REV. FR. ADRIEN BRESY OBSCURE YET REMEMBERED
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Extract from register of birth of Adrien Bresy Feb. 1649
(State Archives of Mons)
Fr. Adrien was born at Mons, Belgium on January 29, 1649 to Augustine Bresy and Louise Berthault. He was baptised in the parish church of St. Germaine, Mons, on January 31, 1649. His Godfather was Adrien Lecrec, a lawyer; his godmother was Miss Anna Deprez. We have not the good fortune of possessing any documents giving us information of the family or the early life of Adrien Bresy. However the name of his sister Marie Francoise was traced in the baptismal register found in the State archives in Mons.
 Admitted to the University of Louvain in 1677, Adrien Bresy had obtained his degree of Bachelor in Theology. This was a time when education even of members of the clergy was very limited. To be a university graduate in theology was a remarkable thing and earned respectability in those days. But far from taking pride in this fact, he humbled himself all the more. After his ordination he served as the chaplain at Dottignies before being appointed parish priest of Wez in 1674. He was appointed as parish priest on September 26, 1674 and served the parish of Wez for more than 25 years. For his parishioners, he was the image of Good Shepherd and a model of Christian and pastoral virtues. The historian Hoverlant writes, it is to this vigilant pastor that is due the foundation of a convent in Wez
 It was the plight of the poor of the parish, especially that of children, that gave to Fr. Adrien Bresy, our founder, the inspiration to start a school and for that purpose to found a Religious Congregation.
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The first 6 sisters vested & professed by Adrien Bresy
(Extract of Vestition register of November 25, 1685 signed by Fr. Adrien Bresy & M. Catherine Warquain)
Fr. Adrien was a person who knew not only about God through his solid theological formation but also sought him in deep prayer and union with him. He lived a life of poverty and simplicity. It is written of him that he had no money to buy a place for the new school he wished to start. Therefore he gave up his own little presbytery to the newly formed group of teachers and shifted to a room in the old castle of Wez, which at that time was used as temporary seminary since that of Tournai was still under construction. He readily gave up the comforts of his own house and shifted to a place, which was not his and adjusted to the inconveniences and discomforts of having to live with others. Great was his spirit of sacrifice and poverty. But his meagre resources did not prevent him from being a person of hospitality and liberality.
Fr. Adrien was also a person of profound humility, to the point of effacing himself totally, not leaving any tangible trace of himself, either in the form of writings, monuments or buildings. He was a person who understood and believed that there was no need to put himself in evidence nor leave behind writings and monuments in his memory and that God’s work, God’s plan would unfold itself in the being rather than in the great doing of man. The little seed that he had planted in the obscure village of Wez and which he watered with his faith, has grown into a luxuriant tree spreading it’s branches far and wide reaching out to all those in need, irrespective of cultures, castes and creeds at the service of the Kingdom in the heart of the church. Little did he dream, that 300 years after his death his Daughters from other continents, other cultures would be on his trail in search of traces and clues to retrace the origin of their Father and Founder. Humble to the point of desiring to be trampled upon, if not in life, at least in death, he wished to be buried at the threshold of his parish church, where his parishioners were obliged to walk over his tomb before entering the church.
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Ruins of the castle of Wez as seen in 1817
A man of learning and wisdom, he knew the value of education and that the most effective means of changing society and it’s values was by educating it’s children in right values. Himself a learned man, he found the real strategy knowing where to begin his conquest. It was in the hearts of little children educated in the ways of the Lord’ he saw Christian education as a means of spiritual and human development. In the cry for help of the poor children of his parish he heard the cry of countless thousands of children and started a little village school to hold the destiny of many generations to come. His heart went all out to procure for the children of his parish who were in the grips of ignorance and poverty to guarantee them a solid human, moral and intellectual formation.
