People who regularly play tennis on the courts of Nicolas-Viel Park may already have seen Charles going around hidden corners to pick up the lost tennis balls he gives to schools which will install them under the legs of chairs and desks. It is there that I met him. Many may be surprised to learn that, at over 80 years of age, he is still working, as much as his health allows him to.
He was born in a Fransaskoise* family of 14 children in the hamlet of St-Isidore-de-Belleville, near Batoche, the village where the Métis rebellion led by Louis Riel was defeated. He still goes back there to see relatives. Charles and six of his brothers and sisters are still alive. Three of his sisters were nuns. One of his brothers, who married a woman also from a large family, has left nealy thirty grandchildren.
His arrival in Quebec took place in St-Bruno in 1948. There he did, with the St. Gabriel Brothers, his juniorate, a period of study and training after the novitiate, that prepares for professorship. This institution still had cultivated land in the late 40s when he was studying there. He remembers having played tennis and other sports. After becoming a brother, he taught in Deschaillons, then in St-Bruno, village. Being bilingual, he taught in English at the Lajoie School in Outremont. At the time, in the mid-fifties, the school included an Anglophone sector.
In the sixties, the community asked him to move to the Chicago area. He first was assistant in the high-school and later administrator of the Merryville Academy. It is a former orphanage that was then in the process of becoming an institution for abused and mistreated children. At the same time, he continued his training at the De Paul University, the largest Catholic university in the USA.
In 1969, he left for Papua, New Guinea. Two days after his arrival, he was already teaching. From the early seventies, he was director of an institution of Monfort Catholic Missions until 1993. He worked there in the towns of Daru and Kiunga. This mission was originally held by religious communities from Québec. It was subsequently taken over by communities from Singapore and India.
Upon his return from the missions, he was commissioned to help his cousin, parish priest of North Battleford, Saskatchewan.
Back in Montreal, he now works at L’Escale Notre-Dame, an organization that hosts men between 18 and 35 with addiction problems, to drugs or alcohol. These people are undergoing a 14 week therapy. Initially, he was working as a doorman. Since this function left him a lot of free time, he turned his small office into a rosary workshop. To date, he has crafted over 3 500 rosaries.
L’Escale Notre-Dame is located in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, just like one of the schools for which he is collecting tennis balls. Since 2004, he has been responsible of the organization’s bookkeeping. Until recently, Charles was still working there full time.
When I saw him again a few days later, he showed me some pictures of him at different times of his life. You can see them as well by following the link below.
*Francophones of Saskatchewan