THANK YOU, FATHER THÉOPHILE LE PAGE, 1927-2012
On the morning of November 10, 2012, Fr. Théophile LE PAGE, long-time member of the General House Community, joined the Oblate community in heaven. There is probably no living Oblate who has not been touched by his ministry of service, because, for many years, every posted edition of our Oblate bulletins, every copy of the Oblate Constitutions, every Oblate publication coming from Rome passed through his hands as “Mailer General” of the Congregation!
We do not know the motives that led the good-looking young Breton, Théophile Le Page, to begin the novitiate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in La Brosse-Montceaux (France) on September 7, 1946. Just under 19 years earlier, on September 21, 1927, he had been born in the small town of Bolazec (diocese of Quimper), which then had less than a thousand inhabitants.
We do know, however, what he wrote to Father Léo DESCHÂTELETS, Superior General, on October 28, 1953, shortly before his departure for Cameroon, his first obedience: “From Marseille, where so many memories remind us of the great figure of our venerated Founder, I come, before embarking for Cameroon, to ask you for one last blessing so that my ministry in this Oblate mission where you have destined me might be fruitful and according to the heart of Bishop de Mazenod. Notre Dame de la Garde who has seen the departure of so many of her Oblate sons will protect us and sustain us.” He had been ordained priest on February 15 of the same year.
In 1964, following a serious illness, for which he was treated in France, the doctors gave a negative opinion concerning his return to Cameroon. However, he would spend a few more months there as the personal secretary to Bishop Yves PLUMEY who, on June 4, 1964, wrote to Father Jean Drouart, Assistant General: “Father Le Page will soon complete his stay in Africa, in Garoua. He should return to France around June 20. He withstood the climate with great difficulty, but he held up bravely through strict discipline.”
On January 15, 1965, therefore, he received an obedience for the General House, accompanied by these words from Fr. Deschâtelets: “By sending you today the official document of your obedience to our General House, I am pleased to offer you the warmest welcome among us... This change, I understand, asks great sacrifices on your part because it takes you away from your apostolate in Cameroon that you loved so much, but I pray for heavenly graces for you so that, in your new role, you might find great consolation for your religious, priestly and missionary life. Keep alive your missionary ideal and longing for the mission, because coming to work in the center of the missionary Congregation, you are still a missionary…”
At the General House, he would be first of all, Secretary General and then, Archivist. Later on, he who never had a great love for computers, would be part of the so-called “Computer Committee.” In recent years, he would take care of mailings, especially the bulletins of the General Communications Service, while keeping a very close eye on correctness of the French texts.
Personally I had known him the end of the 70’s, when I was at the International Scholasticate. He seemed to me
In the last nine years of my presence in the Service of Communications, I spent much time with him, either for work or for friendship: many times at the same table together with other brothers who prodded him, forced him to smile, and made him show that intelligent and vivacious part of himself, challenging and impartial, able to bite before being bitten, but in fact always in search of the truth. Father Le Page read -- one of the few who did -- most of the Oblate publications; he knew the writings of the Founder, the history of the Congregation and, more particularly, that of the General House, of which he was an icon for more than 47 years. After so much time, anyone who met him in our day found him changed, more open.
Before the beginning of summer this year, he had an operation for stomach cancer. During the long and painful days in the hospital, he showed a surprising patience and endurance of pain. In the following months spent at home, he was not well, but he tried hard not to be a burden.
Permit me to mention a personal memory which still touches my heart. On October 2, because of a bile duct obstruction, Théophile had to be brought again to the hospital. Fr. Mauro CONCARDI and I thought that the superior, Fr. Roberto SARTOR, was going to go with him alone, and we said we would go to meet him there when “it would be helpful to be of company.” While working in my office, I got a call from him: “So, I am going.” I sensed a plea for help and I decided to go to the emergency room of the San Filippo Neri hospital as well; there, he had to wait for 26 hours on a stretcher before being admitted. He would come home no more; he spent his last days at Villa Speranza, a clinic for palliative care. The members of the General House ensured a constant and faithful presence there. Fr. Fabio CIARDI celebrated Mass for him there several times. He died there on the morning of November 10, smilingly uttering a last sigh, in the presence of the superior and in the arms of Joelle Laure, a woman from that French family that had become his real family.
The whole General House community gathered around his coffin for a final farewell on the morning of November 13. An atmosphere of deep prayer and the beautiful words of Fr. Paolo ARCHIATI, Vicar General, made it a sacred moment.
Thank you, Théophile. Your story reminds us that at the end of life, we will be judged by our love. (Fr. Nino BUCCA, Director, General Service of Oblate Communications)
|Page 1 of 9||»|