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In Memoriam

Brother Paul Desmarais died on 16 August at Rene Goupil House. He was in his 78th year and had been
a brother for 59 years. He was born at Pointe-aux-Roches, near Windsor, Ontario. Paul entered the
novitiate at Guelph on 18 March 1964. After first vows in 1966, he began agricultural studies at the
University of Guelph for several years. His family had been farmers for three generations and he enjoyed
working the land. During his novitiate, Paul was interested in going to Darjeeling, but Father General
asked our Province to send men to Zambia. His first visit to Africa was in 1969 for a month, as he was
still in studies at the University of Guelph.

In 1971, Paul was assigned to the Kasisi Mission in Zambia. A great need was residential training for
farmers, so in 1974 Paul founded the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre. For the next half century he
applied his energy and knowledge for the benefit of the local populace. A principal innovation was to
switch from chemical-oriented farming to complete organic farming. In May 2014, his centre at Kasisi
was chosen by the United Nations Development Program as one of 25 outstanding sustainable
development initiatives around the globe. The UNDP’s Equator Initiative singled out Kasisi for its
practical steps to preserve Zambia’s rural environment, by training more than 10,000 small-scale
farmers in sustainable farming techniques.

Paul made a visit to the La Storta Community at Pickering in 2021 and at that time, it was assumed he
would retire there. After several months he returned to Zambia, but his stay was short-lived. Discovery
of a brain tumour brought him to Rene Goupil House in 2022 to prepare for emergency surgery. The
initial post-operation report indicated hope but later it was clear that he was severely compromised in
his health. Paul then went to the Martyrs’ Shrine for a couple of days, spending time before the relics of
our Jesuit Martyrs. All were truly edified by his calm acceptance of his medical condition. He was very
much at peace and was articulate about his desire to live a full Jesuit life, despite his medical condition.

During his stay at Pickering, Paul entertained family members, the staff of the Canadian Jesuits
International, and many Jesuits passing through the area. He was able to spend enjoyable time with his
family in southern Ontario. Of a remarkable cheerful personality, Paul was always ready to engage with
anyone who crossed his path. He exhibited an abiding curiosity for other people and would pepper them
with questions about their life and ministry. His success in Zambia was the result of his openness to new
ideas.

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