Letters of Marcellin – 335

Marcellin Champagnat

1840-04

As he had promised in his last letter to Fr. Péala (L. 283), Fr. Champagnat is preparing for the foundation of the school in Tence. He has discussed it with the rector of the major seminary of Le Puy, Fr. Auguste Péala, the brother of the parish priest of Tence. This was probably a chance encounter, since it does not appear that he has yet gone to the place. Despite his good will about making this foundation, according to his firm promise, he finds himself facing a financial problem which Fr. Péala, being over-confident, has perhaps not sufficiently thought through in its concrete ramifications. The Founder, who has not a little experience in such matters, offers some solutions.

Father,

We had an opportunity to see the Father Superior of the major seminary of Le Puy and to speak with him about your establishment. He told us that the town was hopeful of paying 600 francs, but that apart from that assistance, you had no other resources but the monthly fees. I am very much afraid that with only that for foundation, your work will not be on a very solid footing. The town could become less favorable and provide only the two hundred francs required by law. The number of paying children could also drop considerably and thus create a large deficit in your receipts. Besides, experience has taught us that establishments which are cut back to only those resources either collapse, or at best survive only with great difficulty.

Moreover, in view of your large population, there would have to be four brothers there from the start; and how would you get a thousand francs from the students fees? For your project to begin on a solid footing, you would need, over and above the 600 francs from the commune, help from several well-to-do and charitable persons to create an annual income of 600 francs. That way, the salary of three brothers would be guaranteed, and you could have two free classes, which is something very essential in every locality where there is a large population. It would be easy to make up the salary of the fourth brother from a third and paying class for the benefit of well-off parents and the most advanced students. I do not see how the establishment can begin otherwise if it is to offer almost guaranteed success.

In fact, the little town of St-Julien-Molhesabate was able to raise 1000 francs income on behalf of its poor children ; is Tence going to flinch in the face of 600 francs?

You could also (but this would not work so well) adopt a system like the one used in Craponne, where the town committed itself to paying the salary of four brothers, and to receiving from the children fees which were set at 75 centimes for the beginners and 1.25 for the others. The council made a contract with us which your town could use, with modifications according to the customs and needs of the area.

I would be very upset to have to go back on the promise I made you, but I want you to take effective means to guarantee the success of the work. It would be very distressing to begin it only to see it hanging in the balance almost at once. I am sharing these reflections with you in order to avoid that unpleasantness.

I have the honor, etc….

Champagnat

Edition: Translation from: Lettres de Marcellin J. B. Champagnat (1789-1840) Fondateur de l?Institut des Frères Maristes, présentés par Frère Paul Sester,1985.

fonte: Daprès la minute, AFM, RCLA 1, pp. 181-182, nº 226

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