• James Parry

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination of Father Roland Demers


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Parishioners and friends of Father Roland Demers of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Hudson are invited to a gathering June 11 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of his ordination as a priest.

If the role of a Catholic priest is to be a good and loving father to his flock, then parishioners from throughout the region - both Anglophone and Francophone - will tell you they are blessed to have had Father Roland Demers as their Pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Hudson for the past 30 years.

It is a role that he has been dedicated to for an incredible half century. And on Saturday, June 11, following a 5:15 p.m. mass at the church and the very same date that he was first ordained in his then home town of Valleyfield, the entire community - regardless of their faith - is invited to a simple and free reception at the nearby Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre in his honour.

“To mark the occasion, there was some thought given by well-meaning parishioners to give a much more elaborate reception at perhaps the Whitlock Golf & Country Club with a small fee attached,” Father Demers told Your Local Journal in an exclusive interview this week. “But it was not what I wanted. Instead, I told them, if I was going to attend it would have to be simple, free, open to all, and I am so much looking forward to it.”

This gesture is typical of Father Demers, this exceptional and extremely modest 80-year-old parish priest who immediately after his ordination and a six-month training session in Mexico, was sent by his Bishop to serve in the poorest diocese in Chile. Where, while living for two years in a simple hut in the mountains without electricity or running water, he would found a parish that still exists today and which he visits regularly. Indeed, he was there just last week to ensure that all was well and running smoothly.

Said Father Demers, “Had I not been recalled to Canada to serve for 16 years as Chaplain of Cité-des-Jeunes High School in Vaudreuil-Dorion while also being responsible for St. Patrick of the Island Church in Pincourt, I would be there still. I love the people there. Although very poor, they are so sincere and authentic and really know how to share what little they have.”

It is a love that has caused him to maintain strong personal ties with both Chile and Peru while faithfully following his mandate here at home. Officiating on average annually at 100 baptisms, 15 weddings, 20 funerals, and 200 initiations into Christian life.

Laughed Father Demers, “I have been here so long that I'm now baptizing children of parents that I baptized way back when. And what an honour and privilege it is to do so.”

In March this year, he was also honoured to have an audience with Pope Francis in person at the Clementine Hall in the Vatican's Papal Palace in Rome. “He is such a gentle and humble man and I jokingly told him that he had to come to Canada to shake things up a little here. He laughed out loud.”

Father Demers also fondly remembers his audience with Pope John Paul II. “As I was leaving, I asked him to pray for all Canadians. He said he would and also for the Mohawks living in Oka. I was so touched. He was so attuned to what was happening in the world.”

On that occasion, the Pope presented Father Demers with a rosary as a keepsake. In his inimitable style, he would subsequently pass it on to a new young priest with the words, 'be a good priest and always be humble.”

When asked if he had any plans to retire in the foreseeable future, Father Demers smiled. “Priests never retire. And as long as I am physically able - and I'm in good shape right now - I will be here at St. Thomas Aquinas.”

His parting words? As always, “Remember, God loves you.”

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