A congregation founded in 1821 by Père André Coindre, of the Diocese of Lyons, France. Its constitutions were modeled upon the constitutions of St. Ignatius based upon the Rule of Saint Augustine. Its members bind themselves for life by the simple vows of religion. There are no priests in the congregation, the objective purpose of which is the Christian education of boys in asylums, parochial and select schools, and commercial colleges. The growth of the congregation was slow. At the period of its origin the political condition of France was very unfavorable. It was a day of political agitation and revolution. Lyons, the cradle of the congregation, suffered sorely in these revolutions. But a more hampering difficulty to its growth lay in the ill-defined government imposed upon the congregation. Père André Coindre was the superior-general and continued such till his death in 1821. Père Vincent Coindre, his brother, succeeded him in this office.
In 1840 Père Coindre assembled the general chapter of the congregation. During the discussions of the chapter, opinion among the brothers was unanimous that it was necessary for the success of the congregation that its temporal affairs should be in the hands of the brothers themselves, and that one of their number should be superior-general. The question was referred to Mgr de Bonald, Archbishop of Lyons, who, after an exhaustive examination, judged it advisable that Père Coindre should resign the office. On 13 Sept., 1841, Brother Polycarp was unanimously chosen by the brothers as their superior-general. He reconstructed the government of the community and gave it stability and permanency. At the time of his death in 1859, there were in France alone seventy three establishments, an increase of sixty during his administration. He had, moreover, in 1846 opened up in the United States at Mobile, Ala., a new field of labor for the institute. 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 effected 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, N. J.
The congregation has at the present time (1907) in the United States and Canada forty-eight establishments directed by 460 brothers, educating more than 9000 pupils. Just previous to the French Law of 1901, suppressing religious communities in France, there were in that country alone 1100 brothers, 150 schools, academies, colleges, asylums, deaf and dumb institutions, with 25,000 pupils, in twenty dioceses. Owing to the present religious persecution in France, the congregation has been obliged to seek new fields of labor, and twenty establishments have recently been founded in Spain and Belgium.
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