February 7 – BRO. ELPHEGE


In 1948, when the Canadian Brothers were getting ready to take charge of the newly-built schoolat Saint-Paulin, many parishioners, especially the local notables, would have liked to call the school Saint-Elphege, because they were so greatly edified by Br. Elphege whom they could see eve1y day doing alteration work in his confreres’ residence. Br. Edmond Lemieux (Br. Elphege), who died on 7 February 1952, was typical of all the Brothers of Saint Gabriel who have grown holy in obscurity, in the anonymity of their material tasks carried out with the single aim of using their skills in service to other people.

Br. Elphege became an orphan in his early years and was brought up by an uncle who lived quite some distance from his village; when he was 18 he attracted the attention of his parish priest who himself took him to the novitiate at Sault-au-Recollet in 1895. After his first profession he stayed on at the novitiate as a cook for ten years. Working tirelessly, he added to his job the care of the laundry and later became also a shoemaker. He did. so well at ths job – that he- was – put in charge of a workshop training apprentices at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul youth club. He stayed there until it was found that this man extremely clever with his hands was also a carpenter, a cabinet maker, a plumber and an electrician. He built extensions to the Provincial House, then made cupboards, bookshelves, desks for the houses of formation. His range of activities widened. Whenever a school was opened he was sent ahead to fit up the Brothers’ resi­ dence. He was to be seen on one building site after another: at Saint-Arsene Orphans’ Home, at Deschaillons, at Saints-Martyrs:-Canadiens, at Saint-Odilon, at Saint-Severin, at Portneuf and at Saint-Paulin, where vox populi canonised him before he died.

Early in life he had discovered how Therese de Lisieux had lived and had made her Little Way the secret of his spiritual life. There was nothing else in his daily life but manual work, but he took care to produce quality work and always remained in union with God. He never wasted time and, if need be, would work overtime at night. Not to the prejudice of the communal spiritual exercises, though. If he could not attend them, he asked his Superior to be excused and on Sundays spent long periods in the chapel to make up for his absences.

There have been hundreds of Brothers like Br. Elphege in our Institute. To mention just a few, Br. Basilio Arribas in Spain and Br. Rene Moysan in France, who died within a month of each other in 1997. They too were extremely clever with their hands and lived obscure simple lives, always remaining kind, cheerful, pious and perfectly serene.