KINARUT – The Brothers of St Gabriel marked the 300th anniversary of their Founder’s death and origins of their congregation on 10 April 2016. Vicar General Msgr Primus Jouil concelebrated the Mass with Fr Thomas Madanan at St Paul’s Chapel on the Hill at the Montfort Youth Training Centre (MYTC) here. Despite the slight drizzle, the trainees and staff of the training centre, divided into ten groups, walked in procession towards the chapel, carrying their banners before the Mass. Over two hundred people joined the Brothers, Board of Governors, staff, trainees, benefactors, and lay associates in the celebration. Prior to the Mass, the ninth day of novena prayer to Mary Queen of All Hearts was prayed by those present.
Born in 1673, Louis Grignion de Montfort was a French diocesan priest with a great devotion to the Virgin Mary. He was noted for his fervent and enthusiastic preaching and apostolate. He founded an order of missionary priests and brothers, the Company of Mary/Community of the Holy Spirit, and a sister order, the Daughters of Wisdom. He died in 1716. He is best known for his book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which like most of his writings, was not properly published until the nineteenth century. It proposes that the Christian make a “total consecration” of oneself to Jesus through Mary. It has an immense influence, not least on St John Paul II. He was canonised in 1947.
The Brothers were founded in 1705 for youth education, especially those from among the poor and marginalised. The first Brothers assisted the Founder in his missionary preaching in the western part of France. In the course of his mission in those parts of France Montfort established charitable schools for needy children. He entrusted this work to the Brothers. Providence brought Fr Gabriel Deshayes (1767-1841) to be the seventh Superior General of the Montfortian Family. Thanks to his zeal, the members of the Community increased many fold. The Brothers who were engaged in education were transferred to the house called “St Gabriel” and soon the inhabitants of this house were known under the name: “The Brothers of St Gabriel.” This name replaced their former one: “The Brothers of the Holy Spirit,” and became official when the Brothers were authorised to teach all over France by a decree of the Emperor Napoleon III, on 3 March 1853.
In his welcoming speech during the fellowship dinner, Provincial Superior Br Francis Chua thanked all those who were involved in the establishment of MYTC right from the outset like Abp Emeritus John Lee who opened the door for them to enter the archdiocese, the Light of Jesus Christ Covenant Community (1986) and the Daughters of St Paul (1998). While having dinner the diners were entertained by the trainees through song, choral or skit performances.
The Brothers came to Singapore at the end of 1936, to Johor in 1955 and to Sabah in 1998. Today they run the Montfort Boys Town in Shah Alam (1959), the Montfort Youth Training Centre Kinarut (1999) and the Montfort Youth Centre Melaka (2001). These institutions cater to those youths who have dropped out of school, and provide them with vocational skills training and character formation. In Sabah, the Brothers also take care of San Damiano (Boys) Hostel Kiulu (2011), and St Mary’s Youth Hostel Sandakan (2014).