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Marist Bulletin - Number 26


Don José interviewed by Brother Lluís Serra

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Brother José Benito Álvarez González was born in Pimiango, in the Province of Oviedo, Spain. He reaches his 100th year on 31st of August. He is familiarly known as Don José. At the present time he is living in Guadalajara, México, where he has worked for many years. He is a member of community in the provincial residence of México Occidental. His age, his temperament and his marist fidelity have made him into a veritable institution. He actually has a nephew who is also a Marist, Brother Juan Pérez, based in Segovia, Spain.

What is the best memory of your family?
All of us together,my parents and my eight Brothers and sisters. I was the second youngest, so always in the second last place. The baby of our family, three years younger than I, was also a Marist Brother and we took the habit together in Pontos, (Gerona,Spain.)

How did you come to know the Marist Brothers?
My brother, Eusebio Servando, was already in Carrión de los Condes. I went to visit him with my father,who was a national teacher. Having spoken with Brother Filogonio, one of the three founders of the province of México, I was persuaded to stay. I did not return with my father, who was pleased as well as sad.

What attracted you to the Brothers?
Being with my brother. The life....

What happened during the Spanish Civil War?
I lived in Lerida and Barcelona from 7th October 1936 until 1st March 1939. I spent a year in forced labour camps. I was held prisoner on three ships in the port of Barcelona, one of which was the Cabo San Antonio until a french boat picked us up. They packed us in like rats. Brother Laurentino was there. They took us to the secret gaol in San Elías. I was there for 3 or 4 days., There were 102 Marists. We were gathered in two rooms. I was in the room with 62 people. The 40 people in the other room were shot in Moncada. I was moved to the model prison in Barcelona. We spent 13 months there and were condemned to death. After being freed and again detained several times, I was finally freed on 1 March.

What did you do afterwards?
I lived in Pontos until 1941. After that I went to Cuba. Three years in Camagüey as administrator. Then I went to México on 24th December 1944. I worked in administration. I gave classes. I worked for 16 years in the Editorial Progreso in México DF. Later, in Loma Bonita, Guadalajara, for 28 years.

What do you admire about México?
I have spent 58 years living in México. I tried to gain nationality, but did not succeed. I admire very much the kindness of the mexicans. They are very affectionate.

If a young man asked you if it was worthwhile becoming a Marist, how would you reply?
I have been a Marist for 80 years. Need I say more? In 80 years there is time to think and the reply is obvious.

Is there anything which you regret?
I regret not having done more....

What does the virgin mean to you?
My mother in heaven. Here we have a great devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

What work are you doing now?
My role is to be the oldest brother. Being a model (spirituality, work), giving the best example... I find that I am very welcome, very well treated.

Saint Marcellin said that the old Brothers are the pillars of the Institute
Those of us who have reached this age are obliged to fulfil all of this

Your greatest joy...
Many joys: Each time there are new professions... They represent in some way the renewal of my own profession.

How do you interpret the motto of the last General Chapter: “Choose Life?”
It is the survival of the charism of Champagnat.

How did you celebrate the beatification and canonistion of Marcellin?
With great joy and satisfaction. It tells us that we must renew our fervour and fulfilment.

More and more lay people are becoming enthusiastic about Marcellin Champagnat...
It shows devotion to the spirit of Marcellin. For me it is a reason for happiness.

In the Marist Institute there have been 12 Superior Generals. How many have you known?
Eight, from Brother Stratonique until the present one.

What is prayer for you?
It is like material nourishment. It helps and sustains me. In my father’s school I learned that “prayer achieves everything”. I have never been bored praying. On the contrary.

And community life?
It has been a great joy. Present day community is not what it was. Naturally there are many joys in living as Brothers.

What does it mean to you to be the doyen from Mexico?
Thankful to our Lord and our holy Founder that I have been granted these years of life. And to continue without rest in the Marist life until God decides otherwise. To dedicate myself to being a brother... until the last beat of my heart.
Until now I have been able to look after myself and that is a very special grace because in these times you need help in everything. I find that I am relatively well.

This Interview took place in Guadalajara (Jalisco,México) on 21st July 2002.

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