University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Brother Aidan's Extracts


"One of the surprising consolations of missionary work is to see how Our Lord makes use of every kind of gift and talent to draw souls to Him. Preaching the Word, administering the Sacraments, and teaching naturally come first, but after them one finds a long list of activities which directly aid the missionary apostolate.

"The experience of Brother Joachim, the first Brother of Holy Cross to jointhe Bengal Mission for work other than teaching, is a convincing illustration of the truth just stated. His first 15 monthson the Mission have been busy ones, and perhaps no one is more surprised than the good Brother at discovering how his skill in gardening and carpentry attracts pagans to the Mission.

"At Toomilish, wherehe has been associated with Father Brooks in the native seminary, Brother Joachim gathered tools and machinery for an up-to- date carpenter shop. Friends back hom in America enabled him to get a gasoline engine, a circular saw, and a lathe -- the latter a gift from the O'Brien Lathe Company, South Bend,Indiana. With this equipment Brother has been able to furnish a new altar for Father Lafond's church at Solepur, whither he went to install it during the summer . . .

"The gasoline engine has been a nine days wonder for the natives of Toomiliah. 'When they hear the engine starting', writes Brother Joachim, 'All the jungle starts too, and so many come that I have to close the door. Within 5 minutes there are more than 50 people around my shop. They can get no idea of what it is or how it runs, and so they have a great respect for us, and our American machinery. Father Brooks says that the engine may be a good thing to bring these people nearer to God, for an account of it they are thinking and speaking more about the missionaries and believing more in them.'" BENGALESE; "Through machinery to souls", October 1922

"He has a fine European garden in full growth at Toomiliah, and the implements he has built are the wonder of the Indian farmers. The agricultural station at Dacca wants Brother to open a branch at Toomiliah. The Dacca station is a model farm opened in 1906 to demonstrate improved agricultural methods to the Indians, or at least to those natives who are not hopelessly conservative" BENGALESE, Feb. 28, 1922

"For the fourteen years past Brother Joachim has been assistant to the Novice Master at St. Joseph's Novitiate, Notre Dame. During that time he has been known as the pattern of religious simplicity, and no one who has ever known the good Brother can help admiring his humble service. His life has been a hidden one, screnned from the public view by his own choice; faithful in the smallese detail to the ideal which St. Joseph presents to the Brothers of Holy Cross. Intelligent,keen, with the face of an ascetic, the heart and vigor of a boy, a highly skilled machanic and carpenter, this unassuming, self-effacing follower of the Foster Father, fulfills one's ideal of the missionaries to bring the pagan child to the bosom of the Holy Family." BENGALESE, 1920

"The industrial school now occupies what was formerly the Mohammedan hostel. Its equipment represents a good set of carpenter tools, a gas engine, and a lathe. These Brother Joachim brought with him from Notre Dame University. The practical training given in this small shop was specially lauded by the last government inspector, for the reason that it is in line with the more practical education now being popularized not only by the nationalist Movement in India but also by leading British officials" "WITH HOLY CROSS IN BENGAL", Mathis, p. 42

(See also "Bengalese." May, 1922)

The Bandura establishment comprises a high school, and industrial school, and an apostolic scool. Brother Walter, Joachim, and Fathe rDelaunay respectfully, are in charge of these institutions, which, however, are mutually interdependent" "WITH HOLY CROSS IN BENGAL", p. 41

"(Letter) the good Brother instructor in the manual arts at Bandura Holy Cross High School has been with Father Brooks in Garoland to help to build him a suitable shelter.

"'The poor man', he wrote, 'gets a little beside rice. He has no kitchen, no chapel, nothing but a very poor hut that keeps out neither wind nor rain. For an altar he had to take the few things he has on the table and put them on his bed, then use the table for the Holy Sacrifice. An old box we set upside down to prevent the candles from being blown out, and for candlesticks we used a few small bottles. In all solemnity, Father said Mass in a hovel such as the stable at Bethlehem.

"'I was thinking that one year here in garoland would be as ten around Dacca, and I believe it yet. nevertheless, if it be God's holy will I shall be very glad to be transferred here. Father Crowley, the Superior, thought that because so many got sick here I would not be able to stand it, but I told him not to worry about that. I must help poor Father Brooks some way.'" BENGALESE, February, 1926

"As we go to press, news comes in from Bengal of the death, on January 10, of Brother Joachim . . . the news of his early death after only five and a half years in the field, will come as a great shock and with a distinct sense of personal loss. No words of ours are needed to sketch his portrait . . .

"He was born in Sevenaar, Holland, in 1875 and came over to America with his cousin, Broher Willibrord, C.S.C, to join the Congregation of Holy Cross. He received the habit on July 6, 1907, and was professed on July 9, 1910. Duringsucceeding years he filled the duties of Assistant Master of Novices with admirable fidelity. But his heart was in Bengal. He sailed for the mission land in March, 1921.

"Brother Joachim's zeal for the Missions was out of the common run. On the eve of his departure for the Orient, when friends were wishing him Godspeed and advising him to have as good a time on the journey out as possible, he revealed in a burst of confidence, 'I have made a plan. Though I am a Hollander and love my glass of beer, I'll take only one glass for the whole trip and only one cigar on Sundays. For I must begin right now"-- here, under the stress of emotion, his exact precision with the English language failed him --'I must begin right now SHAVING money for the Lord.'

