of the first three recruits of the Pieux-Secours.  They themselves were numerous enough to form at Valbenoîte a second unit of the work.  Naturally, they needed the consent of the Pastor who was the proprietor of the house.  They readily accepted the invitation, the Pastor was co-operative and the house was put at the disposition of Father Coindre. 

Birth of the Institute

September 23, 1821 will ever be a memorable day in the Institute.  Assembled for a retreat at the Pieux-Secours, on that day, were the ten recruits of Father Coindre: the three from the Pieux-Secours, and the seven from Valbenoîte. Of these seven, we know the names of only three: Victor Guillet, forty years old, Anthony Dufour and Francis Rimoux, ages unknown. 

Father Coindre must have been highly gratified at the prompt response of the entire group to his appeal.  They were, in fact, mature men, their ages ranging from twenty to forty years.  They had come resolved to dedicate themselves to the apostolate of Christian education.

The retreat lasted six full days.  It began in great earnest, with Father Coindre at his best.  There was so much at stake for him and for the Church in this retreat.  He was giving birth to a work whose potentiality he could not measure but which actually would encircle the world.  He poured into his instructions all the resources of his zeal and eloquence, all the unction of his heart and soul. 

The retreat closed on September 30 in one of the chapels of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fourvière.  Father Coindre celebrated Holy Mass and distributed Holy Communion to the retreatants who, in the fervor of their thanksgiving, made interiorly private vows to devote themselves to the service of God for three years in the Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; for such was the name given to the new Institute by its Founder. 

On their return to the Pieux-Secours, the newly-professed received their religious names directly from the Founder.  William Arnaud became Brother Xavier; Francis Porchet, Brother Paul; Claude Mélinond, Brother Francis; Victor Guillet, Brother Borgia; Anthony Dufour, Brother Ignatius; Francis Rimoux, Brother Augustin, etc. 

Father Coindre stayed three weeks longer with his disciples in order to direct their first steps in the religious life.  Necessarily, they had to make their novitiate while discharging a regular employment.  The Founder returned to them from time to time during the intervals of his mission work.  In his absence he was replaced by his brother Francis, already a sub-deacon, and living in the Coindre home next door to the Pieux-Secours.  Moreover, the Brother Director of the House kept constant watch over the conduct of each member of his little community. 

Assignments 

Unfortunately, Father Coindre was not able to give much time to his Congregation.  From October to the end of April he was engaged in his mission work in the various centers of the diocese.  During this time the Brothers were under the care of his brother, Francis Coindre; but before departing he made valuable recommendations and exhorted each one to persevere in his first fervor.

As the orphan boys were about to return from their vacation he assigned the various employments as follows : 

The Pieux-Secours: Brother Borgia, Director; Brother Xavier, manager of the workroom; Brothers Augustin, Francis and Paul, teachers and minders. 

Valbenoîte : Brother Ignatius, Director; who was assisted by four other Brothers whose names have not come down to us. 

The Pieux-Secours

The Pieux-Secours had the double character of an orphanage and a trade school.  It admitted boys who had no home or who lacked parental support, and even an occasional delinquent in need of a helping hand.  It trained them to earn a livelihood and become self-reliant and useful to society.  At first their occupation was confined to the silk industry; but in time they were employed in woodworking, shoemaking, bookbinding, tailoring, sculpture and other trades.  Those of school age were required to attend classes a few hours daily.  All were instructed in Christian doctrine and trained in religious practices. 

How pleasing it must have been to watch these lads enjoy material comforts hitherto unknown to them, living in happy companionship and playing innocent games, proud of the trade they were learning and of the perspective of an honest, useful life – all this under the paternal care of devoted masters dedicated to their uplift. 

The success of the Pieux-Secours must be attributed to the zeal and prudent initiative of Father Coindre.  While his project for a new Institute was maturing he had organized a society of charitable persons who bound themselves to support thirty orphan boys for a period of five years.

Valbenoîte

After a month’s absence, the five Brothers assigned to Valbenoîte arrived at their destination much improved spiritually.  Seeing them so well disposed, the Pastor now regretted the concessions he had made to Father Coindre.  In fact, he determined to head an institution of his own after the model of the Pieux-Secours, and the five Brothers were willing to go with him.  Aware of the situation, Father Coindre relinquished all his claims over the men and the property at Valbenoîte.  This took place at Christmas of 1821.  The establishment had lasted only a few months. 

