August 21 – THE O.S.A. AT MONTREAL


Arsene Dubuc, ordained priest in 1868, was vicar in five parishes before becoming the parish priest at the Sacred Heart church of Montreal. In 1892, exhausted, he submitted his resignation while keeping the charge of 3000 children of the parish. In 1895, he very eagerly took up again one other parish, St Vincent de Paul. He withdrew from it after two years but did not remain inactive. In 1900, he was appointed as canon of the cathedral and in 1902 governor of the Laval university.

Dreaming of donating to the service of the Church a part of the patrimony left behind by his family, he bought 54 plots of land near the Christophe Colomb street. Among the many who came to ask for his help was one who asked him for permission to use some vacant plots as play-fields for the apprentices of the St Vincent de Paul youth club run by the Brothers of St Gabriel since 1892. He was Br. Pierre Claver. The authorisation was given and the playfield was named after the owner, as Saint-Arsene. In 1904, Br. Ludovic,. Director of the youth club, took courage to ask the canon if he could buy the land so as to put up there a building for the orphan children. The priest who was thinking of a similar work would not hear of money: he gave it all away free of cost.

Thanks to the benefactors approached, the construction could begin in 1905, and on 15 October 1906 the first children could be admitted. In the face of so many requests, the newcomers had to be accommodated in the corridors. The Province of Canada signed the purchase agreement of the orphanage on 17 November 1910. In 1913, Br. Raoul who ran the orphanage since 1907 had a big tpree-storeyed building constructed to accommodate 400 children. Another Director, Br. Elzear, had the honour in 1922 of organising the grand burial of the founder who had become Mgr Dubuc. Elected Provincial in 1923, he remained at the orphanage for two more years, thus continuing a practice started by his predecessors in 1917.       ·

The O.S.A., as it is familiarly called, never ceased to develop thanks to the presence of several Brothers- 25 in 1935- and dynamic Directors: Br. Pierre-Lefebvre from 1923 to 1928, but who stayed on with the orphans for a total of 24 years; Br. Tarcisius (1928-1931) and Br. Christophe-Marie (1931-1937). The latter started in 1932 the Greves colony at Contrecoeur and the alumni association that played an effective role in supporting the school. The work grew in 1944 to accommodate some fifty pupils more. In order to look after them better the Brothers divided themselves into two groups in 1952: the teachers and the supervisors.

The O.A.S. is then full of life with its Catholic Action and spiritual movements, its sports and artistic groups, its cadets who get the first prices in Quebec, its Greves colony, its annual “tag-day” when the orphans line the streets of Montreal for a public collection, and its feasts that attract illustrious visitors such as the cardinals Tisserant and Leger.

Entrusted to lay people in 1972, but remaining the property of the Province, it changed name to become Carrefour Saint-Arsene. It did not admit any inmates from 1975 and was destroyed in a huge fire on 29 April 1976. What went up in smoke that night were the walls, only the walls, but certainly not the spirit of a house built by about one hundred religious who succeeded one another there for 70 years, and of the formation given to thousands of pupils including 20 future priests and 44 future Brothers.

Today, the alumni association of O.S.A is one of the most active in Canada. Its members, impelled by the review Le Rappel, are involved in a number of charitable organisations.