Father Fourmond, Wake Up!
Father Vital Fourmond was born in Aron, France, on March 17, 1828. He was first ordained a diocesan priest, and exercised his ministry, for fifteen years, as curate and
pastor in Mans. In 1869, at the age of 40, he realized a dream he had fostered for a long time: to go as an Oblate missionary and help his co-parishioner, Bishop Vital Grandin,
in western Canada. After a year of novitiate at Saint-Albert, he was granted responsibility for the Amerindians and those of mixed parentage in various missions. In the rebellion
of 1885, which ended tragically with the hanging of Louis Riel, he was imprisoned at Batoche. While he was at Saint-Laurent, in Manitoba, with Brother Jean-Pierre Piquet,
he erected a pilgrim shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. He died at Saint-Boniface on February 24, 1892.
At the bedside of the sick
The following adventure, in the company of Bishop Grandin, occurred during a smallpox epidemic, in 1871. To avoid contamination, the people of mixed parentage in Saint-Albert
chose to leave the habited areas and live in tents on the prairie. Father Fourmond then decided to accompany them. He installed his own tent near the others and lavished
his care on the sick. After a few days, he received the visit of Bishop Grandin , who also wanted to offer an example of Christian Charity, and made himself nurse for
the night to help an afflicted family. On his part, Father Fourmond decided that same evening to replace his guide, Paul, who was literally exhausted after spending several
nights at the bedside of his poor mother. Without waiting, the priest came to Paul and enjoined him to go and get some sleep in the Oblate tent. Paul didn’t have to be
told twice, he was worn out. Thus, on hitting the straw mattress, he fell into a deep sleep.
The changing of the guard!
The night hours passed, while Father Fromond prayed rosary after rosary at the side of the sick lady. Only the thought that he was providing his guide with a few hours
of sleep could keep him awake, in spite of his own tiredness.
All of sudden, around three in the morning, who comes in with eyes all puffed up from sleep? Paul himself! “How come?” asked the priest. “You’re here so soon! Why didn’t you
wait until I came for you?” Like a man coming out of a long dream, the guide muttered a few words, and returned to his post. What had happened? Father Fourmond soon found
out from the Bishop. Trusty Paul had rightfully intended to sleep as well as he could until morning. For a few hours he was succeeding very well, snoring like the bellows
at a forge, when Bishop Grandin, who had been replaced by another volunteer, returned to the missionary’s tent in order to sleep.
Bishop Grandin’s confusion
When he noticed someone sleeping at his side, the bishop assumed it was he priest. He slipped under the blanket as quietly as possible, so as not to awaken his companion,
all the more so because he had mentioned that he was sleeping very lightly these past few days. Unfortunately, the prelate had barely closed his eyes when someone appeared
seeking a priest for a dying person.
The bishop woke up first, and turning towards his companion shouted several times: “Father Fourmond, wake up! They’re looking for a priest; it’s your turn!”
The only response was a silent groan. He repeated the call two or three times, saying at last: “That’s unusual! Father tells me that he sleeps with open eyes lately! What
now? Is he sleeping with his eyes closed?” Finally, words weren’t enough, it was time for action, so he shook his unconscious bed fellow violently. The plan worked. But,
what a surprise! It was a half-awakened Paul, who asked in confusion: “What’s up, Bishop?”
Bishop Grandin , confused by the mix- up, doesn’t know how to reply. Enveloped in the deepest darkness of the night, he cannot grasp how, in a short time, Father Fourmond
had transformed like this. Even his voice had become unrecognizable!
André DORVAL, OMI