"'Shaving for the Lord was, indeed the guiding principle of his life. He 'shaved' everything except his health and his strength, to further his Master's Cause. His zeal was of the kind that made litle of the dictates of prudence in matters where health or personal comforts were concerned. Luxuries he had none, the bare necessities he often went without. No work was too hard or too humble for him. Carpenter, washerman, cook, catechist, teacher, barber, and nurse; he was all these, and more, frequently in the course of a single day. In one of his last letters to a confrere he confided: "I am sure if people knew how poor we are they would help us at once. We can not save more than we do. I still smoke one cigar on Sundays. For the rest of the week I do not smoke. Such is life in Garoland" . . . .

"To the venerable Bishop (LeGrand) and his men on the firing line this double death within a fortnight comes with the force of disaster. God wills it. Soldiers do not murmur. Uncomplainingly they carry on . . . " BENGALESE, February, 1927

"November 25, 1927) Father Brooks would like me to put up a shop. It is a good idea, as the prospects in this place are better than anywhere else. Already I have seven fine boys who would like to learn carpentry. All were pagans when they came; now four are Catholics, and the rest will be baptized soon. I could get more (many), but those I have must sleep in the chapel in which I have a little corner to work. No other place. My wood and many other things I must leave outside. This is a worry, as they may be stolen and the wood suffer much from the hot sun. So you see, even with our hard work we do not sleep without worries, and life . . . . Were it not for you and our other good friends in the United States, what would become of us?

"Do not take this as complaining. No, we do not complain, but tell you just how it is, so that you may know for what cause you are working and that we need help . . . .

"You remember the baptism I administered in the Assam Hills, where there were no Catholics? The cross I put on that convert's grave is doing its work. Last Sunday six men came from there and said there were 34 families who wanted to become Catholics. They had seen Brother Sahib (as they call me here) go to baptize a man dying of cholera. The Sahibs (FAther Brooks and I) must be good men.

"Two weeks ago I was called to a far distance to baptize a dying babe of pagans from whom I had bought some wood. This trip was in a real tiger land. The huts were fenced off by stakes 10' high . . . It took me alld ay to make the journey, but I baptized the babe in time. I hope she is praying for us in Heaven now . . . .

"You would laugh to see me here -- Jack-of-all-trades; washman, nearly half the time cook, with many encouraging compliments for the bad coffee I make and my hard boiled eggs when there are any. Then I'm sacristan, shoemaker, barber, tailor, janitor, dishwasher, gardener, contractor. Luckily I am not a telephone caller . . . . " BENGALESE, Feb. 1927

"Letter from F.C. Brooks, to whom Brother Joachim acted as an invaluable and well-beloved assistant for more than two years.

"During this period these two American missionaries were the only company for each other in the wilderness, within a radius of fifty miles, of which not another civilized man was to be found.

"Long before this letter reaches you, you'll have received the cable announcing Brother Joachim's death. Brother was forced to his bed the Thursday before Christmas. He managed, however, to be up for Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Shortly, after the three Masses of Christmas, however, he was again forced to his bed. And for that time on, with the exception of a few minutes at a time, he hardly rose from it. Thus for more than two weeks, till the day of his death, January 10, he was unable to move. He complained of pains in his back and in every other part of his body, and of a growing weakness. So weak, indeed, did he become that he could scarcely move a hand. A week before his death he told me that his time had come, and expressed a wish to make his confession and receive Extreme Unction. Accordingly I gave him all the last Sacraments. Brother then seemed to revive somewhat. In fact so much so that I felt it safe to go on a sick call not far from our bangalow. On my return Brother told me that he felt much better. There seemed to be some hope of his recovery. But God willed otherwise. Next day he grew worse. Consciousness was fast ebbing. Soon he hardly recognized anybody; with the exception of one or two intervals.

"'Brother was prepared and ready to go. He met Death's appraoch calmly. Some days previous he had told me that one who lived in such a place and under such conditions as we did need have little fear of a long purgatory . . . .

"'Some days before dying he expressed the wish to be buried as the poorest of the poor. This wish was entirely in keeping with his life. He always wished for only the bare essentials in food and clothing. When, before his death, I gave him brandy or wine, which were kept for emergencies, he complained that they were too expensive a luxury. And I had a time persuading him to take these stimulants. It was ever thus: for himself he wanted only what was absolutely necessary. We had in the house canned foods from Mymensingh and Calcutta, but Brother thought them too expensive. While at home, I could induce him to partake of them. But unless forced by obedience, he would have none of them.

"'Again, he was frequently urged to go to Dacca, Bandura, or some other place for a change and a rest, but he insisted on remaining at his post. He willingly gave up life itself for God's glory and the salvation of souls. And so great was his love for the simple Garo folks and so great his confidence in making many converts that his dying wish was that no expense should be spared in developing this new mission center.

"'To manifest their love and veneration for Brother Joachim a large number of Garos, Christian and pagan alike, came from surrounding villages to be present at his funeral. And I believe it can be truthfully said that as we laid him to rest in our cemetery at Bhalukapara, tears filled the eyes of all. Brother's body rests near the church, toward the building of which he labored so patiently and devotedly . . .

"'Decorating and preparing the altar for Mass he considered one of his highest privileges. He insisted on performing this duty with his own hands. Even the altar linens, such as they were, he washed himself -- a duty of love. In this immaculate whiteness one could read his deep devotion for the Blessed Sacrament'" BENGALESE, April 1927

‹— Brother Aidan's Extracts —›