No one can found a religious Congregation unless he be commissioned from on high.  The well-meaning Pastor was frustrated in his expectations, for the five men soon grew dissatisfied and returned to the world. 

Recruiting

While making the round of his missions, Father Coindre kept on the alert for promising recruits.  People came to him for advice as well as for confession.  If anyone was inclined for religious life and possessed the necessary aptitude for the Institute, he was directed to the Pieux-Secours, Brother Borgia received him and took charge of his religious formation.  By January of 1822 there were four aspirants under his care.

Our First Schools

The original intention of the Founder was to have the Brothers take charge of orphanages such as that of the Pieux-Secours but his travels through the country districts made him realize other needs of the times.  He soon became convinced that the Brothers’ apostolate should also include the teaching of boys, and chiefly, in the primary schools.

The first day school was opened at Monistrol.  It was operated in connection with the novitiate: that is, the novices were learning how to teach by doing the actual teaching of the pupils.  Father Coindre was rightly convinced that, to be truly effective, pedagogy must be learned by practice as well as by theory. 

This innovation met with astonishing success.  The pastors of Haute-Loire clamored for Brothers but the Vicar General of Lyons insisted that Father Coindre reserve all his Brothers for that diocese.  The Founder took this occasion to declare that his work was to be general, and not limited to any particular diocese.

In fact, in 1824, he opened two more schools both in Haute-Loire, one at Pradelles and one at Monastier; and in 1825, four others were established in two different dioceses.  This Institute was definitely launched in the teaching apostolate.

The First General Chapter: 1824

October 14, 1824 is also memorable because of the holding of the first General Chapter of the Institute.  The Congregation already had enough members to staff five houses: the Pieux-Secours, the novitiate at Monistrol, and the schools of Monistrol, Pradelles and Monastier.  The Founder was so busy with his mission work that he could not superintend the Brothers in their daily life.  He wished, therefore, that they should begin to govern themselves.  He assembled them in General Chapter and gave them the following organization: he would continue as Superior General; his brother, Father Francis, chaplain of the Pieux-Secours, would replace him in his absence and, eventually, succeed him as Superior General; afterward, the Superior General would be chosen from among the Brothers.  As Superior General, Father André reserved to himself the opening of new houses, the assignment of the Brothers and the granting of permissions relating to Poverty.  He put everything else under the authority of the Director General acting either alone or with his Council.

To encourage the Brothers to act on their own initiative, he deeded to them the furnishings and the equipment of the Pieux-Secours, paid all the outstanding debts of the Institution and turned over to them the full administration of its finances.  Moreover, he promised that the land and the buildings would eventually become their own property.

Pleased with these arrangements, the Brothers proceeded to elect the general officers as had been proposed to them.  The results of the election were as follows : 

Director General for life - Brother Borgia;
First Assistant for three years - Brother Xavier; 
Second Assistant for three years - Brother Augustin;
Econome General - Brother Bernard.

Vicar General of Blois

Relieved in great part of the administration of the Institute, Father Coindre could now redouble his efforts in the mission field.  However, with the coming of a new bishop at Le Puy an important change was about to take place.  In extreme need of parish priests, the bishop decided that, now that the faith had been stimulated among the people, the missionaries should hold themselves ready to exercise their apostolate separately in the respective parishes to which they would be assigned.  This measure doomed the organization of Father Coindre to a slow but sure death. 

It was at this juncture that the Bishop of Blois asked Father Coindre to send one of his Monistrol missionaries to be the Superior of his seminary.  Thereupon, Father Coindre tendered his resignation as head of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and offered his services to the bishop.  The latter gladly accepted and made him his Vicar General as well as Superior of the seminary.  This was in November 1825. 

Before leaving for Blois, Father Coindre went to Lyons to bid farewell to his aged mother, his brother, his sister and his two religious families.  Our Brothers must have been grieved to see him go so far from them.  However, he continued to write to them and, in fact, it was in his last letter that he rejected the proposition of the diocesan Visitor of religious communities to have the Brothers merge with the Marist Brothers of Father Champagnat.  

Death of Father André Coindre

Father Coindre arrived at Blois in February 1826 and set work at once.  Besides the direction of the seminary and the preaching of the Lenten sermons in one of the parishes of the city, he undertook with his usual vigor the refutation of attacks against the Church by a hostile press.  Such were his exertions in these laborious tasks that he overtaxed his strength; his health failed and he died May 30, 1826 at the age of thirty-nine years.

