The Oblate Brother is pleased with any task that’s needed:
If a temple is required, he is ready to build.
His hands and his tools work together with ease
To raise toward heaven a House for the Lord.
A man of such talent, he can do most all things.
Electrician, plumber, painter and carpenter…
If ever a Brother met fully all the requirements of these lines, it is surely Brother Alfred Desrochers. He was born at Saint-Jacques-de-Montcalm on March 14, 1887, entered the Oblates in 1906, and during almost fifty years he rendered priceless services to the Congregation as a skilled builder. He left his mark in all the regions of Quebec, in Ontario, at James Bay and all the way to Alberta.
Saint Joseph, first overseer
It was not on the family farm that Brother Desrochers learned the craft of construction. It was rather a natural talent that he developed by consulting with other workers, and by applying himself carefully to his work. He was tall and solidly built, with an iron will, audacious and prudent at the same time, while in full command with his strong voice and decisive manner. He was chosen by his superiors to lead a team of brothers with a variety of talents. Under his direction, they accomplished important undertakings. Around forty buildings are the work of this brother: churches at Rouyn, Kapuskasing and McLennan; houses of formation at Chambly, Richelieu, Beauval, Sainte-Agathe-des Monts; retreat houses at Mont-Joli, New Richmond, Cap-de-la-Madeleine, La Pocatière, and how many others. At all these places, before starting the projected work, Brother Desrochers installed in plain sight a small statue of St. Joseph, his “overseer” as he called him. Every morning, with a short simple prayer, he asked for the protection of the carpenter of Nazareth. More than once this protection came into evidence.
Crooked pipe and straight heart
Brother Desrochers was in the habit of smoking his pipe, especially after meals. His preference was for a certain “crooked pipe” that he loaded with good and strong tobacco from Saint Jacques, his native town! When the clock announced the time to get back to work, he summoned everyone with his authoritarian voice, and woe to the latecomers! On the job, there was no question of losing time. One day, two lay employees were freely taking their time. On seeing the brother, one said to the other: “Watch out, here comes the crooked pipe!” His companion replied immediately: “Yes, I know him well: he has a crooked pipe… but his heart is straight. His voice is loud, but he’s a good fellow.”
His dream becomes a reality
When it seemed time to build the Notre-Dame Basilica at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, our Brother had lived a very full seventy years. In his heart of hearts he was dreaming of offering his collaboration. The Oblate authorities responded to this desire by asking him to oversee the work. This last task went on for seven years. It became a tangible expression of his fidelity as the son of the Lady for whom he always had a special devotion.
In 1957, at his jubilee of religious life, this is how he expressed himself: “On the day that I have the joy of prostrating myself on the marble tiles of this beautiful Marian temple, I will be able to say to God, like old Simeon: “Now, you can let your servant depart in peace. Then I may go to contemplate an even more beautiful temple, made by the hand of God.” That day, for Brother Desrochers, came on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, September 8, 1972, a very appropriate day for an Oblate of Mary Immaculate. But the day was even more appropriate for one who had erected, in beautiful white granite, a sanctuary truly worthy of his Heavenly Mother. We can be assured that on that day his tender and gifted Mother took into her own hands the calloused hands of that “unknown apostle” to guide him up the heavenly stairs and present him to God the Father in these terms: “Please receive this good Oblate Brother with kindness: he reminds me so much of Saint Joseph!”
André DORVAL, OMI