SINGAPORE – The Superior General of the Brothers of St. Gabriel Congregation, Brother Rene Delorme, is encouraged by the work of Brothers and laypeople involved with the seven Gabrielite schools in Singapore.They all have "the same community spirit, and a lot of commitment to help the students grow", he said at the end of a two-week mid-February visit to Singapore to learn about the programmes and challenges of the Gabrielite Brothers here. This was Brother Rene’s third visit to Singapore.
"In particular, I am very impressed by the work done in Boys’ Town," he said. "Their work in helping the young men to learn a trade and having a well-rounded formation in terms of learning different subject matter, living in community, developing social relationships, is beautiful."
Brother Rene is based in Rome. For up to six months every year, he and four councillors visit countries where there are Gabrielite missions to learn what their needs are and see how to address those needs.
There are 1,270 Brothers working in about 250 schools in 35 different countries. The Brothers run academic schools ranging from kindergartens to universities, technical schools and schools for the blind and deaf. There are also many Brothers involved in "all kinds of projects for human development".
"My role is to coordinate all of that," Brother Rene said. "When the councillors and I return to Rome after our visits, we share among ourselves what we have seen and heard – the joys but also the difficulties and situations that need to be improved.
"I find a very professional approach here" to helping students, he observed.
"[But] most of the places the Brothers are working in are with people living in poor conditions. Sometimes, they need help."
In Africa, for example, not everyone can go to school. In keeping with founder Louis de Montfort’s spirituality, the Brothers make their presence available in such places to try to give an education to those who would otherwise be denied it.
In many countries, the Brothers run Centres for Street Kids, which is, in a sense, a humble way of starting a school.
Brother Rene was born in St. Michel des Saints near Montreal, Canada. He has two brothers and two sisters. He studied at a Gabrielite High School and was impressed by the Brothers there.
"Because of their testimony in living and working, I felt I would like to have a life like that too," he recalled. "Little by little it developed in my mind. I think that’s what vocation is about. God doesn’t come to you and tell you, ‘I want you to be this and that’. It’s a feeling in your heart."
Upon graduation at 17 years of age, he asked to join the Gabrielite Brothers and took his first vow at 19, in 1964. He spent 28 years from 1970-98 working in schools before he became Provincial. Brother Rene was elected Superior General of the congregation in 2000. He was 55.
"It’s a journey full of challenges and there are many problems in different institutions and projects, but through it all I find lots of joy. As a congregation, we feel a responsibility to make Montfort’s charism go on and we do it with many laypeople. Here at Boys’ Town, you call Montfort a ‘man for others’ and (teach students) to do things for God. This is important because everyone is an image of God."
"I’m very happy to be a Brother of St. Gabriel," he added. "And if I could do it again, I’ll do it the same way."
Brother Rene visited the Gabrielite Brothers in India before coming to Singapore. He has left for Malaysia.
Presently, there are 33 priests in the Archdiocese who have attended Gabrielite schools at one time or other.-By Joyce Gan