Jesuit Brother Bertrand Girard died at the infirmary in Richelieu, Quebec, on Oct. 26, 2018, at the age of 97, after 76 years of religious life.
He was born in Saint-Gervais de Bellechasse on February 5, 1921, to a farming family. Likely inspired by the example of his brother Laval, who was several years older, and who entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1939, Br. Girard asked to be admitted as a brother in 1941. After his six-month postulancy, he began his novitiate on June 20, 1942, the vigil of the Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and he pronounced his first vows two years later.
Br. Girard, very early in his religious life, had the desire to be a missionary. In a letter written to the Provincial in December 1949, he expressed quite simply what moved his spirit, “I think it is good for me to offer myself for service as a missionary in whatever country it pleases you to send me, my preference being India, because St. John de Britto plays a big part in my vocation. The Holy Spirit promises me greater joy with these people, less blessed by faith than we, and a great desire leads me to live as of now in mind and heart with them.” Patient and obedient, he waited until 1972 to be sent, not to a foreign country, but to the indigenous people of the St. Regis Mission, spanning the borders of Quebec, Ontario and the United States.
For the 40 years that preceded his being sent on mission, Br. Girard was available for every task that his superiors assigned to him. He lived at the novitiate of Montreal until 1950, working as gardener and carpenter. Still in the Montreal region, he undertook a series of diverse roles in several communities, even cooking, which turned out to be his main work for about 15 years, at St. Ignatius College from 1956 to 1964, at the house in St. Jerome and at the associated farm from 1964 to 1972.
When he arrived at St. Regis, where he assisted Br. Eustache Savard, the children of the mission named him “the new brother”. Very soon, he felt accepted by all. They liked his smile, his religious spirit, his always even temper and his availability. His duties included cooking, housekeeping, maintenance of the church, and a host of other things that were asked of him. In a tribute paid to him on the occasion of his 25th year of service at St. Regis, it was pointed out that he loved the Mohawk people and that this affection was reciprocal.
Left to grieve him are two sisters, Jeanne (widow of Gratien Dechênes), and Camille (widow of Hervé Lizotte), and one brother, Antonin Yves, a Cistercian monk in the abbey of Val Notre-Dame, as well as several nephews and nieces.