Bernard, Father Adhémar

1940, October 2

Date of Birth: 1855, May 13

No Memorial Card is Available

December 21, 1941

Fathers and Dear Confreres:

Present circumstances have not permitted us to secure, on several of our deceased confreres, as much information as we might wish to have for giving to their death notices all desirable detail. However, as it is customary that their lives be gone over, we must pay our respects to their memory. Their life-stories, even incomplete, will be such as to edify the members of the Society. That is why I wish in this “collective biography” to call upon my own memory, and, thanks to that, to try to bring to life before you the likenesses of Fathers A. Bernard, Duchein, Peltier, W. McDonald, Guibert and Legrand, who lived and worked fruitfully in our provinces of Canada and the United States. . . .

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Father Adhémar Bernard – Louis Adhémar Prosper Bernard was by birth a Canadian. He was born on May 13, 1855 at Beloeil in the Diocese of St. Hyacinthe in the Province of Quebec. One of his older brothers, Bishop Alexis Sixte Bernard, was later to become the Ordinary of St. Hyacinthe, his native diocese.

Our confrere must have made his secondary education in a school of his own diocese, probably the College of St. Hyacinthe. After his Philosophy, which he made at the Seminary of Philosophy in Montreal, he interrupted the course of his priestly training. Was there perhaps need of his services at the College of Montreal run by our confreres?  In any case, for two years, from 1877 to 1879, he was an auxiliary at the college. One year, from 1879 to 1880, he was a teacher in the same house. It was only following that, in 1880, that he entered the Seminary of Theology in Montreal. He stayed there only a year. In 1881 his Ordinary, Bishop Moreau, called him to St. Hyacinthe and appointed him teacher. During that time Father Bernard, as best he could, continued his preparation for priesthood, but he did not receive priestly ordination. It is likely that our future confrere was thinking about the Sulpician vocation during that stay in his diocese which his bishop had imposed upon him. Perhaps even the comparison between the life – priestly ahead of time – which he had led as auxiliary at the College of Montreal and his new life outside Sulpician houses had an important bearing on his decision. Anyhow, during the long vacation of 1883 he left Canada for France. He entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris in order to finish his ecclesiastical studies and to prepare himself for priesthood. It was there he received priestly ordination on December 21, 1884.

The same year, Father Bernard entered the Solitude at Issy. Among his confreres at the time he found Fathers Dorvaux, Urique, and Le Poupon. The first two would work with him later at Montreal as teachers at the Grand Seminary, and, at the end of their lives, as directors in the same house. The third, still living, dedicated his life to the Seminary of Philosophy in Montreal, where he was long the rector.

However, like Father Urique, who would be sent there later, for a number of years, it was not to Canada that Father Bernard first went, but to the United States. Once Solitude was finished, Father Icard sent him there. His first teaching assignment was Latin and French in the minor seminary of St. Charles in Ellicott City in the Diocese of Baltimore. He was to stay there a year, the scholastic year of 1885-1886. His success was great. Without mentioning his acquired skills and the use he put them to, Father Bernard was friendliness itself and simplicity itself. With his gentle appearance, his extremely benevolent smile, his attractive gentility, his clear and ready speech, he won over the hearts of the young Americans; and, as was evident, there was a mutual attraction between them and himself.

It was no doubt to take advantage of this quality that Montreal reclaimed him during the vacation of the school year, 1886-1887. Father Icard responded to the request of Montreal’s Superior, and he appointed Father Bernard as Prefect of the major seminary division of that city’s college. All those who knew our confrere took it for granted that he would succeed perfectly. He was back in his own country; he knew the house since there, before he was a priest, he had been a student, an auxiliary, and a teacher. In his favor he had what sometimes has been called “optimistic prejudice.” The hope invested in him, the “prejudice,” was well founded. So Father Bernard’s influence was much appreciated. He had the division well in hand, he gave himself whole-heartedly to the students, and he was loved by them. Why, then, at the end of two years, was he replaced?  It is impossible to say with any certainty. But in September, 1888, Father Icard reappointed Father Bernard as teacher of Latin and French at the minor seminary of St. Charles – in the Sulpician house in the United States where our confrere had begun his ministry. If the Superior General of St. Sulpice gave him the same functions as Father Bernard had exercised three years before, it may be guessed – without presuming anything – either that at St. Charles there was urgent need of Father Bernard or that in that house Father Bernard had been a significant influence and that he was called back for that reason. Anyhow, as teacher of Latin and French, he stayed there for five years – up to the vacation of 1893.

At the outset of that year, Father Bernard became Prefect of the Junior Division in the same institution. Ten years after, in 1903, still at the same minor seminary, was still performing the same functions there. That is at least an indication that he was giving satisfaction involving the happiness of the boys and the good of the house. He stayed there until 1913.

In 1913 he was recalled to his own country and appointed teacher at St. John’s School in Montreal. There he remained only four years. In 1917, he was named chaplain at the Hotel Dieu in Montreal. At that time he began to fulfill, either for the Hospital Nuns of St. Joseph or for the sick, a very fruitful ministry, carried out with evangelical gentleness, with peaceful influence, with very simple devotion, and with exquisite goodness. It was hard to find a confrere who gave more the impression of being a man of God, absorbed in his religious duties, very pious, living an interior life, very calm and at the same time very intense; and to find, at the same time, a confrere more delicately courteous, and more charmingly cordial. In his company, one felt himself safe and one had the all but certainty that this Sulpician never was able to deal with anyone without doing him good.

In 1932, the year of the canonical visitation, Father Bernard was already an old man. He was beginning to suffer the pains, always pitiable, which are often the fate of the old. There were times when it was pretty clear that these pains were torturing him. However, in every circumstance, he always kept his untiring patience and the most perfect composure.

Thereafter the venerable chaplain took his retirement at the Hotel Dieu itself, where he lived a community life with his successors. In 1938, much worn out, he was forced to agree to submit to the life of the sick. He received constant and devoted care from the St. Joseph nuns, for whom he had so long been chaplain. It was at the Hotel Dieu that he gave his soul to God in June or July, 1940. . . .

I recommend to your prayers the six confreres whose lives I have just outlined.

Please accept, Fathers and dear confreres, the expression of my fraternal affection in Our Lord.

P. Boisard

Vice-Superior General of St. Sulpice