His death was premature but his life had been full and productive.  His work continued through the three societies which he had founded.  The Sisters of Jesus-Mary multiplied their convents in France and made foundations in other countries.  The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart continued for a time to operate the seminary of Monistrol and then merged with the diocesan clergy.  Let us now see what became of the hundred professed Brothers and novices which made up the total membership of the Institute of the Brothers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

 

Rev. Francis Coindre
Second Superior General (1826-1841)

General Chapter of 1826

At the news of the death of Father André Coindre the Brothers were stunned but not disconcerted.  Brother Borgia, the Director General, convoked the General Chapter at the Pieux-Secours.  All the members expressed their determination to be faithful to the counsels and directions of their deceased Superior and appointed the suffrages to be offered for the repose of his soul by every establishment and by every Brother.

It was the opinion of the Chapter that a priest was still needed at the head of the Institute and no one was better prepared for that office than the brother of the deceased, Reverend Francis Coindre.  Moreover, he was the choice of Father André.  He was elected Superior General.

Father Francis Coindre Appraised

Father Francis Coindre was an excellent priest, animated with the best of intentions and entirely devoted to his work.  However, he lacked to an appreciable degree the virtue of prudence which is the essential quality of a good leader and administrator.

Still young, as he was only twenty-seven years old, with little experience in life and no talent for business, he had been, all of a sudden, raised to the superiorship.  If, like Father André, he had limited himself to acting as moderator, spiritual guide, recruiter and promoter of the cause of the Institute with the clergy, he could have rendered valuable service, as he was eminently qualified for these various offices.  However, instead of sharing his authority with his associates as provided by the Chapter of 1824, he gradually concentrated in his own hands all powers, even the temporal administration for which he had no aptitude at all, and he thus brought the Institute to within a hair’s breadth of its ruin.

May we not see the hand of Providence in all these tribulations?  The Institute had grown rapidly, but its subjects were not always fully prepared for the religious life.  Trials were needed to weed out the less fervent.  The virtuous would survive and serve as a basis on which to rebuild more solidly. 

Monistrol Abandoned

One of the most deplorable measures of the new Superior was to abandon, in 1827, the novitiate of Monistrol which was beginning to give very good results, and to distribute the novices in the various establishments where, instead of continuing their studies, they were to be formed to the religious life while working at their allotted tasks.  Several were assigned to help out at the Pieux-Secours in Lyons.

It was at this time that Hippolyte Gondre (Brother Polycarp) applied at Lyons for admission into the Institute.  He spent the first year of his formation teaching the orphan boys and his second year in training his fellow-novices, all of whom were employed in construction work.  In spite of his good will he could do very little good to the novices as they worked all day as hired laborers and lived the remainder of the day among the orphans.  These conditions were continued through 1829 and 1830, with the result that very few of these novices persevered. 

Dismissal of all the Novices

In Paris and in other cities, the Revolution of 1830 was directed especially against religious Congregations.  Some Institutes deemed it prudent to send their novices to their families.  Such a measure was unnecessary for us as Lyons, throughout 1830, remained relatively calm.  Nevertheless, the novices were sent home. 

This unfortunate dismissal of the novices relieved Brother Polycarp of his teaching duties at the Pieux-Secours and rendered him available for the Directorship of the school at Vals, a suburb of Le Puy, where he remained seven years.  During this time he gathered a group of recruits and trained them to the religious life.  Other establish-ments, also, were receiving recruits and the Directors did what could be done to form them.

Constructions

At the death of his mother in 1827, Father Francis became the sole owner of the Pieux-Secours.  According to a previous agreement, the Brothers controlled its finances.  He proposed to the Brothers that they merge their resources with his for the purpose of expansion.  They had nothing to lose thereby since, at his death, everything would revert to them.  The Brothers consented.

With these combined funds and some of the patrimony of the Brothers added, Father Francis launched upon a succession of building projects.  Within nine years he erected a chapel, several workshops, dormitories, several apartments for renting and a second series of additions to the workshops.  By 1836, not only had all the funds been expended but such a huge debt had accumulated that bankruptcy seemed inevitable. 

General Discouragement

Ever since Father Francis had assumed the direction of the Institute, the number of defections kept increasing from year to year.  Some Brothers saw the doom of the Institute in the dismissal of the novices; others objected to manual work for life; and many were suffering from the lack of a solid religious formation.  Now the fear of bankruptcy came like a windstorm to carry off the weak and wavering.  Frankly, the situation was far from reassuring.  The Pieux-Secours was the only establishment belonging to the Institute.  Its loss would strip the Brothers of all their material goods, of their personal property, of their savings for the past fifteen years and of their center for administration and their retreats. 

