ROBLOT (Roblet), LOUIS, known as Brother Aidant, member of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, director and visitor of the district of Canada and the United States; b. 5 Feb. 1796 at Talmay (dept of Côte d’Or), France, son of Claude Roblot and Madeleine Dadavant; d. 19 Sept. 1866 in Paris.
On 1 July 1817 Louis Roblot entered the noviciate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools at Langres, and soon was entrusted with positions of responsibility. From 1822 to 1831 he was director of the Christian Brothers’ school at Bourbonne-les-Bains, then of the Saint-Médard and Saint-Enfant-Jésus schools in Paris. In 1831 Brother Aidant was authorized by his superior general to assume the important function of visitor to the French district of Nantes. Six years later he was sent to establish the Christian Brothers securely in Canada.
On two occasions, in 1718 and 1737, the Brothers Hospitallers of the Cross and St Joseph had come close to welcoming Brothers of the Christian Schools to New France. The two plans had failed, despite the visit of Brothers Denis and Pacifique to Montreal during the summer of 1737 [see Gervais Hodiesne*]. A century later the story was to be different. Yielding to pressure from Joseph-Vincent Quiblier*, superior of Saint-Sulpice in Canada, Brother Anaclet, superior general of the Christian Brothers in Paris, authorized four brothers to leave for Lower Canada in 1837. On 10 October Brothers Aidant, Rombaud, Euverte, and Adelbertus left Le Havre on the steamship Louis-Philippe, and on 3 November they reached New York. Travelling by water and by the new railway from Saint-Jean on the Richelieu to Laprairie, they reached Montreal on 7 November, in time to observe barricades in certain streets because of the troubles of 1837. The disciples of Jean-Baptiste de La Salle were welcomed by Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue* and the Sulpicians, and the latter immediately took charge of them. Brother Aidant got to work so quickly that classes were opened two days before Christmas in a building opposite the seminary; he took in 240 pupils divided among three classes. On 22 Jan. 1838 Bishop Ignace Bourget* opened the school year with the mass of the Holy Spirit at Notre-Dame.
The Sulpicians, who were linked to the brothers by a long tradition of friendship, contributed greatly to the prosperity of the new community, going to “considerable expense” on its behalf. By 6 June 1838 the brothers were able to take up residence in their own house, and on 16 Nov. 1840 the Saint-Laurent School on Rue Vitré was opened. The school housed 860 pupils divided into eight classes, four in English. It was “a great step forward in the history of education in Montreal.” The discipline and good behaviour of the students often aroused the admiration of distinguished visitors, among them Bishop Lartigue, Bishop Forbin-Janson*, and the governor general, Lord Sydenham [Thomson*].
In 1843, faced with an almost total lack of pedagogical material at the elementary level, Brother Aidant drafted three school texts, the first in Canada to be based on the methods of La Salle in France: an arithmetic textbook, a short history of Canada, and a concise geography.
The opening of a noviciate at Montreal in December 1838 and the successive arrival of new brothers from France allowed Brother Aidant, the visitor, to deal with the increasing number of requests for schools. Thus the brothers were able to open a school at Quebec in 1843, at Trois-Rivières in 1844, and at Baltimore, U.S.A. in 1845. On 11 Sept. 1847 Brother Aidant left for Paris, at the summons of his superior general. During the meeting that followed the decision was taken to establish a house at New York. By 18 November Brother Aidant was back at Montreal to resume his duties, which he fulfilled until his recall to France on 9 Dec. 1848.
After 11 years of Brother Aidant’s administration, the Canadian and American district comprised five houses, including two in the United States. The brothers’ schools had a total of 40 classes attended by 3,200 pupils; 56 brothers, including 16 novices, made up the staff. Only a few months after the pioneer’s departure, the first French Canadian brother, Toussaint Dufresne, dit Brother Jean-Baptiste, became director and founded a school at Montmagny.
From 1849 to 1852 Brother Aidant was in charge of another equally difficult, new district, the Orient, which had a residence on the Bosphorus. He was then recalled to Paris, and in 1852 became one of the advisers of the superior of the institute assisting the latter’s work as spiritual leader and administrator. While serving in this capacity Brother Aidant died in 1866, at age 70.
His work, with that of Brother Facile, his resolute successor as visitor in Canada, was to prove so significant that Georges Rigault, the official historian of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, was prompted to write: “Of all the districts founded in the 19th century, those of the Canadian regions and of Anglo-Saxon America will be numbered among the most flourishing.”
Archives des Frères des écoles chrétiennes, District de Montréal (Laval), Historique du district: 1837–1967 (copies manuscrite et dactylographiée); Registres de prise d’habit du noviciat de Montréal: 1837–1965. Archivio della Propaganda Fide (Rome), Scritture riferite nei Congressi: America Settentrionale, 4 (1837–41), f.180. Archivio Fratelli delle Scuole Cristiane, Casa Generalizia (Rome), NO 400, 4; NO 432A, 10–12. Brother Angelus Gabriel, The Christian Brothers in the United States, 1848–1948; a century of Catholic education (New York, 1948), 78–79. J.-C. Caisse, L’Institut des Frères des écoles chrétiennes, son origine, son but et ses œuvres (Montréal, 1883), 49. Jacques Guibert, Histoire de S. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, ancien chanoine de l’Église métropolitaine de Reims, fondateur de l’Institut des Frères des écoles chrétiennes (Paris, 1900), 587. L’œuvre d’un siècle; les Frères des écoles chrétiennes au Canada (Montréal, 1937), 62–66, 73, 80, 85. Georges Rigault, Histoire générale de l’Institut des Frères des écoles chrétiennes (9v., Paris, 1937–53), V, 205; VI, 248, 358. Frère Symphorien-Louis [Stanislas Roberge], Les Frères des écoles chrétiennes au Canada, 1837–1900 (Montréal, 1912). Yves Poutet, “Une institution franco-canadienne au XVIIIe siècle: les écoles populaires de garçons à Montréal,” Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique (Louvain, Belgique), LIX (1964), 52–88.