Bro.Paulus Hermann Moritz, CMSF (1869-1942)
Founder of the Franciscan Missionary Brothers
Born into a prominent Jewish family on 29th June 1869 in Konigsberg, East Prussia, he was named Heymann Hermann Moritz. He received his Jewish and primary education in Konigsberg. With regard to his conversion to Catholicism there is hardly any traceable record. It could have taken place around his 16th or 17th year of life. We do not find much evidence of his early life. We find him as a youth in the historic city of Cologne where he became a close associate of the veteran Jesuit missionary to British India, the late Fr.Antonius Maria Bodewig. This missionary had a great dream to establish congregation of priests, brothers and sisters for the evangelization of INDIA. Captured by this vision of being a missionary, we see Bro.Paulus joining the company of his mentor Fr.Antonius Maria Bodewig.
Bro.Paulus came to India in 1895. Here he took the leading part in founding a Congregation and having it canonically erected by Bishop Crochet of Nagpur in 1901. He was appointed as the first Superior General of the Congregation of the “Missionary Brothers of St.Francis of Assisi.” Our founder had a specific mission to be accomplished especially in India. He left his comfortable life in Germany and came to India, to share the Gospel and cared for the poor, sick and less fortunate people. Bro.Paulus faced many hardships in his life. He had to face the incremental weather of India, famine, two world wars that devastated the Congregation, as well as many of the younger members of his fledgling community, died of sickness. He and his early brothers lived in great poverty, and Bro.Paulus constantly prayed for God’s providence and care of the brothers and the people with whom they worked. Despite these difficulties, Bro.Paulus’ faith remained constant and strong. He knew that he and his mission were held in God’s loving hands and heart.
He worked tirelessly for the welfare of the Brothers and the missions. His famous dictum was: “As long as we look after the poor, God will look after us!” Bro. Paulus was a man with deep spiritual conviction and a man of prayer. He knew that only a deeply religious person could become a great missionary. His formation of the Brothers was patterned accordingly. If he had a weakness it was his soft heart for the poor. He influenced all his companions with love for the mission. For him no sacrifice was too great, no effort too much and simplicity was his code word. He insisted that the Brothers preach by their example of a simple life, that they live in fraternal love. Having started missions all over India, guiding the Brothers through many vicissitudes and storms for more than four decades Bro.Paulus relinquished the office as Superior General in 1941.
On November 19, 1942, Bro.Paulus died in the Mother House at Mount Poinsur, surrounded by his brothers and his Saviour. To his last minutes he professed his love for his Divine Master and encouraged his brothers to remain faithful to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to be ever faithful children of the Church.