Isaïe-Pierre Moy, known as Father Eutyme, was born in Saint-Servan (French département of Ille-et-Villaine), France, to Joseph Moy and Julienne-Louise Huerre on November 23, 1811. In 1837, he entered the novitiate of the Brothers of Christian Education in Ploërmel. He taught in Tréguier (Côtes-du-Nord département) from 1838 to 1841, at which time he was sent to Senegal, with a colleague, to take over the direction of the Boys’ School in Saint-Louis. The school had been opened in 1817 by a lay teacher who was practicing the newest “interactive” method, but it had been operating irregularly. Although the colonial administration had a bias against the religious associations and thought that their mindset would certainly be problematic, they finally realized that for the salary they were offering (1,200 FF per year), they probably wouldn’t find any other solution. Through an agreement that was ratified by the Minister of the Navy and Abbot de La Mennais, public schooling in Senegal was turned over to the Brothers of Ploërmel in 1841.
In sending Father Eutyme to “establish” the school in Saint-Louis, Abbot de La Mennais had undoubtedly chosen a remarkable and extremely hard-working man, but also someone with a strong personality. In the first year, the school in Saint-Louis had 130 students. In March of 1843 Governor Bouët instructed Father Eutyme to open the school in Gorée. It had been open haphazardly for a while, with teachers who came and went. By accepting to go direct the school there on his own, and without waiting for permission from Abbot de La Mennais, Father Eutyme was going against the rules on two counts. He left Saint-Louis in March of 1843, just when a high school was being opened by abbots Boilat, Fridoil, and Moussa, who were the last three of a group of colored children that Mother Javouhey (founder of the Sisters of Saint-Joseph de Cluny) had taken to France in 1827. The Brothers and the Fathers were soon fighting bitterly for students. At that time, primary and secondary education was not successive in nature, as they were simply alternate paths. Consequently, the competence of teachers was measured by the extent of their students’ knowledge. Public examinations were given to that end, and were administered by committees made up of state employees and noteworthy individuals. In August of 1843, upon his return from Gorée, Father Eutyme found that his colleagues had fallen into a trap. When the formal, end-of-year final examinations were being administered, in the governor’s presence, Abbot Boilat had endeavored to show how brilliantly his students were doing, “thereby discrediting the school run by the Brothers.” For the finals exams of 1844, which were given from June 1 to July 31, Father Eutyme had his first class students studying ten and a half hours a day. According to the report of the apostolic prefect, who at the time was the inspector of the Senegalese schools, this hard work did bear fruit. All the while, Father Eutyme was badgering the administration with complaints because the high school kept taking his best students, the very students he needed as overseers for the hundred or so students he had in the lower classes. Father Eutyme also claimed to know that Abbot Boilat accused the Brothers of being ignorant, even in the reports he made to the minister. Probably because he was weary of having to deal with all these quarrels, Laborel, the battalion chief who was an ephemeral interim governor of Senegal, decided to send Father Eutyme and one of his colleagues back to France on convalescence leave.
The two teachers had not yet left the country when, on August 10, 1844, the new interim governor, named Thomas, explained to his minister that Father Eutyme’s departure was regrettable, “not because there are too few [brothers] left, since we still have four for Saint-Louis and Gorée, but because [F. Eutyme] simply can’t be replaced, given the intelligence and zeal that will now be missing from the education of the children in Saint-Louis.” Father Eutyme was undoubtedly an excellent teacher according to the standards of his age. In the enthusiastic inspection report of the apostolic prefect, dated 1842, we find: “Father Eutyme has such providential oversight over his students that they think he is always following them, and that he knows virtually everything that they do.” It is also clear that he loved his students, as we can see from a letter dated July 22, 1842: “They are generally of very good character, and their kindness and gentle manner is exemplary.”
