Fr. Gabriel Deshayes, The Re-Founder
The early part of his life: – Fr. Gabriel Deshayes was born on 6th December, 1767 at Beignon in Brittany, France. He lost his mother when he was five years old. His father was a farmer and local butcher. As a boy he looked after sheep. He was very generous and helpful to others. As a youth, he showed much joviality, common sense, leadership and ability. He joined a seminary run by the Vincentians. During the French Revolution, he went into exile to the Island of Jersey and there, he was ordained a priest on March 4, 1792. Coming back to France under disguise, with exceptional courage he ministered to the faithful along with six or seven priests grouped around the parish priest of Beignon, during the difficult years of 1792-1800.
Founder of Congregations: – In 1805, Fr. Deshayes was appointed parish priest of St. Giwas, Auray. He was a good preacher. He started a school for boys, another one for girls, a college and a minor seminary. He started a co-operative bank to give loans to the poor, a spinning mill and a hospice. In 1816, he was the Vicar General of the diocese of Vannes. In 1816, Fr. Deshayes started a novitiate to form Brothers to teach in rural schools and in 1819, he got this new Institute of Brothers amalgamated with a similar one started by Fr.Le Mennais. This was the beginning of the Ploermel Brothers. In 1807, he founded Sisters of St.Gildas.
On 17th December, 1820, Fr. Deshayes was officially admitted into the Company of Mary and on the same day he was elected Vicar General of the Montfortian congregations. He recruited many young men and started a novitiate for Brothers. In 1823, he wrote a Directory for the Brothers. As legal approval for teaching in schools was obligatory, he got an official recognition from the government as the Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Spirit and Brothers were allowed to teach in five Provinces. On 22nd September 1824, 42 Brothers made their annual vows. In 1825, Fr. Deshayes went to Rome to get the Rules of the Company of Mary and Daughters of Wisdom approved by Rome and to work for the Beatification of Montfort. On 7th September 1830, Montfort was declared Venerable. In 1835, there were Brothers, novices and postulants put together 132, of whom 57 continued to stay in the Holy Spirit House while 75 were attached to St. Gabriel’s House i.e., 33 of them had their residence there and 42 were teaching in various schools. “The Brothers chose from their own number a Superior who is to govern the Congregation”. He signed the Rule on January 7, 1837 and it was approved on April 9, 1838 by the Bishop of Lucon. This Rule was to be kept as a secret and it was to come into effect only after Fr. Deshayes’ death. Fr. Deshayes altogether started 76 schools and out of those 29 were given up during his life time itself. In 1838, he founded St. Gabriel’s Boarding School in St. Laurent. One of the greatest achievements of his was the founding of schools for the deaf and schools for the blind. Thus La Chartreuse, Rouille, Orleans and Lille were centers started by him for handicapped children. After a full life of missionary activities and after contributing much to the Montfortian Congregations, Fr. Deshayes died on 28 Dec. 1841. He was buried in the Daughters of Wisdom cemetery, actually at the 14″ Station of the Way of the Cross, that he had erected.