Born: Dublin, October 21, 1837
Took the habit: Sicklinghall, August 1, 1857
Perpetual Vows: Marseille, August 15, 1860 (No. 520)
Dispensed from vows: June 22, 1873
Michael Bennett was born in Dublin on October 21, 1837. He did his secondary studies in the Vincentian College of Castleknock and wanted to become a priest in that Congregation. During his final year he did poorly in his studies because of the deaths of his father, his mother and his sister. The Vincentians advised him to become a Brother. He refused and spent one month with the Trappists and then with the Brothers of the Christian Schools (de la Salle). Then, in July 1857, he was accepted as a scholastic in the Oblates. He began his novitiate in the presence of Bishop de Mazenod at Lys Marie (Sicklinghall) on August 1, 1857. After some months he asked Father Boisramé if he could remain a Brother. The master of novices agreed and told him that Brothers were needed for teaching in the missions. He made his first vows on August 2, 1858 and five-year vows on September 8, 1859. He worked for a time in Leeds and then in the house in Inchicore. In July 1860 he left for Marseille with Father Pierre Crousel. It was intended that he replace Brother Byrne who had died in Ceylon on May 22, 1860. He took final vows in the presence of Bishop de Mazenod on August 15, 1860 and left for Ceylon on September 20.
Together with Brother Brown he was immediately appointed to teach in the English college in Jaffna. A report in Missions OMI, (1862, p. 199) says that the two Brothers “fulfilled their task with admirable zeal.” On January 10, 1864, Father Jules César Mola who was in charge of the school wrote: Brother Bennett was “a precious acquisition for our establishment. His cheerful character, his kindly and distinguished manner, his prudence and his zeal provide all the necessary elements so that he will gradually become an excellent teacher. However, his constitution is delicate and who knows what a painful burden he must find the onerous task of teaching? He has been entrusted with responsibility for the boarding school founded in 1860 on the arrival of Brothers Brown and Byrne. His natural aptitudes are a singular asset for him and have earned merited esteem for him and for the establishment. The students are sincerely attached to him and find in him a trusted friend. Discipline among them is perfect without any hint of fear. During the past four months, this Brother has taught courses in English composition, Latin grammar and English literature, for which he shows a special interest.” (Missions OMI, 3 (1864), p. 481).
During 1865, Brother was frequently ill. Father Mola, who was in charge of the school and a medical doctor, treated him, in the words of the Brother, by giving him morphine. The minutes of the general council for February 11, 1872, note that the Brother has not given up taking opium, even after his return to Ireland towards 1870. In a letter to Father Charles Jolivet, dated May 24, 1873, the Brother wrote that he had been living outside any Oblate community for one year. He stated that he never had a vocation to be a Brother, that he had always been unhappy and that he wished application be made to Rome for a dispensation from his vows. The re from Rome is dated June 22, 1873. In his report to the general chapter of 1873, Bishop Bonjean wrote: “In order to avoid scandal and the danger of madness, I had to send Brother Bennett back to Europe where he has since left the Congregation” (Missions OMI, 11(1873), p. 385).
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
G. A.: letters to Bishop de Mazenod, May 5,
1861, to Father Boisramé, August 12, 1862, to Father Fabre, May 4, 1866
(letters written in very good French), to Father Jolivet (in English), May 24,