“What do you want me to do for you?” This was the thread of Gabriel Deshayes’life, a tireless Founder of Congregations and Educational, Health and Social works. 200 years after his arrival at St-Laurent-sur-Sèvre in 1821, his many heirs lived this Sunday, October 24th in the Basilica of St-Louis Grignion de Montfort, a radiant day by the weather and a bright one by the shared joy. Celebration, Forum with Missionary testimonies, Official launch of the Gabriel Deshayes Album, before a symbolic sending, marked this event of Memory and fully turned towards the future on this World Sunday of Missions. The Religious and Lay men and women of 5 Congregations – Sisters of Christian Instruction, Saint-Gildas-des-Bois, Brothers of Christian Instruction – La Mennais, Ploërmel, Montfort Missionaries, Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Mary, Daughters of Wisdom and Brothers of Saint-Gabriel – totaling a presence in 70 Countries were also surrounded by the Association of Friends of Gabriel Deshayes and the Network of the Pastoral of the deaf of Morbihan and Loire-Atlantique. Story in 20 images.
“For me, Gabriel Deshayes it was really a discovery!” Several participants at the Meeting this Sunday immediately displayed the color. Yes, the account of Father Deshayes’ action at St-Laurent and in the service of Congregations was a surprise to many, as was his many actions with the Needy, the Unemployed, the Prisoners, not to mention the Deaf and the Sensory impaired. Father Deshayes’ life received little comment in the Houses of Formation of the Congregations and the Historical works had not produced so many fruits.
Reminder. On January 17th, 1821, Gabriel Deshayes was elected Superior General of the Montfort Family at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre. During his 20 years of presence at St-Laurent from 1821 to 1841, he was the one who managed, developed and gave an unequalled impetus to the Fathers and Brothers of the Company of Mary, known as Montfortians, to the Daughters of Wisdom and to the Brothers of Saint-Gabriel. Born in Brittany in Beignon in 1767, he took an early interest in the realities around him. He was to be a priest. He wanted to respond to the difficulties found in Families: lack of work, difficulties of educating children and absence of Spiritual life.
For 50 years too: He innovated by launching construction sites and social activities with Job seekers and Prisoners, he pioneered with the Deaf. He founded teams of Teachers -Religious- in new Congregations. He invested himself in heritage management in the service of Educational, Health, Social and Spiritual projects. He watched, he listened. And he sought support, help, and partners. He made alliances against the current of uses and sets in motion, mobilizes…
A Giant of Compassion
“Why did Gabriel Deshayes arrive in Saint Laurent-sur-Sèvre? Yes, we know the Historical circumstances, and even his answer: «I am going to St Laurent to continue the work of Father de Montfort», but at the origin of this affinity with Father de Montfort, there was an encounter with Christ. This meeting, which took place on the day of his baptism, December 6th, 1767, in the Church of Beignon, the very day of his birth. Throughout his life, this meeting echoed the same invitation of today’s Gospel: “Trust, arise, he calls you.” It is a call not to give up in the face of the miseries of his time, but to live in turn with confidence the same compassion, a call that has always found in GD an enthusiastic, generous and formidable response!
Trust, get up, he’s calling you! Here is the most beautiful of the instructions of Gabriel Deshayes, as well as of Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort and Marie-Louise of Jesus (and the Marquis de Magnan) each time we return to St Laurent-sur-Sèvre, concluded Fr. Pasinato, whenever we set foot in this Basilica to find inspiration and light.”
Father Olivier Maire, who died last August, Postulator of Gabriel Deshayes had presented in 2018, during two days about Father Deshayes, the action of the latter at St-Laurent between 1821 and 1841. This Sunday, this contribution gave rise to the presentation of an audio-visual montage, presented by Bro Claude Launay and Sr Bernadette Coche.
