Brother Rémi Laforest died in the infirmary of the Jean-de-Brébeuf Residence, in Richelieu, in the afternoon of November 9, 2021, as a result of diabetes from which he had suffered for a long time and of heart problems. He was 93 years old and had been a religious for 75 years.
Born in Montreal on April 27, 1928, he was the sixth of thirteen children. He continued his education until grade nine, which was the end of elementary school in Quebec. He considered himself more gifted for manual work than for long studies. At the age of 17, he began the postulancy with a view to becoming a Jesuit brother. After taking his first vows on February 2, 1948, he worked for two years as assistant to the director of the Jesuit farm on the east end of the island of Montreal. Since he did not feel called to be a farmer, his superiors allowed him to study cabinet making in a specialized school. From 1958 to 1961, he taught woodworking at the apostolic school established in 1955, to candidates for admission to the Society of Jesus who were destined to become brothers. Rémi, however, had long had the desire to be a missionary and had expressed this wish on several occasions since the beginning of the 1950s.
Finally, in April 1964, he received a letter from the provincial superior, Fr. Jean-d’Auteuil Richard, in which he learned that he had been assigned to Ethiopia and that, before leaving, he would have a few months to perfect his knowledge of English: this would be very useful for teaching carpentry at the Tafari-Makonnen School, which had been entrusted to the Society by Emperor Haile Selassie himself in 1945. Rémi reluctantly left Ethiopia in 1975, after having given the best of himself for eleven years, because, following a coup d’état, the Jesuits’ contract with the government had been abruptly terminated. Father Kolvenbach, the Superior General, wrote him a letter in 1995 on the occasion of his fifty years in the Society, in which he said: “Many Ethiopians must still appreciate having learned to work under your direction.
But Remi’s missionary vocation did not end with his return from Ethiopia. After having fulfilled various tasks in several houses and works of the Society in Montreal for more than fifteen years (at Collège Brébeuf, at the novitiate located on Sherbrooke Street, at the parish of the Immaculée-Conception and at the Gesù church), he was asked to go to Haiti in 1991 to supervise the transformation of the Canapé-Vert residence, and he remained there until 1994. He was there again from 1999 to 2001, when it was decided to have a novitiate there because the number of candidates for the Society was increasing.
In 2011, he asked to move to Richelieu to be at the service of his sick companions and to help the superior. From 2014, due to his health problems, he consented to have his room on the sick floor, while continuing to maintain his autonomy until his strength betrayed him and he had to move around in a wheelchair, with the help of the nursing staff. Remi loved to read and enjoyed books about Jesuit saints and the history of the Society.