DUBOIS, JEAN-FRANÇOIS, named Brother Aphraates, member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, educator, school administrator, and writer; b. 30 Oct. 1822 in Coullemelle, diocese of Amiens, France, son of Jean-Baptiste Dubois and Marie-Anne Lepage; d. 3 May 1901 in Paris.
Jean-François Dubois entered the Paris noviciate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in March 1844; he left in February 1845 to become a teacher at Beauvais, and then taught at Aniane and Gap. He took his first triennial vows in 1847 and his perpetual vows in 1851. In September 1851 he became director at Aimargues, and in October 1852 procurator in Marseilles.
Brother Aphraates began his North American career in Baltimore, Md, where he was in charge of Calvert Hall for four years, from 1853 to 1857. In the autumn of 1857 he founded Rock Hill College at Ellicott City, a few miles from Baltimore; on his own initiative but with the approval of the visitor, Brother Facile, he instituted the teaching of Latin, although it was contrary to the rules of the brothers to include Latin in the curriculum.
In June 1861 his superiors sent Brother Aphraates to Quebec City to become the director of the community there, which had been housed at the École des Glacis since 1843 and which, in addition, taught classes in the Saint-Roch and Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-Baptiste) schools. He quickly established himself in the Quebec milieu. In 1862, supporting an initiative by the parish priest of the cathedral of Notre-Dame, Abbé Joseph Auclair*, he agreed to open an English business academy in September. Virtually from the outset it also had classes conducted in French and it was to become the Académie Commerciale de Québec. Far from contenting himself with its rapid success, he made sure that the curriculum and courses were constantly being improved. In 1875, for example, he obtained large sums from the government – $2,500 for physics and chemistry laboratories and an annual grant of $1,000 for the teachers – and he introduced instruction in the arts and sciences. He brought a specialist in drawing from Paris and entrusted the courses in physics and chemistry to Abbé Joseph-Clovis-Kemner Laflamme. A few years later, brothers trained by them took over.
In 1880, to complement these initiatives, Brother Aphraates planned to pursue an idea that had been in the air for some time and offer a polytechnical course at the academy. Such a program had been introduced at the Académie du Plateau in Montreal [see Urgel-Eugène Archambeault] seven years earlier. Despite support from the consul general of France at Quebec, who promised to supply an excellent teacher of mineralogy, as well as from all the regional newspapers, the clergy, and the general population, and even despite a fervent plea from the provincial visitor, Brother Réticius [Louis Gonnet*], Brother Aphraates could not convince the Régime de Paris – the council of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Twice it vetoed the proposal because of “the utter impossibility of supplying the personnel needed for an establishment of this importance.”
Brother Aphraates required the brothers under his jurisdiction to take continuous training, which he facilitated by giving lessons himself and organizing courses of all sorts on weekends and holidays. He also undertook to publish numerous authoritative textbooks for classroom use, in French and English, on arithmetic, history, grammar, and literature. He put together a collection of sacred songs, a devotional manual, and a practical treatise on the devotion to the Sacred Heart. At Quebec he was remembered as a “master in pedagogy,” and even the rather severe provincial visitor, Brother Armin-Victor, was forced to recognize that “no community is more in the public eye than is [the Académie Commerciale de Québec], because of [Brother] Aphraates, its director.”
In his role as director Brother Aphraates was understanding, and full of gentleness and patience; he did not like exercising authority, and this dislike in some people’s opinion led at times to a relaxing of religious discipline in his community. His contemporaries described his piety as solid and admirable, “although not very effusive”; they noted as his outstanding virtue his “burning zeal for the glory of God” and for the order. The choice of Brother Aphraates as the delegate from the district of Montreal to the meetings of the general chapter in Paris in 1873 and 1875 shows clearly the esteem in which his colleagues held him.
Brother Aphraates remained at Quebec from 1861 till 1884, except for the period August to November in 1862 when his superiors sent him to New York. In August 1884 he reluctantly left his cherished academy to become director of the Sainte-Famille community (called Les Anciens) in Montreal, which consisted of elderly and ill brothers. Two years later he spent a few months in Manchester, England, and he subsequently served as director of the communities of Kildare (Republic of Ireland) and of St Joseph’s Academy in London until 1888. From then on he was secretary to the visitors in Manhattanville (New York) and Castletown (Republic of Ireland) and to the assistants for North America. From 1891 he was permanently installed in the mother house in Paris, where in addition to his principal duties he did translations and gave English lessons to the brothers. A few months before his death “the decrepitude of old age” confined him to the infirmary, where he passed away on 3 May 1901.
Arch. des Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes, District de Montreal (Laval, Qué.), Fiches du personnel. Arch. des Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes, District de Québec (Quebec), Académie de Québec; Les Glacis. Arch. des Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes, Maison Généralice (Rome), Administration centrale de l’institut, procure générale près le Saint-Siège, la question du latin, F. Réticius, “La question du latin aux Etats-Unis . . . ,” 1907; Administration générale de l’institut, reg. des délibérations du conseil du régime commence en janvier 1856; District de Montréal; District de Québec, communauté, Académie de Québec. “F. Aphraates,” Institut des Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes, Notices nécrologiques trimestrielles (Paris), 496 (avril–juin 1901): 314–325. L’œuvre d’un siècle; les Frères des écoles chrétiennes au Canada (Montreal, 1937). Nive Voisine, Les Frères des écoles chrétiennes au Canada (1v. paru, Québec, 1987– ).