Quite a number of them, after the example of their Brother Director General and other senior members, abandoned their vocation and returned to the world.  Discouragement became so widespread that within ten years of the death of the Founder, instead of increasing or, at least, of keeping its own level, the membership of the Institute dwindled to some forty subjects, novices included; nor were these without some anxiety about the future.

Savior of the Institute

Bitterly did Father Francis regret having brought the Congregation to such desperate straits.  His grief even brought on an attack of sickness so that, for a time, his life was in danger.  He could find no way of mending the situation and he had to resign himself to bankruptcy and the dispersion of the Brothers.  This would have been the end of the Institute had not Brother Xavier come to the rescue.

Brother Xavier, let us recall, was the first recruit of the Founder.  The General Chapter of 1824 had elected him First Assistant and, after the defection of Brother Borgia, the Director General, he found himself at the head of the Brothers.  Sixteen years at the Pieux-Secours had made him familiar with the work which Father André Coindre had so much at heart.  He loved the work and wanted to save it at all cost.  So he went to Father Francis with the following proposition: “I will take upon myself the payment of all the debt if you will promise not to borrow, any more.”  The priest gladly agreed and conceded to Brother Xavier the Direction of the Institute. 

Owing to the extravagance of Father Francis, the benefactors of Pieux-Secours had stopped their contributions.  But as they were old friends, Brother Xavier interviewed them and they promised to help once more.  With their benefactions and by dent of rigid economy, he was able to make a token payment on the debt and thus stave off bankruptcy. 

He next turned his attention to the religious discipline of the Brothers and to the vitally important work of recruiting.  By this time in 1836, Brother Polycarp, appointed novice master had some fifteen aspirants at Vals.  The following year he came to Lyons with his disciples to occupy the spacious newly constructed buildings at the Pieux-Secours.

Father Francis Tenders his Resignation

It would seem that, by this time, Father Francis should have grown wiser from the lack of success of his building ventures.  But not at all!  He started another construction on the land which had been left to him and again, he became insolvent.  As he was their Superior, the Brothers had just reason to fear that, as a corporate body, they would be held responsible for the debts he had incurred.  They put the case squarely before him and he had to yield to the evidence.  He resigned his office of Superior General on August 20, 1841.  He had governed the Institute for fifteen years. 

Left to struggle alone with his financial problem, Father Francis gave one more evidence of his lack of business acumen.  He visualized immense profits to be realized by a clever operation.  The property of the Pieux-Secours was advertised for sale.  The proceeds of that sale would be surprisingly high, so high, in fact, that he would be able to redeem the parcel he had sold to the Brothers and have a handsome balance for himself.  As a preliminary measure, he ordered Brother Xavier to vacate the premises.  Thereupon, the boys were sent home and the Brothers left for Paradis.  Thus ended, in the fall of 1841, after twenty-one years of existence, the first establishment of the Institute, so dear to the Founder – the Patronage of the Pieux-Secours. 

A whole year went by.  No one seemed interested in the property and no price was offered.  At last, weary and disillusioned, Father gave back to the Brothers the Pieux-Secours.  It was re-opened as a boarding school in 1842, under the name of Pensionnat Sacré-Coeur.

Changes in the Administration

There was no Director General after 1836.  Brother Xavier remained First Assistant until 1840 when Father Francis chose Brother Polycarp as First Assistant and Brother Alphonse as Second. 

Brother Xavier devoted himself to the Institute for many more years, as Director of the Sacred Heart Boarding School at Lyons and as Econome General.  He was revered by all the Brothers, especially in his last years when he was given the surname “Father.”  He was the last survivor of the ten pioneer Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

The Last Years of Father Francis Coindre

In 1843, Father Francis was named chaplain of the “Providence” of the Sisters of Jesus-Mary at Fourvière.  He remained there fourteen years.  In 1848, he was hailed as a hero for having prevented the Revolutionists from burning the workshops of that Institution. 

Feeling that his end was drawing near, he retired in 1857 with his sister, Mrs. Malligand, to the Coindre home near the Pieux-Secours now become the Sacred Heart Boarding School.  The Brothers had thus many opportunities to visit him, to render him some services, and to be edified by his great piety and his entire resignation to the Will of God. 

He died there on January 12, 1858. 

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