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Marist Bulletin - Number 164

 

Brother J. Jesús Sánchez Cobián
14/10/2004

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A CENTENARIAN
Brother J. Jesús Sánchez Cobián
born on the 15th October 1904

Brother J. Jesús Sánchez Cobián was born in a little rural town in the south of Jalisco, San Juan de Amula, into a profoundly Christian family who worked on the land. When he was two years old, his father died. From this moment on, the young Jesús started working on the land.

Here is the way he describes his vocation

“When I was seventeen years old, I used to plough the field and during this time I would pray to Jesus and to Mary to help me find my vocation. In 1921, I went to Mass on Holy Thursday and asked them to show me my vocation. They remained silent. But, the next day, Good Friday, I heard two words clearly: “Marist Brother”. I felt sure about this. I kept quiet about this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Monday I told my mother in the afternoon, “I want to be a Marist Brother.” She laughed and told me: “Son, that’s not for you.” But I insisted and my mother told me: “Go to the priest so that he can help you.”

That same afternoon, I went to see the priest and he told me: “This is stupid! It is better to go to the seminary at Colima with your brothers.” I answered: “To be a priest? No!” We spoke together for some time but we only repeated the same things. Finally I said: “I am going, you do not want to help me.” At this, the priest responded: “When Brother Pedro Damián comes here looking for vocations, I will tell you so that you can talk to him about this.” I thanked him and waited for his news.

A few days after, the priest called me and told me that Brother Pedro Damián was here and that it was possible to see him and talk with him.

I saw Brother Pedro Damián and he showed me a text. I read some lines and he told me: “That’s enough! I am going to Limón, to Grullo and to Autlán and while I am away, get yourself ready and if all is ready when I get back, I’ll take you with me.”

I saw Brother another time when he returned and called for me. When I arrived at the place where the brother was staying, they told me that he had already left. He had left a note for me that said: “Today I will be in Tonaya and tomorrow in San Gabriel.” I thought that the following day I would go to Tonaya and San Gabriel to catch up with him, even though it would be night by the time I arrived. The following day, I went to San Gabriel and I arrived after dusk. I asked where the parish priest lived. I went there, knocked on the door and Brother Pedro Damián answered the door and said: “We will not bother the parish priest. You can sleep here.” I stretched out on three chairs.

The following day we reached the mountains of Manzanilla where one of his friends lived. The following day we came down to Sayula. All of this was on foot. From there, we took the train to Guadalajara, where we went to the Brothers’ college. The following afternoon, we started our journey to Mexico. We arrived at dawn the following day. I didn’t have any money and Brother Pedro paid for everything. We went to Tlalpan by tram, to the formation house where I entered as a Marist aspirant.”
(This is the end of Brother Jesús Sánchez Cobián’s story)



Having studied very little, he could not start his postulancy immediately. However, because of his age, he was not sent to the Juniorate either. October 1922 passed by. At Christmas 1923, he took the Marist habit and received the name of Brother José Leandro. He pronounced his first vows on the 25th December 1924, during the celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Marist Brothers in Mexico.

The formation houses were closed in Mexico in 1926 due to the religious persecution that took place at this time. Brother Jesús went to Cuba where he was appointed to the boarding school at Cienfuegos. On his return to Mexico, he taught in Mexico and in Guadalajara from 1927 until 1935, when the laws against Catholic schools forced him to return again to Cuba. Here, he taught at the Cárdenas College for five years.

A lull in the application of the antireligious laws of the Mexican government allowed him to return to his country in 1940. In July 1945, he started his long term of service as Director and Superior. From 1945 until 1949, he started as Director of the Cocula College in a small town of Jalisco.

He did his second novitiate at Grugliasco in Spring 1949. On his return, he was named Director of Morelos College, Tepatitlán in Jalisco. After six years, he became Director of Hidalgo College, Cocula. At the end of his second term of six years at Cocula, he became Director at Tepatitlán until 1961. As he says as a joke: “You are in charge, at Tepa or at Cocula, as the case may be, but only for six years.”

During his time at Cocula and at Tepatitlán, he distinguished himself by his zeal in recruiting vocations with a remarkable success. In 1961, he was appointed as Director of the Montejo Anexo College at Mérida, a school for the poor.

In 1967, he was appointed to the community of the Ciudad Guzmán College, Jalisco, close to his place of birth. From there, in 1970, he went to the community in Campeche for seven years. In this tropical place, he became famous for waking the community with the sounds of his accordion and by diving into the garden pool in the middle of the night to find some respite from the heat and to be able to sleep. Even though he complained that he could not see well, he went on foot to the centre of the village every day to get the newspaper that he would read from cover to cover.

For a few brief years, he moved between Ciudad Guzmán, Campeche, Guymas and Guagalajara. Finally, in 1990 he was appointed to the community at Sisoguichi, in the Sierra Tarahumara. He was still jovial and capable of brilliant responses but his health felt the effects of his age and the cold climate of the mountains of Tarahumara. In 1997, he was asked to join the community of Champagnat House in Morelia. This move was a hard one for him.

We have in Brother Jesús a person who has great clarity of thought and who is always happy, especially when writing poetry. He now experiences a great deal of solitude due to his near total deafness. He spends most of his day in prayer: each day there are several rosaries, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, reading of Scripture and poetry to be written.

Though his gait is now slow, his body remains strong. He is always punctual, he still has a good appetite and, as mentioned previously, a good sense of humour with an uncanny skill for the right response.

On the 15th October 2004, he will have reached 100 years of age. On the 25th December, he will celebrate 80 years of religious life, the moment when he gave himself to the Lord through his three vows.

He loves to remember the many times he took part in the Eucharist during his long life and, at the same time, he adds to these numbers an exhortation for his brothers to live the Eucharist day after day.

Don Jesús, or as he is known at Tepatitlán and Cocula, The Director, we unite ourselves to you in thanking God for the first one hundred years of your life and for all the graces that He has given you. As for us, we thank God for having given us a brother formed in the old ways, profoundly loving of Jesus in the Eucharist and of our Good Mother.

A very happy birthday and ad multos annos.

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