Archbishop Amigo at Celebrations at Clapham
FOUNDER WAS ONCE LUMBERMAN IN U.S.A.
ON MONDAY LAST, JUNE 5, THE XAVERIAN BROTHERS KEPT THE CENTENARY OF THEIR FOUNDATION.
The day was observed in London at Clapham College with a Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving, at which Archbishop Amigo, Bishop of Southwark, presided, a large congregation assisted, and thirty "old boy" priests were present.
The celebrant of the Mass was the Very Rev. Canon Thompson, the deacon the Rev. Fr. Warrilow, 0.S.B., the sub-deacon the Rev. Fr. R. Madden.
The Congregation of the Brothers of Saint Francis Xavier—to quote the canonical title—was founded by Theodore James Ryken, a pious, serious minded Hollander, born 1797. He was dowered with no accidental gifts of fortune or worldly advantage; but, even in early manhood, his soul craved to teach the young the love and service of God.
At twenty-five he was a voluntary, whole-hearted helper to a good priest who conducted an orphanage. At twenty-nine he was nursing the cholera stricken at Groeningen, North Holland. He contracted the dread disease and lay at death's door; but Providence had work for him to do, and he recovered.
He tried his vocation in a Trappist monastery, but was advised that his work in life lay elsewhere.
Lumberman, Hawker, House-man
We next read of him in the United States of America, earning his living now as a lumberman, now as a hawker, then as house-man to the Bishop of St. Louis; but always spending his scanty leisure, according to the desire of his heart, in instructing children.
He deplored the fewness of Catholic teachers, and slowly, but irresistibly, there rose in his heart the determination to found, by the help of God, a body of religious men, dedicated, wholely and solely, to Catholic education.
Several American bishops graciously encouraged him, but at the same time wisely insisted that his project would be easier and surer of realisation in his native country, Holland, or in Catholic Belgium.
Furnished with several episcopal recommendations, Mr Ryken left America in 1838, and settled in the old-world city of Bruges, Belgium. In due course he unfolded his plan to Mgr. Boussen, Bishop of that city, who received him with paternal kindness.
Later the Bishop insisted, and most kindly arranged, that Mr Ryken should be trained in the principles and practices of the religious life in a Redemptorist monastery.
Rules Drafted by Jesuit This period of training finished, Mr Ryken received the necessary episcopal permission to found the Congregation. The rules were drafted for him by a kindly Jesuit, Fr. Van Kerkhoven, St. Francis Xavier was Chosen as patron.
Hopefully, the founder looked forward to a definite beginning of community life, on June 5, 1839, with two companions.
Membership slowly increased, and schools were opened in the city of Bruges. These developed into the present flourishing Belgian Province, comprising fifteen houses, included in which are three in the Belgian Congo, In 1848 the founder was able to send three Brothers to take over " St. Marie's " School at Bury, England, thus beginning the English Province.
After laying the foundations of the Congregation in America, which is now one of the most flourishing Provinces, the founder returned to Bruges, there to govern his expanding Congregation and to train young Brothers for their life-work ; but it became painfully evident that ability in financial matters was not one of his many qualities. And so it was that, in 1860, the Brethren, with deepest regret, elected another, Br. Vincent Terhoeven, to replace the founder.
His old love for catechetical instruction burned more brightly than ever and, coupled with this, was his enthusiastic propagation of devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The end of his labours came on November 27, 1871, when he died the death of a saint, in the old Mother-House at Bruges, amongst his beloved Brethren.
First English Venture
The growth of the Congregation is largely the history of the growth and success of their schools, but the first foundation in England came to a premature end.
On May 1, 1848, three Xavcrians started work at " St. Marie's" School at Bury, and struggled along for two years, till April 28, 1850, when their lack of Government certificates, with consequent loss of Government grant to the managers, necessitated the retirement of the three brave pioneers from Bury.
Mayfield in Sussex and Baltimore in Maryland have a most interesting link in common. A Mr Richard Caton, an Englishman, married at Baltimore a daughter of the illustrious Catholic statesma n, Charles Carroll, a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence, in 1776. They had three daughters, whose wealth and beauty made them most desirable bridesto-he.
In 1825 they crossed to England with their mother, where they became known as " The Three Graces," and eventually all three married English peers, One became Lady Wellesley, another Lady Stafford, and the third Duchess of Leeds.
The last-named, Louisa Catherine, became in due time a childless widow, and spent her wealth and her time in good works. She built two majestic schools, at Mayfield and at Mark Cross. The former, for boys, she placed under the care of the Brothers, who opened it on May 8, 1868.
For more than seventy years the school has functioned, a household word of regard and affection amongst the Brothers and innumerable " old boys," friends, and relatives.
At a Provincial Chapter held at Mayfield, Easter, 1896, under the presidency of the Provincial, Brother Gabriel, it was decided, subject to episcopal permission, to open a secondary school at Clapham, London, S.W. The needed permission was readily granted; a fine detached house overlooking the Common was bought, and building the college proper was commenced.
On August 25, 1897, the premises were blessed and opened by Bishop (afterwards Cardinal) Bourne, and the school started its career of distinguished usefulness. Brother Gabriel, in charge during the first years, was succeeded by Brother Cuthbert, of revered memory, and he in turn by Brother Bernardine.
Probably no house in the Province is so well known.
The Xaverian College, Brighton, was opened March 25, 1909, with the ready concurrence of the Bishop of the diocese. Brighton and Hove have a population of some 200,000, and a Catholic secondary school was an urgent need.
The latest addition to the Houses of the Province is the Preparatory School at Waldron, Sussex. The Manor House, a fine, spacious building, is entirely devoted to the homelife of the boys, whilst the school has been planned on most modern lines.
The Brothers also have important schools in Bootle and Manchester.