A man of courage and trust: Tribute to Fr. Jean-Marie Rocheleau, SJ

May 30, 2019 — Following the death of Fr. Jean-Marie Rocheleau, SJ, last week, we asked some who knew him to write a few words about this man who made a difference in many lives. From the novitiate to other stages of formation and apostolic work, many will continue to remember him. Here are two examples:

The man who picked up branches like we recite psalms - Ivon Bellavance

To describe Father Rocheleau is certainly to talk about his daily consistency in working on the exterior maintenance of the grounds of Villa Saint-Martin. I know that his long life is certainly filled with many talents and services for the greater glory of God, but the few summers I had the opportunity to work with him have inspired me deeply.

Fr. Rocheleau at work in the garden of Saint Martin. Photo: Jean-Marc Laporte, SJ

Like him, I sometimes worked in the overwhelming heat. However, my discomforts became insignificant when I saw him do his job without ever uttering a word. Believe it or not, his silent temperament, due in part to his deafness, inspired me to have a kind of piety.

This inspiration came from his actions. His attitude, his very simple words, his disconcerting humility touched my soul. Although we only shared a few moments of his last years of life and I have since left the Society, I keep within me this Jesuit model that will always inspire me. His way of being, of giving everything to God without pride, without ambitions, is now for me a kind of model. Peace and love for you and forever dear Father Rocheleau.

Courage and confidence - Oliver Capko, SJ

Father Rocheleau was a saint of a man in a very unassuming way. Often, we would joke that he was Brother André reincarnated, based on his stature, humility, and the grace with which he presented himself. I was very fortunate to have spent the two years of my novitiate with this man who not only inspired the novices but gave them a model of Jesuit life lived well.

“Courage et confiance (Courage and trust),” Père Rocheleau would often remark to the novices. Perhaps it was because he spoke little English, although to our surprise he did speak some, and we novices had limited French; but these words were enough. And that was Père Rocheleau. He believed that God has given us abundant love and meets our material needs; and that this is enough. Enough to smile and work in the Lord’s Garden. Whether that was giving spiritual advice or pruning the weeds at Villa Saint Martin. He lived that courage joyfully, even when we taught him how to make pizzas.

Fr. Rocheleau and Oliver Capko, SJ, make a pizza. Photo: Jean-Marc Laporte, SJ.

But I would do injustice if I didn’t talk about Père Rocheleau’s devotion to the Sacred Heart. This was the source of his energy, his vocation, his witty humor, his life of the vows. I had the great privilege of checking that he took his medications each night in the novitiate. Those were moments of grace. He would often tell me that it is the Sacred Heart, the fact that Christ loved the world, which makes the total gift of our lives to God possible. Our hearts are a gift to be given totally, just as the Sacred Heart has been totally given to us. So, as we remember Père Rocheleau, offer up your intentions and petitions to the Sacred Heart as he encouraged. I am sure he would smile with God from heaven and say “Mais oui!”

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