Brothers at Work: A history of five Dutch congregations of brothers and their activities in Catholic education, 1840-1970by Joos P. A. Van Vugt. (review)
- The Catholic Historical Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 84, Number 1, January 1998
- p. 130
- View Citation
- Additional Information
130BOOK REVIEWS Brothers at Work:A history offive Dutch congregations ofbrothers and their activities in Catholic education, 1840-1970. By Joos P. A. Van Vugt. (Nijmegen , The Netherlands: Valkhof Pers for the CathoUc Study Centre, Catholic University of Nijmegen. 1996. Pp. 126. Paperback) This work is an abridged EngUsh version of a historical study in Dutch undertaken by the Catholic Study Centre of the University of Nijmegen at the behest of, and funded by, the five brotherhoods suggested in the title, namely, the Brothers of St. Louis or of Oudenbosch (founded 1840), the Brothers of Maastricht (1840), the Brothers ofTUburg (1844), the Brothers of Huybergen (1854), and the Brothers of Utrecht (1873). Although the English version is intended primarily for the congregations' foreign missions, it is a scholarly narration based upon an exhaustive study of congregational, diocesan, and government archives and is a perceptive treatment of mstitutional development that is applicable to teaching brotherhoods in particular and religious Ufe in general. The author provides a background for the establishment of these five brotherhoods in the proliferation of the active, simple-vow congregations that exploded into existence in the generation foUowing the French Revolution, a development "characterized by spontaneity, enthusiasm, and chaos" (p. 31). AU five were founded by priests or bishops primarily for the poor chUdren of industrial cities in the making. In short order, however, they were torn loose from their local roots to become part of an ambitious educational system, a principal goal of the "Catholic movement" in The Netherlands.JTie movement involved a conflict with anticlerical Liberals, over whom it finally triumphed in the Primary Education Act of 1920 that provided equal funding for denominational schools. Though the five brotherhoods reached a peak of institutional growth and professionalism in the interwar years, the militancy of the Catholic movement had evaporated.There began about 1920 a dramatic decline in the percentage of those taking final vows. In the period after 1945, when the wetfare state made many of theU services redundant, they turned more to technical schools and foreign missions.The period afterVatican Council II brought another radical change ofcourse in the form of occupational diversity, the congregations, instead of "idealistic employment agenc[ies]," becoming supportive bodies. The diversification was haphazard and not the result of postconciliar goal setting. Yet, as the brotherhoods faced inevitable extinction, many of their members, "found theU true destination only in these autumnal years of thee Ufe" (p. 1 12). This is a slim volume but packed with insights at each stage of the institutional growth it describes. It invites comparisons and contrasts not only with and between American and European teaching brotherhoods butAmerican and European reUgious experiences in general. It is fast-paced and readable. It has no index. Thomas W Spalding, CEX. Spalding University ...