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Bishop-elect Guy Desrochers greets residents at St. Joseph’s Villa in Cornwall, Ont., where he concelebrated Mass of Our Lady Guadalupe with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast last month. He will serve the Ottawa archbishop as Auxiliary Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall. Photo courtesy Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa

Mother's prayers take fruit in new auxiliary bishop's life, conversion

  • January 13, 2019

OTTAWA – On Guy Desrochers’ 24th birthday, his mother gave him a Bible.

He laughed, and so did his brother, who not long after also received a Bible for his birthday, as had the rest of his four siblings. The irony was Desrochers hadn’t even been inside a church in 10 years, and his siblings had long ago given up attending Mass.

But his mother never gave up praying for her children. 

Almost 40 years later, Desrochers is set to begin his new duties as Auxiliary Bishop for Alexandria-Cornwall when he is ordained Feb. 22, assisting Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast. Pope Francis made the appointment last month.

Desrochers, a native of Gatineau, Que., credits his vocation to his mother, now 91, who for years regularly prayed a prayer of abandonment to God’s will, which begins: “Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.”

She had realized, “I have lost control over all my children,” he recounted. “Lost them to drugs, sex and alcohol. I can’t do anything anymore. Lord, take care of them. You are the true Father of these children.”

Years after she began her special prayers and soon after Desrochers had been given his Bible, Desrochers’ father developed heart trouble and needed risky heart surgery. The doctor warned he had a 50-per-cent chance of dying on the operating table.

“I was so afraid of losing my dad who I loved so much,” said Desrochers, telling the story of his conversion. He said he started “worrying about life,” and asking questions like what is the point of life if it all ends with being “put in a black hole.”

After a couple of weeks of worrying and questioning, he heard a voice that said: “Read your Bible and you will find the answers you are looking for.”

“I thought I was speaking to myself,” he said. “I don’t want to read the Bible,” fearing it would ask him to change his life.

Not long after, the word came a second time.  He thought, “If my life is a sin, I want to keep it that way.”

When the voice came a third time, he decided, “Okay, I’ll start reading the Bible.”

He began with the Gospel of Matthew and soon found himself starting to believe in God, in eternal life and that meaning could be found in suffering.

Desrochers began to pray and found God seemed to be listening to his prayers and answering them.

His father not only survived the surgery but also recovered so quickly he resumed cross-country skiing a month and a half afterwards.

Desrochers was working as a graphic artist for Le Droit newspaper in Ottawa and continuing to pray. Gradually he stopped doing drugs, drinking alcohol and “the bad sexual habits I had with women,” he said.

As a musician, he was still playing music with his friends, and when they asked him why he had stopped drugs and alcohol, he at first told them it was none of their business.

After about six months of reading the Bible daily and reciting the Our Father on his knees in front of a poster of the Risen Jesus — stopping at “thy will be done” and asking “Today, what can I do to do your will?” — he “heard a strong word that resounded in all my chest: ‘Priest!’ ”

“No way, Lord!” he said, recalling his response. “No way I want to become a priest. I wanted to get married and have children.

“Thank God, I heard nothing for a whole year,” he said.

The word came again. Desrochers realized he was afraid of the reaction of fellow employees at Le Droit, and that of his family and friends if he decided to become a priest.

Once realizing he feared rejection, he told God he would co-operate with His will, but “I have to want to become a priest.”

Meanwhile, people at work who saw his changed life started coming to him, asking for prayers. One young woman came and told him “terrible sins.”

He told her, “I’m not a priest. Go and see a priest with that.” At that moment, he realized, “The world needs priests. I think I’m ready now.”

Desrochers decided he wanted to join a religious community so he would have confreres to support him in prayer.  He asked the Lord to “show me some communities, and I will choose,” still “wanting to control everything.”

After exposure to a couple of orders, he heard about the Congregation of the Holy Redeemer, commonly known as the Redemptorists, a preaching order founded in Italy in 1732 by St. Alphonsus Liguori, a Confessor and Doctor of the Church.

He went to visit the superior at the Alymer monastery in Gatineau, and lest the superior think he was too eager, he told him: “I am looking for a preaching order, but I love women.”

“You’re normal,” the superior replied.

“My arguments fell apart after that,” he said.

“I love children, too,” but the superior said, “No doubt the Redemptorists would have been good fathers.”

The superior gave him some books to read about the founder and the order, and in about two weeks he decided to enter for a period of discernment.

He spent a year near Quebec City, ministering to young people aged 16 or 17, then at age 27 began his novitiate.

Even before becoming a priest, his provincial “knew I had a fire in me to preach the Word of God.”

On Jan. 7, Desrochers marked the 30th anniversary of his ordination.

“I don’t regret any single minute of saying ‘yes’ to the Lord,” he said.

As for his mother’s prayer of abandonment?  

“She did that prayer and four years later, my sister converted,” he said. Three years later, a brother converted, then Desrochers, then his other brother.

“My last brother, it took him 40 years,” he said. “Even my father was converted. He was so prayerful in his last 15 or 20 years.”

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