Brothers of the Sacred Heart
By Jean-Claude Bailey
The Brothers of the Sacred Heart congregation was founded in 1821 by Father André Coindre of the Diocese of Lyons, France. Father Coindre, himself, was born in Lyons in 1787. He was a visionary whose efforts were geared toward not only helping the Church itself but also making a direct positive difference in the lives of the youth at a very difficult time in France’s history. This was a time of chaos and anarchy that marked the period around the end of the French Revolution. He dreamed of a religious system built in such a way that its positive impact would be everlasting for generations to come. His chief targets were the disadvantaged boys of that era. They were in dire need of moral, intellectual and religious guidance especially because the family institution was in disarray.
This was a gigantic task, indeed. Father Coindre’s efforts were moving forward in the right direction but, understandably, at a much slower pace than would be preferred in the midst of all this political agitation. Lyons, the center of his activities, was one of the city’s most adversely affected by that post-revolutionary atmosphere. Father Coindre wanted to create a community of devoted Brothers specially trained to deal with the reality of assisting those in need by building as many schools as possible and using Education as the main instrument. This is how the Brothers of the Sacred Heart congregation came into existence in 1821.
Father Coindre died in 1826. He was succeeded by his own brother Father Francis Coindre who took over as shepherd of the community until the end of his administration in 1841. Around that time, the consensus among the brothers was that the congregation ought to have brothers like themselves at the leadership level. That led to the ascension of Brother Polycarp. On September 13 1841, Brother Polycarp was voted unanimously as Superior General – the first ever Brothers of the Sacred Heart Superior General. The congregation flourished tremendously under his leadership. The growth was steady and provided the foundation for the stability and permanency that the founding Father André Coindre had in mind. Several generations worldwide will have benefited from this situation in the years to come. Brother Polycarp died in 1859. At the time of his death, over 400 brothers were working in 70 establishments – in France alone.
Prior to 1859, around 1846-1847, a few missionary brothers were delegated to the United States to plant the seeds of expansion for their educational and charitable endeavors. Their journey took root in Mobile, Alabama. This was where the congregation began to develop as a worldwide organized entity. From Mobile and the southern U.S. regions, it expanded North-ward covering New York and the New England areas into Canada.
The following quote was extracted from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“In 1872 the province of the United States extended its schools into Canada, and in 1880 transferred its novitiate from Indianapolis to Arthabaskaville, P. Q., Canada. The growth of the congregation was here so rapid that it was deemed advisable to erect the establishments in Canada into a separate province. This was affected by a decree of the general chapter of the society held at Paradis, near Le Puy, France, in 1900. About the same time a house of studies for postulants and a novitiate for the United States province were established at Metuchen, New Jersey.”