July 18 – ARCHIVES
“It is a work to be done in each of our Institutions, a work of general interest and importance: I want to speak of the historical value of our houses from their beginning to our day… The establishment of these chronicles can provide in their wake all the needed documents to write the history of our Congregation”. This directive of Br. Hubert in his circular of 18 July 1891, which was not the first (Br. Eugene-Marie before him had said similar things), shows clearly that the archives evoke a “general interest” and are a mine for historians. But they had to be well maintained. On 16 March 1921, Br. Benoit-Marie, General Secretary, deplored the bad state of the central archives kept in Brussels. “For the last thirty years, things have been too neglected. Chronicles, registers, putting in order, etc. need a lot of time. Some works will be urgent to prevent the traditions disappearing”. Negligence would be made up for thanks especially to Br. Julien, former Assistant and official archivist from 1947 to 1951, who accomplished a remarkable and rigorous research work.
In November 1954, a bus load (ten tons) and a lorry brought the general archives from Brussels to Saint-Laurent, where they only remained for a little while. In 1962, they were put into a train for Rome, where they were to find another providential man. It was Br. Jean-Leonard (Georges Lapointe). This Canadian Assistant, patient and zealous, would reorganise them. With modest means (cardboard boxes, simple hardback notices, felt pens that realised his beautiful handwriting), he made the structure of the present archives. His successors would complete the work, but the foundation was his. He was entrusted with this work because he was not ignorant in this domain. He continued to improve himself, especially through Roman sessions for archivists of Congregations. Some of them came to visit his archives. Despite their handicraft-like appearance, they remained a model for classing and they continue to render proud service to researchers today.
When he returned to Canada, he continued this work for fourteen years. Archivist diploma holder, he was member of the archivists’ association of Quebec. With other religious, he was the artisan for reorganising religious archives. In 1996, two years before he died, he could see the new archive rooms of his Province of Montreal: work rooms with mobile shelves on rails, computers, filing cabinets, micro-film and micro-note readers, cupboards for materials, and of course a section for free workers who come to help the official archivist. These archives are the best equipped in the Institute.
The other Provinces are not jealous. With less means they are able to preserve, revive and produce material, which is the triple function of all archives.