The Minister of the Navy decided to send Father Eutyme back to Senegal because they missed him, and he arrived there in March of 1846 with great determination. He resumed the very intensive study schedule he had tried earlier: student class time and study time amounted to more than ten hours a day, and the students had no vacation in that same year. Apparently, this was quite acceptable to many local families, because in October of 1846, many upper echelon families in Saint-Louis withdrew their children from the lower class of the high school and enrolled them in the Brothers’ school.
It is quite possible that this victory engendered authoritarianism and a taste for power in Father Eutyme that neither the colonial administration not Abbot de La Mennais could tolerate. Father Eutyme was unhappy about the lack of respect that the people of Gorée showed towards the two Brothers who were in charge of the school there, so he got the governor of Senegal to withdraw them, mentioning that one of them was “mentally unsound” and that the other needed to accompany him. The urgent nature of the matter called for the governor to make a decision that normally would have been submitted for the prior approval of the Minister of the Navy and of the general superior of the Brothers. The people of Gorée were deprived of a school for two years, and when they finally acquiesced, Father Eutyme himself went to reopen the school, on January 2, 1849. The Maka Garnier affair was even more serious, as a student by that name had been baptized without the express consent of his father. The child later refused to go to church, and in early 1849, he was expelled by Father Eutyme. The administration wanted to readmit the student, but Father Eutyme refused to do so, claiming that intervention on the part of “the highest authority in the land” between a father and the head of the school would make insurgents of all the students. The affair was finally resolved through compromise after Father Eutyme’s departure. The boy was readmitted on account of having promised to “submit to the rules of the school, as a Catholic.” Formulated in that manner, the agreement implied neither conversion nor partaking of the sacraments, which was the formulation that had been set out by Abbot de La Mennais in the formal agreement that was ratified with the Minister of the Navy in 1841. Apparently, it was agreeable to the notable Muslim inhabitants of Saint-Louis, because they continued to prefer the Brothers’ school over the secular school opened by Faidherbe in 1857.
In early 1849 a money matter was added to the already contentious climate that existed between Father Eutyme and the local administration. Having been told by the financial director that the Brothers’ annual salary, which had been raised to 1,700 Francs, would be reduced to 1,500 Francs, Father Eutyme responded on March 1 and March 7, 1849, with the threat of group resignation. At the time, a sum of 1,500 Francs was considered to be insufficient for a European in Senegal. Faidherbe had set the pay of lay teachers at 3,000 Francs. However, the Congregationalists lived in community and submitted to rules of ascetic life that allowed them to live on far less. It is difficult to imagine that in 1849, teachers would even threaten to go on strike, let alone Congregationalists! Governor Baudin was quite unhappy with “the changing spirit of the Brothers, who threaten to stop everything and go back to France when faced with the smallest problem.” In October of 1848, Abbot de La Mennais had accepted that the pay for the Brothers in Senegal would be 1,500 Francs, which was on par with the annual salary of the Brothers in the Antilles. Had Father Eutyme been told about this? The tone of spontaneous indignation in the letter he wrote to the financial director on March 1 would imply that he had not. However, he might have become accustomed to taking matters into his own hands. To that end, but in line with the general goals of the administration, he had set up a small workshop in his school in late 1847, and the leader of the [local] artillery division had sent three workers over. That is how, without the consent of Ploërmel, the “Saint-Louis Trade School” was opened. Along with other big projects he founded in 1848 however, it did not survive his departure.
On June 27, 1849, Father Eutyme left for France for a sabbatical time of rest. He stayed in Ploërmel until he died, on October 30, 1888. The archives there do not reveal what he did while he was there, as he is neither listed as a teacher nor as a patient in the infirmary. It is likely that he undertook to do the sort of practical work that his health would allow: gardening, accounting, writing brochures, etc.
See reference material listed under André Corsini.
This article, reprinted here with permission, is taken from Hommes et Destins: Dictionnaire biographique d’Outre-Mer [People and Destinies: Overseas Biographical Dictionary], published in 1977 by the Académie des Sciences d’Outre-Mer (15, rue de la Pérouse, 75116 Paris, France). All rights reserved.