Born at Phalsbourg (Moselle), September 26, 1837
Taking of the habit at Nancy, September 7, 1857
Oblation at Montolivet, June 18, 1859 (no. 488)
Ordination to the priesthood at Autun, July 5, 1863
Died at Diano Marina, November 12, 1914.
Alfred Wassereau was born at Phalsbourg in the diocese of Nancy on September 26, 1837. He came from a family of nine children. Three of the six boys became priests. Before finishing his secondary studies, he entered the novitiate at Nancy on September 7, 1857. In his notes on the novices, Father Berne wrote in September and October of 1857: “Wassereau, a prayerful young man. Fiery and generous character, is upright and is endowed with above average intelligence. Does not follow the novitiate program much… continues his studies with good success. Prayerful, joyful, candid personality.” During the year, he discovered several faults, especially “an underlying self-love and pride,” “vanity,” and “a dislike” for some confreres. In June-July 1858, the master of novices stressed in this novice’s regard “a speaking ability of astonishing proportions” and, in November, a fiery temperament which “can make of him a zealous and distinguished missionary. He has talent and ability; he sings, plays the organ,” etc.
Sent to the scholasticate of Montolivet in December, he made his oblation on June 18, 1859 and studied philosophy and theology at Montolivet, then at Autun in 1862-1863. In his reports, Father Mouchette, moderator of scholastics at Montolivet, judged him rather favourably, finding him “very good, regular in his observance” with “something a bit unbending in his character,” “some fractiousness” and “hypersensitivity.” He was ordained to the priesthood at Autun by Bishop Jacques Jeancard on July 5, 1863. In the Personnel Registry of 1862-1863 we find written after his name: “Great music lover. He has done harm to this health in working too hard at it. He is being threatened with or has acquired laryngitis. His theological studies have suffered a great deal. His natural talents are full of promise and come to him easily. Very energetic. He loves movement and activity.”
Father Wassereau lived initially at Aix in 1864 and 1865, then at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours where he was custodian of the shrine and ministered to the pilgrims from 1866 to 1868. He worked at Notre-Dame de l’Osier from 1868 to 1884. He was initially assistant priest in the parish. In a June 17, 1868 report, Father Audruger wrote: “Father Wassereau is of inestimable help to Rev. Father Baret for the parish functions and for hearing the confessions of the pilgrims. Rev. Father Wassereau brings the ceremonies to life with his beautiful music, through the vigor and the meticulous rendition that he draws from the members of the parish choir. Always ready to oblige and to work, he demands more from himself than his failing health should allow…” After a few years, his health firmed up and he became a mission preacher who was much appreciated and much in demand for retreats and missions. Father Lavillardière wrote on April 30, 1885: Father Wassereau “received his obedience for Notre-Dame de Bon Secours. This very dedicated priest in the 17 or 18 years now that he has lived at l’Osier has performed a ministry that has been as fruitful as it has been honorable. His departure has caused deep regret in many hearts. Because of the seniority of his years in residence, he was the local veteran among our mission preachers. He was constantly involved in this demanding work, working with as much courage as with the good results produced in spite of fragile health…”
Father Wassereau was mission preacher at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours from 1885 to 1898, then at Notre-Dame de Lumières from 1898 until the expulsions in 1903. It was then that province Midi opened Diano Marina, a house in Italy for aging Oblates. Father Wassereau was sent there and remained there until his death on November 12, 1914. After a few days of illness, he was carried off by an embolism. He had celebrated his golden anniversary of priesthood on July 5, 1913. In a long speech, Father Célestin Augier said among other things that day: “A missionary you were, we can say, with your whole person. You were missionary in your head. Your thinking and your intellectual labours concentrated constantly on the missions. You were a missionary with your heart, a heart burning with zeal and apostolic fervour. You were a missionary with your lips by your lively, enthralling words and your singing. You were a missionary with your fingers, running your fingers over the keyboards of the reed organs and the pipe organs. And you were a missionary with your feet by your visiting of homes and the hamlets of the parishes you evangelized…”
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i