Br Albin Hennequin was born in Mauritius in 1927. He made is First Profession of vows as a Capuchin in 1959. He is a Capuchin lay brother. After arriving in Australia a few decades ago, he has served in various fraternities as porter, questor and sacristan. He currently is part of the St Francis fraternity in Newton, Adelaide. The following interview was done in the late 1990s.
I am number 8 from a family of 9 children.
Coming back from the Army in 1949 I returned home to Mauritius.
We used to attend Mass every Sunday since it was a custom among us attending Mass to avoid a mortal sin.
But one Sunday (15/10/50), the parish priest was preaching about Mission. He said "Missionaries are leaving their country, relatives, wealth, and going to foreign countries to preach the Gospel." I was touched by his words and I said to myself "that’s true; why not me?" Since that date I thought about joining an order.
I knew that I had to talk to a priest, but I always postponed that decision. In the meantime I was able to read the life of the "Little Flower," which increased my faith. The hesitation to see a priest stopped when an accident happened. A stupid boy was playing with a BSA gun and he shot me in the back of the neck. I felt at that time that it was a reproach from the Lord about my hesitation, then I promised that after the operation I would talk to the parish priest.
This priest knew that there was a problem in the family about Religious life. My elder sister was a Nun for 13 years and left the order in 1947 and got married. In the family nobody wanted to talk about Religious life any more. The parish priest (an Assumptionist) then told me that he would write to France and that I would have to stay in their Convent for 3 months to see if this kind of life would fit me. This idea was good because I wanted to go outside Mauritius to avoid objections from the relatives.
The answer from the Assumptionists was a negative one. Then I went to another Parish asking for addresses outside Mauritius. This second priest gave me 5 addresses from Mission Countries. I wrote to them all. The Capuchins of Madagascar gave the best answer: they told me that their Novitiate was in France and if I wanted to join I must go there.
The second problem was how to ask my Boss for 3 months holidays to go overseas! Me, being a young employee in this sugar Factory… having not any right to ask this kind of favour.
Then I asked for help from Heaven… and the impossible happened.
The Boss came to the Store where I was working and told me that 3 months of holidays had been granted to me and 3 months of salary in advance.
At that time there was a literature competition in the newspaper. And the winner’s reward would be a trip to France and 15 days in a Hotel to visit Paris, everything paid by Hachette Library.
The hardest question was: "How many people will compete?" I wrote a number and it was the second closest so I won second prize.
My name was in the Newspaper and the Boss told me that "You will be silly if you don’t go, enjoy yourself in Paris and come back."
I thanked the Boss for the gift but did not tell him that I would not be coming back, because I was not quite sure that the Capuchins would accept me.
After the fortnight of Holidays in Paris & Brussels, I went directly to the Convent Rue Boissonnade, Paris to bring a letter. The guardian read the letter and gave me another one addressed to the Novice Master of Carcassonne in the south of France. The following day I arrived at the Novitiate and they opened the door to me.
It was very hard to shift from the life of a tourist overnight and become a poor son of St Francis the following day.
But since I promised to Heaven that all problems would be solved if I won the quiz, I had to be faithful to my vows.
From letters that I received while I was in the Novitiate, I understood that my joining the Capuchins was a scandalous event for the family, but I was far away and in peace.
Since then I have been tempted more than once to leave the Order but the Holy Spirit helped me to stay.
I bless the Lord and Our Lady for all that they had done for me.