BROTHER BERNARD (EUGENE) GERVAIS, C.S.C. (1881-1963)
CONGREGATIONAL HISTORIAN AND MULTITASKER
Born in Momence, IL, Francis Gervais entered Holy Cross in 1896 and professed firsts vows in 1899 at Notre Dame. He enjoyed telling the story of his first assignment as a candidate in 1896. Two days after entering, he was asked to dig the grave for Brother Francis Xavier Patois, the last of the six brothers who came from France with Father Sorin in 1842. He recalled that this was his initiation into the rich history of the Brothers of Holy Cross in America. Almost to his last day, he collected and wrote articles on the history of the Congregation.
At the completion of his novitiate, now Brother Bernard was assigned to St. Vincent Scholasticate until receiving a Master of Accounts from the University of Notre Dame. In September 1901, he was assigned to teach in the Cathedral School in Fort Wayne, and at the end of the year, he was reassigned to Holy Cross College in New Orleans. Because of his background in commercial subjects, in 1906, he was transferred to St. Joseph College in Cincinnati, OH. In 1909, he returned to Cathedral High School as a member of the school’s first high school faculty under the leadership of principal Brother Marcellinus Kinsella.
When the University of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Watertown, WI phased out its academic program in 1912, Brother Bernard was assigned as the first superior and director of the new candidate program, Sacred Heart Juniorate, through 1918. One of his first candidates was his own brother, Felix, later Brother Benedict.
From 1918 onward, Brother Bernard was given assignments that allowed his leadership and financial skills to be fully utilized: 1918-1924, principal of Cathedral High School; 1925-1931, director of the scholasticate, Dujarié Hall; and 1926-1950, holding several roles on the General Administration—councilor, steward, treasurer either at Notre Dame, Washington, DC or in New York City. During those 24 years, he would also direct other activities too: 1925-31 as superior at Dujarié; another one-year assignment at Cathedral High School; and superior of St. Joseph Farm, Granger, IN from 1931-1934. A true multi-tasker!
Perhaps, from the view of any of the congregation’s many archivists, his greatest accomplishment was bringing the General Matricule, a membership register, up to date, beginning in 1820 and ending in 1944. Bernard spent eight years researching and compiling the data. Beginning with Father Jacque Dujarié as number one and ending with number 5,700, Brother Gabriel Rondel, he compiled the chronological list. He then built an index where each member is cross referenced by religious name, e.g. Ildephonsus, and surname: a monumental effort because all of it was typed with very few errors.
From 1950 until Brother Bernard’s untimely death in 1963—he died visiting his family in Seattle, WA—he enjoyed working in the Midwest province archives and gardening. Brother Bernard Gervais was one of the many early twentieth century titans who worked to move the Brothers into the “modern” age of secondary education.
Adapted from the writings of Brother Edward (Hyacinth) Sniatecki, CSC, January 1984.