“A tree to shelter thousands of birds”
During the Forum on “Being a Missionary today: what meaning and what challenges?” Audrey LEMARQUAND, employed in an Elderly People home, Hard of hearing resident in Nantes, Sister Pierrette BWANBA, General Councilor of the Daughters of Wisdom, of Congolese origin, currently in Paris, Fr. Willi SELMAN, priest, native of Indonesia, member of the Montfort team of the Sanctuary of Pontchâteau, Brother Michel KIENTEGA, Brother of St-Gabriel, of Burkinabé Nationality, in Formation in Angers and Mr. Eric JOYEAU, Teacher of Philosophy at the Lycée St Gabriel in St-Laurent-sur-Sèvre.
Each guest presented an object symbolizing the Mission in his eyes today: a picture of a bridge, a statuette of a woman from the Congo, gifts exchanged during International Meetings, a photo showing smiles between generations, a traditional Indonesian Musical Instrument.
From their life journey and personal history, the speakers shared their sensitive testimony. They touched, called, made people move. The facts experienced with women in the Congo DRC, in Classes in Burkina Faso or St-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, the presence with young people in Indonesia or elders in an elderly people home: all these situations described with heart and passion by the witnesses.
They also recounted their support, their resources facing difficulties: for some, a relationship with God who trusts and the prayer that gives strength, for others life in Community or Family, contacts and relationships…
Sr Pierrette Bwanba quoted several times this Congolese proverb which describes in her eyes the figure of Father Deshayes: «In a large tree came to rest and shelter thousands of birds».
Heirs of Gabriel Deshayes’ Spirit? Valérie Théaud, descendent of Gabriel Deshayes’ Family – 7th generation, spoke forcefully and sensitively about how she is touched by this closeness to this figure. The action of our ancestor is not ready to be extinguished, thanks to these women and men who have been following in his footsteps, for two centuries. We are proud of it and could thank God every day.”
An Album to tell the story of Gabriel Deshayes
New! 5 parts + 72 pages + 200 photos + 3 euros
My logbook: Gabriel Deshayes tells his story
Man of action and coach: 6 management points inspired by him
Tireless founder: Overview of Congregations and Works
Spiritual guide: 7 days with Gabriel Deshayes
A spirit for today: practical benchmarks to go further
Another symbolic moment : a fountain to the dimensions of the world
Another symbolic moment. The participants left the Basilica to go to the Memorial Space on the Esplanade of St-Gabriel Brothers.
Around the fountain, which became gushing out at the time of the sending and blessing, Fr. Paulin, Rector of the Basilica, invited the 5 Congregations and 2 Associations to continue their Mission in the World and presented them with a terracotta bust of Gabriel Deshayes.
Brothers of Christian Instruction – Ploërmel: Bro Yannick HOUSSAY, Provincial of France
Missionaries of Mary: Father Marco PASINATO, Assistant General
Brothers of St-Gabriel: Brother Dionigi TAFFARELLO, Vicar General
Daughters of Wisdom: Sister Antonella PRESTIA, General Assistant
Sisters of Christian Instruction – St Gildas: Sister Dominique GUERIN, General Assistant
Association of Gabriel Deshayes’s Friends: Father Gaétan LUCAS, President of the Association and Parish Priest of Auray,
Pastoral care for the Deaf and Hard of hearing: Albane GOUTTE
Let us greet here the Team of Inter-Congregations and Associations whose coordination was ensured by Bro Christian Bizon, of St-Gabriel Brothers with the active participation of the International Community of St-Laurent.
In practice: how to get the Gabriel Deshayes Album (3 euros)
At the «MÉDIATHÈQUE»: 1 rue Jean-Paul II, Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre
At the bookshop “SILOE” in La Roche-sur-Yon
Or order the Album: 5 € shipping costs
(with a cheque payable to Community St Gabriel FIM)
Frères de Saint-Gabriel, 2, Côte Saint-Sébastien 44200 NANTES
E-mail: email@example.com or Tel.: 02 28 09 09 35
We thank Gérard Ageneau for his collaboration in taking photos of this day.