Fr.  Adrien was a man of vision. His vision was not confined to the present needs but reached far out into the future. He knew the lacuna in the educational system of the time, especially of the primary education that was left in the hands of unqualified teachers who hardly knew more than their pupils did. Fr. Adrien wanted to give the best to his children; making of them committed Christians, useful members of society and worthy citizens of their country. He wanted to give them teachers who, themselves possessing a serious and solid education would impart it freely to the children. With this end in view he went in search of the teachers in the neighbouring town of Lille in France. His hope was fulfilled, Divine Providence aiding. He found his collaborators who were to realise his dream. Fr. Adrien Bresy was a Belgian yet he went to France in search of his collaborators. In this we see a spirit of universality, which could put to shame the narrow mentality of nationalism, fundamentalism, racism, linguism and casteism of the modern times. The annals of the time report: Adrien Bresy assembled the three young ladies from Lille in his presbytery and found two young ladies from his parish to join them. It was indeed the manifestation of a beautiful spirit of universal fellowship of the Church. Thanks to this spirit of the Founder, the Congregation has been international from it’s very conception which excludes all narrow minded communalism based on nationality, colour, language, customs and culture.
Fr. Adrien was a man of profound faith and great courage. The documents specify that the five young ladies assembled at his presbytery for the instruction of the children of their sex. He was far ahead of his times. He did not wait for the end of the 20th century to give to women their rightful place, to claim the rights of women for equal opportunities. He is the Father of many generations to whom he has handed down in heritage the patrimony that he had received from the Holy Spirit: the compassionate and providential love of God for his children which over the centuries, is being handed down from generation to generation, incarnated in the culture and needs of the times and place.
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Tombstone of Adrien Bresy
Fr. Adrien did not give his name to the Congregation he founded. He did not leave behind a written charter of principles, a rule of life for the sisters to follow, but laying aside his desire for glory and honour in the Spirit of John the Baptist who said, He must increase, I must decrease, pointed to the one who inspired him and whom he admired, who had the same ideals and the same spirit as he, who followed the hard and narrow way to reach the heights of sanctity, St. Charles Borromeo, the illustrious Cardinal of Milan. In choosing him as the Patron and Protector of the newborn Congregation, Adrien Bresy wished the sisters to follow in his footsteps, to live up to his ideals and be guided by his way of life. Adrien Bresy and St. Charles had many things in common. Many of the traits found in St. Charles Borromeo were seen in Adrien Bresy summarised in the epitaph on his tombstone. Jesus tells us that a tree is known by it’s fruits. A retrospective glance at the history of the Congregation, the life and work of the sisters confirms this teaching.
Fr. Adrien Bresy was a contemporary and eye witness of all the wars and revolutions of his time. Together with his flock he had experienced the effects of them all. Today everything seemed to be destined to complete oblivion except his epitaph on which thousands of parishioners have walked on entering and leaving the church.
Fr. Adrien Bresy left for his heavenly home on the 1st of June 1699. According to his wish he was buried in front of the doorway of the parish church at Wez. When the church was reconstructed, the tombstone was embedded into a sidewall inside the church. The following epitaph is engraved on his tombstone.
The Reverend Adrien Bresy, native of Mons, bachelor of Holy Theology, promoted from the post of chaplain of Dottignies to that of parish priest of Wez, became a model for his flock for twenty five years and more. Zeal for souls, prayer and preaching were his preferred occupations. Nothing could resist his strength; everyone admired his meekness. His modest income did not prevent him from being a person in whom liberality and hospitality as well as the practice of Christian and pastoral virtues appeared in all their perfection. Indefatigable as regards work, cherished and mourned by everyone, he died, to live eternally in heaven the first day of June 1699 and to satisfy his humility, was buried in front of this portal.
This is the only text directly concerned with the person of our Founder – the text of the Epitaph on his tombstone. This text is the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in him at a certain time of history. It also expressed the spiritual experience of those who lived and worked with him. For the Sisters of St. Charles, who possess no other writings of the founder, this text is an invitation to walk in the path in which Fr. Adrien Bresy dared to tread.