The passing away of Fr. Andre Bruylants on Friday 21st November 2014 left an irreparable void in the community of educationists and philanthropists.
He was born in Belgium, the land of mouth-watering truffles and waffles,on 27thSeptember 1926. On 14th September 1946 at the age of 20, he joined the Society of Jesus and was ordained on 21st March 1959.
Fr. Bruylants who resembled a film star in his gait, was a multi-faceted Educationist, a great Administrator, a Thinker, a great philanthropistand a Writer of several books. One of his books – a graded series of 10 books - Discovering Myself is very well-known and taught in many schools as Value Education (Moral Science) subject.
Most of his life, he served the Educational sector, as Headmaster of St Lawrence High School and St Xavier’s Collegiate School. Past students of St Lawrence School have vivid memories of him as a strict disciplinarian but without the use of the rod, in keeping with the teaching methods of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. His tall height, impressive looks and impeccable manners left all - students, teachers and parents - awestruck.
In winter he would make rounds of the school, particularly in the Boarding section, in the night, with a shawl on his shoulders. He would join the boarders every morning for prayer before their breakfast.
When in good mood he would hum to himself, mimic birds and at times whistle too!
He was the first Secretary of Jesuits in Social Action (JESA) from 1973 to December 1977. Formally initiated in 1973, the primary function of JESA is to encourage and elicit well-studied interventions from Jesuits and partners who support the causes of marginalised groups and communities in various provinces and states in South Asian countries.
He was a wonderful human being and like a true Jesuit priestwould always empty himself of the high positions including his appointment to the National Provincialate New Delhi. He quietly worked for the uplift of the marginalized and touched the lives of thousands of people, students and teachers.
His notable contribution for the marginalized, through Alumnorum Societas (Alsoc), was Project Titlia school for the poor children and the gift of a school for girls – Bagi Pourbala Bar Prabhabati Mandal Balika Vidyalaya in Joka on Sunday 7th March 2010. The school was a three-room hutment with a thatched roof till July 2009. “The new building was built at a cost of Rs 30 lakh provided by Alsoc. Earlier, we had from classes V to X; after the extension, we have added five more classes — Nursery to Class IV,” said OliKoley, the headmistress of the school, the only secondary school in the vicinity. Alsoc, which adopted the Joka school as its sister concern, also gifted the school ceiling fans, benches and other material.
Fr Bruylants wrote an article (in Jesuit) captioned Spare the rod, save the child in support of the abolition of Corporal Punishment (physical or emotional). His opening lines were: “Physical punishment in schools like caning, slapping or beating, even in the most moderate of forms, is now banned by the courts. Period!”
May there be peace and comfort in members of his family in Belgium, who may take comfort that their son dedicated his life for the uplift of the Bengali community. May our educators continue the legacy that he has left behind. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
ISAAC HAROLD GOMES