XII Chapter – 1920, Grugliasco (Italia)

05/1920 – 61 Brothers participants

Social and political context1

The Institute had hardly emerged from the crisis of 1903 and had spread to five continents, when the war of 1914 broke out. About a thousand Brothers were taken from their apostolic work and thrown into the middle of combat. Following the hazards of war, certain zones remained isolated, which made communication with the Superiors impossible. The first centenary of the foundation of the Institute coincided with a bad time for many countries and for numerous Brothers entangled in the First World War (1914-1918).

“The war ended in Europe, and Russia, with the Bolshevik revolution, began to spread materialism and atheism throughout the world.
The very year of the revolution (1917), the Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima (Portugal) announcing that Russia would propagate its errors worldwide.
At the end of the war (1918), the victors imposed harsh conditions on the vanquished; there were numerous frontier changes among the nations of Europe.

In 1920 the idea of a supranational organization took concrete form and the League of Nations was created.2

Religious context

The new Code of Canon Law came into force on  9 May 1918, Pentecost Sunday. « The Lateran Treaty, signed on 11 February 1929 between Italy and the Holy See, brought a happy conclusion to the thorny ‘Roman question ’, and the tiny independent state of Vatican City joined the concert of nations. This was a period which saw the birth of nationalist ideologies, such as Fascism and Nazism, which caused friction with the Catholic Church3. »

The twelve years of the generalate of Br. Stratonique had ended in October 1919. But the difficulties at the end of the war, especially with regard to visas and voyages, had forced the convocation of the Chapter to be postponed for a while. An indult of 26 March had authorized the postponement.
So it was not until the Circular of 14 October 1919 that the Chapter was called4.
It met at Grugliasco for the first time on 16 May 1920.


The circular of convocation, 42 pages long,5 was almost entirely consecrated to what concerned the holding of the XII  General Chapter: members by right, method of election of delegates, a complete list of all the Brothers with Stability in the Institute in 1919 eligible for election, considerations on the exceptional importance of this  Chapter.
At the beginning, the Brother Superior communicated to the Brothers the request addressed by the General Council to the Holy See on 19 July 1919  in order to obtain:

I. That a single delegate be elected in the Provinces not having 150 perpetually Brothers, and that the  Vice Province of New Caledonia, as well as the District of Argentina and the Spanish  District of the  Province of Aubenas be represented at the General Chapter by a single elected delegate.
II. That the election of delegates to the General Chapter be carried out, not after two scrutinies but by a single vote.
On 6 September, the Sacred Congregation of Religious, in virtue of the authority granted by the Pope, conceded « benevolently, by favour, permission to act as requested, for this time only. »

The number of capitulants reached 61. Of the 22 Provinces then existing, only seven (Saint-Genis-Laval, Notre-Dame de l Hermitage, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, Beaucamps, Canada, Spain and Mexico), with the number of perpetually professed Brothers exceeding 150, had to elect two delegates each6.


From the first day of the retreat, Brother Stratonique, President of the Assembly, declared that, because of his age, he refused to be re-elected. But he added that he was not refusing to continue working for the good of the Institute and that he would joyfully accept any role assigned to him by his successor.
The members of the Chapter heard this declaration, pronounced in a calm but determined tone, with sadness. None could imagine not seeing at the head of the Congregation this valiant chief, this venerable Superior, a stranger to fear and discouragement, who was « the tireless sower of courage and confidence ». But his categorical tone, supported by his supreme authority, did not allow the  capitulants to oppose this wish to be discharged of the burden of office, a wish which in the circumstances carried the force of an order7.

The sitting at which the election of Br. Stratonique’s successor took place was held on Monday 24 May. On the election of Brother Diogène as Superior General, great joy pervaded the assembly.

The day following was also a day for elections. Brothers Angélicus, Flamien, Michaëlis and Columbanus, Assistants, Pierre-Joseph, Econome General and Dalmace, Secretary General were all re-elected.

The Chapter named four new Assistants:  Brs. Élie-Marie, Provincial of Saint-Genis-Laval ; Augustin-Joseph, former founding Director of the International Juniorate of  Saint- François- Xavier at Grugliasco ; Marie-Odulphe, Director of the Second Novitiate at Grugliasco since 1908, et Euphrosin, Provincial of Mexico8.

The order of precedence was thus: Angélicus, first Assistant; Flamien, second Assistant; Michaëlis, third; Columbanus, fourth; Élie-Marie, fifth; Augustin-Joseph, sixth; Marie-Odulphe, seventh; Euphrosin, eighth; Pierre-Joseph, Econome General, and Dalmace, Secretary General.

Then the capitulants shared out the tasks which had been assigned them, to study the questions for discussion in the plenary sessions. To facilitate the task and to carry it to a good conclusion with order and method, ten commissions were created to deal with the many topics  concerning the  organisation and the life of the Institute: Constitutions and general discipline, Common Rules, Rules of Government, School Guide, material situation of the Institute, secularisation and persecution in one or other sector of the Congregation, recruitment of vocations and formation of subjects, studies and programmes,  different publications in the Institute and the Provinces and, finally, vows and desiderata. The report published in the circular of 2 February 1921 fills about 40 pages9.

The first point was the subject of intensive study, even well before the Chapter. The new Code of Canon Law had just come into force on 9 May 1918. On this occasion, all the religious congregations had been invited to revise their Constitutions, to bring them into accord with the text of the new Code. The General Council had begun as careful a study as possible, comparing each of the articles of our Constitutions with the prescriptions of the Code. This task was passed on to the appropriate Commission. After serious examination, it submitted a report to the Chapter, which devoted six long and laborious plenary sittings to a meticulous and definitive revision.
The subsequent text was submitted to the approbation of the Holy See. On 4 April 1922, His Holiness Pius XI approved and confirmed the new Constitutions10.

One of the most painful conclusions of this Chapter was to admit the loss of unanimity about the criteria and solutions concerning formation throughout the Institute. « Secular studies constitute an enormously wide field, infinitely complex, although for us limited by the requirements of our mission as religious educators. Even in this limited field we occupy, we find ourselves faced with a very varied and very complicated system of programmes; because of this very complexity, there is no single and absolute solution which suits us11. »

For the first time, the « Bulletin de lInstitut » provides a lively and detailed account of the works of the General Chapter, penned by Br. Dalmace, and publishes relevant photos.

1 F. Jules-Victorin, Bulletin de l’Institut, T. 23, (1958-1959) p. 231-235.

2 F. Luis di Giusto, Historia del Instituto de los Hermanos Maristas, Province Mariste « Cruz del Sur », Argentine 2004. p. 153.

3 Idem.

4 Nos Supérieurs : Le Rév. Fr. Théophane, quatrième Supérieur Général (1824-1907), E. Vitte, Lyon, 1953, p. 328.

5 Circulaires, T. 14, p. 307-348.

6 Circulaires, T. 14, p. 308-313.

7 Circulaires, T. 14, p. 353.

8 Circulaires, T. 14, p. 357.

9 Circulaires, T. 14, p. 413-453.

10 Circulaires, T. 14, p. 413-453.

11 Circulaires, T. 14, p. 436