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The Marist presence in Spain on the eve of the civil war (1936-1939)

23/10/2007: Spain

In 1936, only one Marist Province existed in Spain, which was on the point of celebrating fifty years since the arrival of the first brothers in Girona in 1886.
In observing a few characteristics of the educational presence of the Marist Brothers on the periphery of the Spanish geography at the time when the brother martyrs died, we can analyse the statistics of the years 1934-1935. If we look at the places where they worked we can note that it was principally towns that were not province capitals: Alcoy, Badalona, Cabezón de la Sal, Barruelo de Santullán, Centellas, La Garriga, Manzanares, Palafrugell, Algemesí, Canet, Mataró, Sabadell, Torrelaguna, Villanueva de las Minas, Arceniega, Carrejo, Igualada, Orbó...

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The type of educational proposition

In analysing the statistics of the years before the war in detail, one can conclude that there was a mode of uninterrupted growth in the four levels of teaching in which the brothers worked: First Teaching, Commerce, Second Teaching and Industrial. The most solid and firm progression, it should be highlighted, in the most popular and elementary levels: Primary and Commerce.

There was certainly a slight decline during the years of the Republic, which was not due probably to the election results, from the parents’ type of school for their children, but to the existing disorganisation and to created situations of insecurity.

There was a clear and significant predominance of working-class schools not only by the implantation of these schools, but if we examine case by case more attentively, as it happened at Barcelona, the five small schools were established in districts having a special need of schooling. These schools were staffed by small communities of three or four brothers, except that of Sants in which there were eleven, to look after more than five hundred students; twenty-three of them did not exceed three hundred.
Towns and districts with a strong presence of workers were the places that were the most helped. The transfer and evolution of small schools was done according to the needs or the impediments of educational and apostolic work.
The establishment of evening classes, authentic classes of literacy, of culture and of integration were considered as a normal complement of the school and of the district.

The educational-apostolic style

There was a way of proceeding that was repeated precisely nearly in each town where they were established, something inherited from their elders who had preceded them and who had sent them. Perhaps this came directly from the Founder himself, Marcellin Champagnat. “You must be in agreement with the ecclesiastical and civil authorities, in order to establish any activity in a town.”

The gratuity was not absolute and they asked what the parents could give in the different situations. Near a large school, small schools were created that looked after the less talented and those more in need. In Barcelona, for example, small schools grew in numbers: more than five were opened under the “protection” of the college, which was in Lauria Street, before the start of the war.

When the first four Marists sent to Spain received the blessing from the Superior, he said to them: “You are going to study Spanish and then be at the disposal of divine Providence… Be regular, devoted and pious religious. You must serve as a model to many others who will come afterwards.” This interior obligation which the one sent took on mission was undoubtedly passed on to generations of Marists who succeeded those who were sent first.

Brother Juan Moral Barrio

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