Founder of the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel
St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was born on 31st of January 1673 in a small village in Britanny in Western France was a French Roman Catholic priest and Confessor. He was known in his time as a preacher and was made a Missionary Apostolic by Pope Clement XI. He was born in Montfort-sur-Meu, the eldest surviving child of eighteen born to Jean-Baptiste and Jeanne Robert Grignion. He was ordained a priest in June 1700, and assigned to Nantes. Worn out by hard work and sickness, he finally came in April 1716 to Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre to begin the mission which was to be his last.
Louis de Montfort influenced four Popes ( Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XII and John Paul II), and is now being considered as a Doctor of the Church.God Alone was the motto of Saint Louis. He died on 28 April 1716 crying out his last words “It is in vain that you attack me. I am between Jesus and Mary. Thanks be to God and Mary! I am at the end of my life. Henceforth, I will sin no more”. The congregations Montfort left behind, the Company of Mary, the Daughters of Wisdom, and the Brothers of Saint Gabriel, grew and spread, first in France, then throughout the world. The year 2016 marks the historic Tercentenary celebration of the Birth of Montfort Brothers of St.Gabriel and entry of St.Montfort into eternal life.
During the 17th century France was passing through a grave crisis, economic as well as social. Added to this, 95% of the population was illiterate. The French Revolution which was to come almost a century later was already brewing.
It was in this atmosphere, charged with noble intention that St. Louis de Montfort founded the 'Brothers' to impart education to illiterate France. Not many were willing to follow this stern, austere and maverick Saint. When he died on the 28th of April 1716, there were only five Brothers. Montfortian institutions were very few and limited to Western France, when the revolution broke out. There was anarchy until Napoleon came to rescue France and conquered almost the whole of Europe. In 1821, when the Brothers met, they were still only a handful. They decided to launch out of France.
The Montfortian saga in India began when on the 11th of September 1903, three French Brothers landed in the French colony of Pondicherry. There was still no Montfortian institution in India. It was in the next year, 1904, that the first institution was started at Tindivanam, in Tamil Nadu. This was a technical institution. It is still in existence and flourishing. It was not until the end of the First World War that the first English medium School, Montfort School, was started at Shevaroy Hills in Yercaud.
From 1918 onwards the Montfortian institutions grew in India from one to nearly a 150 and are now spread over almost all states and Union Territories, literally from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Today Montfortian institutions are spread over thirty countries, from Canada, Colombia and Peru to Fiji and the Tonga Islands in the Pacific.
Re-Founder FR.GRABRIEL DESHAYES
THE EARLY PART OF HIS LIFE
Father Gabriel was born on 6th December 1767 at Beignon in Brittany, France. He lost his mother when he was 5 years old. His father was a farmer and a local butcher. As a boy he looked after sheep. He was very generous and helpful to others. As a youth he showed much joviality, common sense leadership and ability. He joined a seminary run-by the Vincentians. During the French revolution he went into exile to the island of Jersey and there, he was ordained a priest on March 4, 1792. Coming back to France under disguise, with exceptional courage he ministered to the faithful along with 6 or 7 priests grouped around the Parish Priests of Beignon, during the difficult years of 1792-1800.
FOUNDER OF CONGREGATIONS:
In 1805 Fr.Deshayes was appointed Parish Priest of St.Giwas, Auray. He was a good preacher. He started a school for boys, another one for girls, a college and a minor seminary. He started a co-operative bank to give loans to the poor, a spinning mill and hospice.
In 1816 he became the Vicar General of the Diocese of Vanes. In 1816, Fr.Deshayes started a Novitiate to form Brothers to teach in rural schools and in 1819, he got this new institute of Brothers amalgamated with a similar one started by Fr.Le.Mennais. This was the beginning of the Ploermel Brothers. In 1807, he founded sisters of St.Gildas.
On 17th December, 1820, Fr.Deshayes was officially admitted into the company of Mary and on the same day he was elected Vicar Director for the Brothers. As legal approval for teaching in schools was obligatory, he got an official recognition from the Government as the institute of the Brothers of the Holy Spirit and the Brothers were allowed to teach in 5 provinces.
In 1825 Fr.Deshayes went to Rome to get the Rules of the Company of Mary and Daughters of Wisdom approved by Rome and to work for the beautification of Montfort.
In 1838 he founded St.Gabriel’s boarding school in St.Laurent. One of the greatest achievements of his was the founding of schools for the deaf and the blind.
Thus Lachartreuse, Rouille, Orleans and Lille were centers started by him for handicapped children. After a full life of missionary activities and contributing much to the Montfortian Congregations, Fr.Deshayes died on 28 December 1841.