A congregation founded in 1817 at Saint-Brieuc, Côtes-du-Nord, France, by Jean-Marie-Robert de la Mennais (b. 1780; d. 1860), for the instruction of youth. The institute was founded primarily to supply the deficiency left by the regulation of Blessed John Baptiste de la Salle forbidding members of his congregation to go on missions singly, whereas in many places there were need and means of maintenance for only one brother. The first novices, consequently, were trained under the Christian Brothers, whose rule was to a large extent adopted. The congregation was recognized by the Holy See in 1851 and canonically erected by Brief of Leo XIII, 13 March, 1891. The members are bound by the simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. From the mother-house at Ploermel foundations were made in England, Africa, Asia, America, and Oceania. In 1886 the first brothers arrived in Montreal and were shortly afterwards introduced into the United States. Owing to the French Law of Associations of 1901, the mother-house was transferred to Taunton, England. In 1903 the congregation comprised 3000 members, with 420 educational institutions, including a number of orphanages, agricultural schools, trade schools, and boarding schools, the total number of students being 75,000.
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