University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Brother Aidan's Extracts


"We have lately come across a fly-sheet entitled, "University of Notre Dame du Lac, 1850. South Bend, Indiana", whose four pages are replete with interest. The first, or title page is bearing the imprint of 'S. Colfax, Printer' -- a gentleman who little thought at that time he would ever be President of the United States . . .

"In the list of students, limited though the number is to fifty-six, many family names occur -- names of the old pioneer families of this region: Coquillard, Bertrand, Piquette, Byerley, L'etourneau, Campau . . . , Draper, and Jennings. Observe that 'Ia' means Indiana, not Iowa: a State then dreamed of . . . old students will be surprised not to find Brother Benoit's name mentioned, he having been generally regarded as one of the antiquities of Notre Dame; but VIXERO FORTES ANTE AGAMENNONA. That Eye -- spell it with a capital E, Mr. Printer, nothing less would do it justice -- that Eye, with its unquestioned power of looking 'through that dex' (desk) had not as yet stricken terror into the denizens of the senior study room." Brother Benoit died in 1873, SCHOLASTIC, January 9, 1886: 1850

"The prefect of all the boys was Brother Benoit; he had two or three subordinates. The students ranged in age from children of 7 to men of 30. For the 3 or 4 years I was then here, I never knew a disreputable boy or man among them. We had then from 150 to 250 students." Honorable James B. O'Brien, SCHOLASTIC, 41:1, 1858

Brother Benoit -- Michael Gillard. Died December 20th, 1873. He was a locksmith by trade and came from France in 1846. For many years he was chief Prefect in the Senior's study hall and yard. Naturally rough and severe, he kept a perfect order and was generally loved by the students, notwithstanding. The last years of his life he was prefectihng in the Infirmary where he died in the sentiments of a lively faith, aged 66.

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"Another of the old pioneer band that came to Notre Dame in the first years of its existence has parted from the scene of his labors, well laden with good deeds and merits. Perhaps no one at Notre Dame will be longer remembered by old students than Brother Benoit, who for twenty years ruled as Chief Prefect of the Senior Department. And we state what we know, as an old student ourself, that the announcement of his death will cause all the numerous men now engaged in the busy pursuits of life, who were once under his control, to pause in the whirl of business, and say: 'God rest his soul!' -- as we do now fervently from our heart; and many a pleasant recollection of bygone days, many a well-timed piece of advice, many a trait of sterling worth, hidden though they were under a rough exterior, will come to mind, and the more successful those former students have been in life, the more they have adhered to the strict code of honor and Christian rectitude and avoided the temptations to vice and dishonesty that may have best them, the more heartfelt will be the aspiration, 'God rest his soul!' 'He was a good man, simple in his ways and thoroughly in earnest.'

"Brother Benoit had for some years been ailing, and had retired from the position of Chief Prefect of the Senior Department. A few weeks before his death it was evident to those who knew him well that he was in failing health; but on the morning of his death - Saturday - December 19th - he felt better and greeted cheerfully those around him, especially his fellow countryman and old comrade, Brother Augustus, who, despite the fact that Brother Benoit said he was feeling better, noticed a fearful change in him, and told him he was near death. And so it proved. Brother Benoit had received Holy Communion that morning, and just before noon it was evident that he was dying. There was time to administer to him the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, and thus in the 66th year of his age, he died the death of the Just. He was buried in the Community cemetery at 3:00 Sunday afternoon, all the old students, the members of the Faculty and Community, praying for him and paying him the last tribute of respect by forming his cortege to the grave." Editorial, SCHOLASTIC, 7:140, 1873

"Our prefect, or master of discipline was Brother Benoit -- one of the most remarkable men I ever knew. I never saw such eyes in any man. They seemed to be everlooking at everyone of us at the same time, and so piercing that they almost penetrated to one's heart -- they were veritable X-rays. Whenever Brother Benoit fixed his eyes on you and exclaimed, "Oh, my good fellow!" there was no doubt as to what he meant. And his face! -- well, it would take Thomas Carlyle to describe it." Bishop Maurice Burke, St. Joseph, in Commencement Address, 1898, SCHOLASTIC, 31:610, 1866

"Once more before the close of the eventful year, it is my sad duty to call upon you to pray for the repose of the soul of one of the old pioneers of our Congregation in the New World. Brother Benoit, for twenty years Prefect of the Seniors, departed this life at 11:30 this forenoon, fortified by the Sacrements of the Church, after a short illness of ten or twelve days. He was in his 66th year. He came to Notre Dame with me on my first return from France in 1846. As a Prefect, he was for many years considered an accomplished disciplinarian; of late, however, owing to infirmities and advanced age, he had been transferred for the Study-hall to the infirmary, where he continued, to the last, to act as Prefect Discipline among the convalescent. For his long and faithful services Brother Benoit well deserves to be gratefully remembered in the Congregation." Sorin's letter, 36, Dec. 20, 1873

" . . . After two months of travel principally in the Department of Nayonme, Father Sorin left the Mother House on June 22nd, bringing with him a colony which included . . . Brothers Benoit, Theodule, and Placidus, Mr. Garnier (a Brother) postulant . . . In order to help defraying the expenses of this colony, the Father Founder obtained from the Minister of Foreign Affairs a gift of 3,000 francs . . . " ON THE KINGS HIGHWAY, p. 147

"Under the able leadership of Brother Benoit, the Juanita Baseball Club has flourished in past years . . . and still claims the championship of Notre Dame." SCHOLASTIC, 9/26/1868

"You remember, I am sure, how, long ago, I made peace between you and good old Brother Benoit. 'I am going home', you said; 'I did not deserve that punishment -- detention'. I reasoned with you. Noble souls are always willing to listen to sound arguments. 'I am going', you said. 'Where?' said I. 'To detention', you replied. How warmly I shook hands with you! Scarcely had you reached your desk in the study-hall when Brother Benoit walked in and took you to the recreation grounds, where the threatened split was changed into a lifelong mutual friendship." Father Sorin's letter to Professor L.C. Tong, South Bend: SCHOLASTIC, January 8, 1887

‹— Brother Aidan's Extracts —›