First Marist Missions

This was my very first opportunity to visit some of the first Marist missions that had been established at the time of our saintly Founder. These were the missions he himself had so desired to serve as a missionary, but was unable to do so due to the need for him to supervise a very young congregation of Brothers, a job that took up most of his time from the very beginning. He had been satisfied with choosing carefully the Brothers that he sent and gave them all the preparation that he could. As he had so often said, “All the Dioceses of the world fall under our eagerness to serve.” As I had been asked to form part of our Marist Mission Committee, I was keen in my desire to visit one of the very early missions. Besides, at the time we had two American Brothers helping the French Provinces. This would be a precious occasion, and that was why I stopped in Australia for a quick visit, since Sydney was the closest point to most nearby missions. This was the place to come for all who wanted to visit our early missions. Our Brothers in Australia were well-acquainted with procedures and the best and safest way to visit these missions.

The two American Brothers referred to above were stationed in New Caledonia and that was where I wanted to go for my first stop to a Marist mission. Our two Yanks were completely taken by surprise and most pleased. Bro. Charles Raymond and Bro. Henry Firmin were both from New England Franco-American families and were happy to serve in one of our earliest Marist missions. But theirs was a five-year pledge quite different from the early missionaries of our congregation. I admired the many old Marists still living and very well-occupied each place I went and they wanted to know if more would be coming to help them out. They took me to some of the nearby islands where some of our other Marists were active such as Isle des Pins. They took great pleasure at meeting someone from the Mother House, especially if he could talk French.

I had wanted to visit with more than just two Yanks. What always put me in touch with our Marist roots was a visit to the cemetery. No matter where I went, I wanted to see the cemetery, and I spent a long time praying there. I spent some time in our cemeteries, marveling at the various graves where many of the deceased had lived beyond ninety years of age. They’d come as young missionaries to work and die in a foreign land and had never once returned home for a visit. In those days that was the rule, and it was accepted in that type of service of the Lord. I knelt and prayed for these valiant Marist missionaries and asked the Lord to give me some of that same spirit in this new mission or assignment that I had received at our Chapter.

I knew that we were assigned for nine years, little knowing that my service would eventually be for eighteen years. I had always wanted to go to the missions, and I recall when we started the mission of the Philippines on June 20, 1948. I was at the college then, and had asked the Provincial to please consider me as a candidate at any time. His answer was direct and sincere: "You have a mission to do right here; do it." He was right, of course, but the Lord had an even greater mission in mind for me at the time that I did not and could not realize. It was the vastness of the territory that I was to cover as Assistant General of the Marist Brothers, and specifically working on the Mission Commission. This assignment would take me to a greater part of the globe than I could ever imagine. There have been so many concrete examples for me to realize that it is always better to do your best and leave everything in the hands of the Lord. He has a greater and certainly better vision!