XIII Chapter – 1932, Grugliasco (Italia)

05/1932 – 74 Brothers participants


Between the two World Wars, violent, widespread persecutions broke out against the Church.  Mexico, Germany and Spain bore the brunt of the outburst, and the Institute was not spared.  At the time of the General Chapter, the situation was calm, and peace prevailed at least on the European continent. 

The spread of doctrines  –  communist, socialist, capitalist   –  had already created the conditions under which a  series of encyclicals (the first, Leo XIII’s  Rerum Novarum of l891) were composed, gradually coming to form the matrix from which grew the Church’s social doctrine.   

Convoking the Chapter:

Since the twelve-year term of Superior General, Brother Diogene, was drawing to a close, a General Chapter was required  according to the prevailing Constitutions.  The Circular of October 7, l931 announced Grugliasco as the venue of the Chapter, and May 16 to June 6, l932 as its length.
As was the case for the l920 Chapter, so again the indult granted by the Holy See allowed that only one delegate be elected in the Provinces with fewer than 150 perpetually professed Brothers.  (Such was the case for thirteen of the twenty-four Provinces of the time.)  The same indult allowed for the election of one Chapter delegate from the vice-Province of New Caledonia, one delegate from the District of Germany, and one delegate from the District of Peru-Chile.  As a result, the number of capitulants reached to seventy-four.  On May 12, however, shortly before the beginning of the Chapter, Brother Marie Alypius, a delegate from South Brazil Province, passed away in the town of Martinet, France from a malady of the lungs.  Because not enough time was available for his replacement to arrive, the number of capitulants fell to seventy-three.

On the walls of the Chapter venue were placed photographs of the twenty-six members of the General Administration who had passed away since the beginning of the Institute.  Afterwards twenty-six additional photographs provided a memorial to the more recently deceased: Brothers Angelicus, Columbanus, Candidus, Pierre Joseph and Dalmace.  The added photographs brought the number to thirty-one.

Chapter Events

The Chapter, which was to run from May 16 to 23, opened with a retreat preached by Father Balmès O.M.I.  On May 24, anniversary of the first election and feast of Mary Help of Christians, Brother Diogene was re-elected by a substantial majority of votes.  To the great satisfaction of the whole Chapter, the Holy See’s approval, required as it was for the re-election, was sent by telegram on the very evening of the day on which the approval was requested.   

The formal announcement of the election was made on May 25.  “Thereupon, a representative of each Institute language offered a brief word in honor of the newly-elected.  The speakers with each one’s corresponding language were: French, Brother Constantien, dean of the  Provincials; English, Brother Germanus;  Brother Sixto, Spanish;  Brother Marie-Chrysophore, Portuguese; Brother Raffaele, Italian; German, Brother Joseph-Vérius; Chinese, Brother Marie-Nizier;  Brother Henri-Gustave, Flemish; Brother Nicostrato, Catalan.   Several other speeches were made, bringing the total number of tributes to fourteen.  In each case, Brother Superior General (speaking or understanding almost all these languages, Chinese apart) offered a gracious word of response in French.»

The next day the Motherhouse community joined the capitulants in congratulating the Superior General.  A speech was made that provided a bit of comic relief to the otherwise serious gathering.  The speaker alluded to the well known l825 episode in Father Champagnat’s life when Father Courveille was inventing stratagems to get himself elected as superior of the Brothers.  For their part, of course, the Brothers were all for electing Father Champagnat.  Returning his remarks to l932, the speaker said to Brother Diogene in brotherly tones, “A hundred years later, with the one exception that no Father Courveille is here to cast a shadow over the proceedings, the Chapter of l920 elected you as Superior General.  That decision is now, twelve years later, being ratified by the Chapter of 1932 in a voting procedure that has been demanded once again by the Holy See . . . .  Our Institute is blessed in having a Superior General who has been no more successful in rejecting the vote of confidence given by his confreres than was Father Champagnat in l825.”

On Friday, May 27, the Chapter moved ahead to elect the Assistant Generals.  They were Brothers: Flamien, Mechaelis, Elie-Marie, Augustin-Joseph, Marie-Odulphe, Euphrosin, Clement and Francis Borgia), the Econome General (Brother Louis-Marie) and the Brother Secretary General, (Brother Jean-Emile).   All these outcomes were, in fact, re-elections, and the process required only a first ballot since heavy majorities were involved in each case.   

The Chapter Procedures

Organizing the voting procedures for a group of seventy-three is not so simple.    Here is how it was done.  First, in the frequent instances when only a general consensus was needed or when it seemed already clear that everyone shared the same point of view, the Brother chairing the meeting would call for a show of hands.   The outcome was known at once.  When a certain number of capitulants abstained from the hand vote, the chair would request that those opposed to the proposition raise their hands in order to estimate how strong the majority opinion really was.  In cases where doubt persisted, various methods were used to resolve the issue.  Here are some examples.    

Voting by color:  Each capitulant was provided with a small box containing a quantity of white and black beans.   When this method is used, the Brothers who count the votes go up and down the rows holding containers into which each capitulant places a bean of the color which corresponds to his choice.  Back at their place, the counters pour out the contents of their containers on the table, and at a glance, all the capitulants can see the outcome.  Despite the visual assurances, the colored beans are counted, aloud and in front of the assembly, and   –  provided the total equals the number of capitulants   –  the secretaries record the vote. 

Vote by handwritten ballot: This is the method of choice for elections.  The name of the Brother for whom the capitulant is voting, is written on the ballot which is then folded in four.  As in the previous method, the ballots are put into a container.  The Brothers who count the votes turn the contents onto the table and count the votes aloud.  Once it is clear that the number of ballots corresponds to the number of capitulants, the ballots are unfolded and read aloud one at a time.  Meanwhile each of the secretaries writes the names on his own list, adds up the votes obtained, and at the end announces the results.  The election of the Superior General and the other members of the General Administration were carried out by such a method.


When the elections were over, the Chapter treated other important matters which concern the Institute as a whole.  The matters were dealt with in Commissions, each of which was chaired by an Assistant General.

The Procurator General, Brother Emery, explained what has been transpiring with our causes of beatification, from their beginnings up to the present. 

On roughly sixty pages of the Circular of August 5, l932, the Chapter decisions are set forth and a brief account of the causes appears.  In addition, in Bulletin #89, July 1932, Brother Jean Emile takes up his pen and dedicates more than thirty lively, entertaining and abundantly illustrated  pages to giving his readers a “comprehensive overview of our General Chapter.”