|Bro. Armand (right) with fellow
La Salettes at a Feastday meal
How did you come to hear about La Salette?
I’ve known about La Salette early in my life. I was baptized at St. Joseph’s parish in Fitchburg, MA, which was the first parish in the United States to be staffed by the La Salette Missionaries. Born on February 25, 1932, I was the youngest of eight children. I went to elementary school at the local parish and after graduation entered the La Salette Seminary in Enfield, NH. One of my older brothers had already entered.
Having completed the equivalent of high school, I decided to become a Missionary Brother rather than a priest. I made my novitiate, took my first vows in 1950 and was stationed in Enfield, NH. I have been serving in the Philippines for over 50 years of his missionary life and I’m now happily retired.
Did you always want to be a missionary?
In1946 the province accepted a mission in the Philippines. Members were on fire about this new aspect of province ministry and almost everyone wondered if perhaps I would be called to go.
|La Salette Filipino Emblem|
One day, about a year after my first vows, I was speaking with Fr. Wolfgang Fortier, the Provincial, and the topic of the missions came up. I had no inclination to go there, feeling that I would have nothing to offer to the mission effort, but I mentioned that, if I were ever needed, I would go. The Provincial told me not to worry, that I was too young and would not be asked.
A few months later Fr. Fortier left to visit the Philippines. When met by Fr. Conrad Blanchet, MS, the superior of the mission, he was asked, “Who’s coming this year?” He answered, “No one, unless I send Bro. Armand.” Not too many days later, Fr. Fortier wrote to me in French to tell me to come to the Philippines. I got the letter in Enfield. My French was not too good but I could decipher the essential message. Fearfully I went into the chapel to pray. Somehow I felt better when I came out and was able to get a good translation of the whole letter.
When did you get here and what did you do?
I arrived on the eve of my twenty-first birthday. I was assigned to San Mateo district with Frs. Emery DesRochers, MS and Maurice Cardinal, MS. They were fixing up the house – well, really a hut – where we lived.
Fr. Emery was a great plumber. I did some carpentry work for two months. After that I didn’t know what I should do so I tried to look busy! But the fact was I suddenly became very ill. With no adequate medical facilities in San Mateo, I went with Brother Luc to stay at Fr. Jose’s – at that time Brother Jose – Nacu’s folks in Manila. I was finally hospitalized and soon operated on. The operation was successful and I was able to return to our main mission area of Isabela, but this time to Santiago City.
|Interior of Shrine Church in Silang, Cavite, Philippines|
Did you stay Santiago City?
Yes, but not for long. Fr. Blanchet became ill and a friend built a small house for him to live in Manila where he could get medical care. I went there to live with him. It soon became our buyer. Since there were few materials for the La Salettes in Santiago, I soon began to buy things they needed – materials for construction, books and clothing for the kids in our schools, etc.
When did you come here to the Shrine in Silang, Cavite?
In 1962 I was the first Missionary to come here. Then we started a chicken farm. But soon I was called back to the Manila area and spent nine years as Treasurer for the Philippine mission. But I came back to Silang in 1973 and began working with Fr. Fred Julien, M.S. By that time the property had developed, with about 7,000 chickens, 300 pigs and a large garden. We would sell the produce and get money to run our operation and help feed our seminarians.
When did the Chicken Farm Become the La Salette Shrine?
In the early 1980’s. The 16 hectares (40 acres) were originally bought for a seminary. Fr. Fred focused on it becoming a shrine to Our Lady of La Salette and a Seminary in honor of St. Joseph. Under his supervision, determination and daring, we sold the chickens and pigs and developed the Shrine and people began to know who we were.
It seems that all my assignments have been “by accident.” They really have all been for the best, bringing out the best in me. Actually I never volunteered for the missions. It was not my choice to come here. I left the security of Enfield for the insecurity of the mission life, and by following the will of God as proposed by my superiors, I found happiness and I blossomed.
I’m semi-retired now. I am very thankful to God for giving me the privilege of serving the mission poor for more than fifty years.
|Our Lady of the Mission Garden at La Salette Shrine in Silang, Cavite, Philippines|