February 28 marks the feast day of Blessed Daniel Brottier, C.S.Sp., who expressed his zeal for being a missionary throughout his priestly life.
Daniel Brottier was born on September 7, 1876, in Ferte-Saint-Cyr, in the diocese of Blois, northern France, a son of Jean-Baptise and Herminie Brottier. Early in his childhood, Daniel Brottier expressed his love for the faith and his desire to enter the priesthood.
He fulfilled that desire and was ordained a priest on October 22, 1899, later teaching secondary school in France. But Fr. Daniel felt a calling to the missionary life, and he joined the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in 1902. The congregation then sent him on his first missionary assignment to Senegal.
However, his stay in Senegal was short-lived due to health reasons, and he returned to France in 1906 to recover, remaining there permanently starting in 1911, because of ill health. Even though he would remain in France for the rest of his life, Fr. Daniel still yearned to be associated with the life of a missionary and raised funds for the construction of a cathedral in Dakar, Senegal, at the request of the bishop there. He secured the necessary funds over a seven-year period — including during World War I — and the African Memorial Cathedral was consecrated on February 2, 1936, just 26 days prior to Fr. Daniel’s death on February 28, 1936.
With the start of World War I, Fr. Daniel volunteered to serve as a chaplain for France’s 121st Infantry Regiment. Fr. Daniel believed that the intercession of St. Therese of Leseiux helped him minister to the soldiers during the war. He later founded the National Union of Servicemen to aid French veterans of all wars.
In 1923, the cardinal archbishop of Paris asked the Congregation of the Holy Spirit to take over the Orphans Apprentices of Auteuil, a shelter for the many half-starved children living on the streets of Paris. Providing refuge and education for children was an early and ongoing option for the Congregation, which often had orphanages attached to seminaries and schools.
Fr. Daniel took charge of the assignment and, for the next 13 years, expanded the orphanage and ministered to the many homeless and neglected children living on the streets. He later observed, “There has to be a minimum of well-being and comfort if these young people are to grow up without bitterness. Otherwise they will later on sow the seeds of revolt and anarchy in society.”
Fr. Daniel died on February 28, 1936, in the hospital of St. Joseph in Paris. Approximately 15,000 people attended his funeral Mass. He was buried in his beloved Chapel of St. Therese — which he built in her honor — in Auteuil on April 5, 1936. On January 13, 1983, Pope John Paul II declared Fr. Daniel Brottier “venerable,” and he was beatified on November 25, 1984. As part of the process for sainthood, Fr. Brottier’s body was discovered to be incorrupt when exhumed in 1962.