Saint of the Day – 13 April – Blessed Scubilion Rousseau FSC (1797-1867) the “Catechist of Slaves” – a professed Religious Brother of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools or the De La Salle Brothers, Teacher, Catechist, social reformer, anti-slave activist, apostle of the poor. He assumed the religious name of “Scubilion” upon his profession and was dubbed the “Catechist of Slaves” due to his extensive decades-spanning work on Réunion Island. Patronage – Catechists, Teachers.
Jean-Bernard Rousseau was born in Yonne on 22 March 1797 as the eldest of four children to Bernard Rousseau and Regina Pelletier. His parents aided and hid priests during the French Revolution in which anti-religious sentiment was at an all-time high. He was baptised hours after his birth at the home of his grandparents and would receive both his First Communion and Confirmation around the age of ten in 1807.
Two parish priests oversaw his education. Blessed Scubilion decided to devote his life to serving others and so desired to become part of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools – or De La Salle Brothers – in an attempt to follow the example of Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle. He arrived in Paris on 9 November 1822 and commenced his novitiate with the De La Salle Brothers on 24 December 1822. He assumed the religious name of “Scubilion”.
On 4 November 1823 he was sent to Alençon and was put in charge of the De La Salle house’s kitchen and garden. His triennial vows were made on 15 September 1825. He made his perpetual vows on 27 September 1827 after a period of teaching and of studies. He obtained his teaching degree in 1826.
In April 1833 he accepted an invitation to go to Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean to teach and evangelise. He and two other companions, left on 20 April 1833 and arrived in Saint-Denis on 15 July 1833. In the period of 1833 to 1843 he began to teach the poor children and at this time became a vocal advocate of slaves. He also fought against the mistreatment and abuse that female slaves suffered. On 17 November 1843 he was sent to Saint-Leu and began teaching there while also preparing slaves for baptism and their First Communion. He arrived in Sainte-Marie on 14 December 1856 to continue his work. Rousseau made a brief visit to Madagascar in 1866 to open a school. He modified all his lessons to suit the natives and also started night classes. He collaborated in his initiatives with the local priests.
After the emancipation of the slaves in 1848, he continued to care for them and to help them adapt to their new life of freedom and responsibility. In the last years of his life, despite failing health, he assisted the local pastor in visiting the sick, winning over sinners, encouraging vocations and even effecting what seemed to be miraculous cures.
He died on 13 April 1867 after a long illness in Sainte-Marie and his funeral was celebrated on 14 April in which hundreds of people attended to mourn him. At his death he was venerated everywhere on the island as a saint. He was buried in Sainte-Marie but his remains were transferred in 1939 to the house of the De La Salle Brothers in Saint-Denis.
St Pope John Paul II approved a miracle due to the intercession of Blessed Scubilion in 1987 and beatified Rousseau on the occasion of his visit to the island of Réunion on 2 May 1989.