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Fr. Louis Querbes: Making a Difference

April 14, 2007

Fr. Louis Querbes: Making a Difference

We continue with our series of features on the founders of our partner religious communities and other partner institutions. We invite you to read and reflect on the stories of these unique individuals. We believe that the lives of these men and women continue to be rich sources of insight and inspiration.

It’s all about believing you can make a difference – and that God is real.

At least it was for Fr. Louis Querbes, the founder of the Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians).

The Viatorians are a group of brothers, priests and lay associates who minister in more than 15 countries. There are about 150 of us in the U.S. We got our start because of a courageous French priest - Fr. Louis Querbes.

He founded our order in post-revolutionary France, a society struggling to rebuild its church. His vision for a religious community formed as he came to know the struggles facing the nation’s youth, pastors and parishioners. Transferred to a poor parish outside Lyon, Fr. Querbes had little money to hire catechists to staff a parish school and help him with liturgy. He even wrote about his pre-occupation with finding teachers to "fulfill a task so undervalued and yet so important."

Believing that God had called him to make a difference in the problems he faced – and confident that God would guide him to a solution, Fr. Querbes worked and prayed for a way to help the young people of his poor parish. His big problem was money. He didn’t have enough to hire lay teachers. He also sought help from a Catholic religious order, but discovered that the order only sent out teaching brothers in groups of three or more. And he just couldn’t afford to support that many.

His stubborn refusal to give up and practical faith inspired him to form a group of catechists who would go out individually and live in rural parishes, where they would live with pastors while helping them teach and prepare liturgy. That group became a religious order in 1831.

As a patron, Fr. Querbes chose St. Viator, a local saint who lived in the fourth century and was revered by the people of Lyon as a "model of youth." Fr. Querbes quickly sent his vision across the world, as Viatorian missionaries went forth to take Gospel hope to young people and parishes in nations like India, Canada and the United States. And the vision still lives today in countries like Colombia, Belize, Haiti, Taiwan, Africa, Spain and the Ivory Coast, Africa.

In the 1860s, Fr. Querbes sent missionaries to take over a church and school at Bourbonnais Grove, Illinois, a town about 50 miles south of Chicago now known as Bourbonnais, at the request of a local bishop. That’s how we ended up here, in the U.S. That’s also how I came to meet this group founded by the stubbornly, faithful country priest from France.
I attended a Viatorian high school in Springfield, Illinois, in the mid 1970s. Like so many teens, my high school years were full of a lot of ups and downs. But Viatorian priests and brothers walked with me through them all, helping me build self-confidence and showing me how to connect with the God that gave their lives meaning. After trying a few different paths in life, I decided to follow the one they chose and became a Viatorian in 1987. Now I try to live with that stubborn faith that moved Fr. Querbes to continually risk for others, confident in God’s guidance and strength.

I am just one of countless people since 1831 who have found hope and meaning because a French priest named Querbes chose to make a difference and trust in the Gospel’s promises. Do you ever think you can’t make a difference by following the Gospel? Remember about Fr. Querbes and think again.

Br. Corey Brost, C.S.V.

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