De Manche was with Register 41 years

By  Mike Mastromatteo, Catholic Register Special
  • October 25, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - It’s appropriate that Alfred De Manche’s family would request that friends consider a donation to the Shepherd’s Trust as a fitting way to remember the long-time journalist’s life and work.

As the Shepherd’s Trust was established to support archdiocesan priests in their retirement, so too did Mr. De Manche support the priestly ministry with his writing, his faith life and his quiet humility.

A 41-year veteran of The Catholic Register’s newsroom, Mr. De Manche died Oct. 21 at his home after a brief struggle with cancer. He was 86 years old.

Although he retired from The Catholic Register in 1986, Mr. De Manche continued writing a column for The Register until 1996 and worked as co-editor of the Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart magazine.

A one-time seminarian, Mr. De Manche took an almost homiletic approach to much of his writing. His latter work at The Register was characterized by faith lessons and inspiration from the lives of saints. At the same time, he was a versatile newspaperman whose talents helped ground the weekly paper with an appropriate mix of church news, faith development and inspiration.

Mr. De Manche was hired as business manager of The Register in 1945 at $25 a week. Through the years he held many positions including Toronto editor, office manager, national advertising representative, circulation manager and assistant general manager.

Catholic Register colleagues  from the mid to late 1980s remember Mr. De Manche as a solid, all-round contributor.

“As a co-worker, Alf was a genuine all-purpose employee,” recalls Joanne McGarry, managing editor from 1980-1986. “He almost always did some writing for the paper as well, usually on faith topics. His columns were always popular. He would often reminisce about earlier days, when he would pack his family into the car to go off to the various church press conventions in which The Register participated.”

McGarry said that in addition to Mr. De Manche’s editorial and business contributions, he was especially noted for “an institutional memory.”

“What we all liked best about Alf was that he was a true gentleman. Meeting all the deadlines involved with a weekly newspaper can get hectic, but Alf always had a friendly smile and a serene attitude, and it tended to rub off on people. He was also a man of deep personal faith, and rarely if ever missed daily Mass,” McGarry said.

Despite a low-key nature, Mr. De Manche accumulated a number of honours during his years in church journalism. Cardinal James MacGuigan appointed him as one of the first Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in Toronto in 1957. He rose to the rank of Knight Commander with Star.

In 1996, he received the Holy Father’s Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For the Church and the Pope) from then Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic. The Toronto archdiocese also recognized Mr. De Manche’s half century of service to the church with its rarely awarded Archdiocesan Medal.

Mr. De Manche’s interests as a church reporter were equally divided between the priesthood and the laity. For nearly 50 years, he was a member of the Serra Club of Toronto, which is engaged in developing vocations to the priesthood. Besides his active membership, he also supported Catholic lay movements through his many columns and feature stories on the Catholic Family Movement, the St. Maximilian Kolbe Eucharistic Adoration Apostolate and related efforts.

Jesuit Father Francis Power, editor of the Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart, Mr. De Manche’s editorial colleague from 1987 until this fall, said Mr. De Manche was grateful for the opportunity to remain in church journalism after his 41 years with The Register.  He praised him not only for his dedication to writing, but also for explaining matters of faith, spirituality and inspiration in simple, easy to understand terms.

Born in Gardner, Massachusetts, Mr. De Manche came to Toronto at a young age and attended St. Michael’s College School, St. Augustine’s Seminary and the University of Toronto.

At The Register, Mr. De Manche worked under the late editor, Henry Somerville. It was early in his Register days that Mr. De Manche met his future wife, Eileen Mayo, who also worked in the office. His daughter Maria shared an anecdote that illustrates her father’s dedication to Catholic journalism. After announcing their plans to be married on a particular Saturday, Mr. De Manche and his fiancé were told by Somerville that a Saturday wedding was out of the question due to it falling on a newspaper production day.

Mr. De Manche, his wife and two daughters would soon get used to working on most Sundays as well, as the young reporter and family dutifully attended new parish openings, Knights of Columbus activities, Holy Name Society meetings and related Catholic group conventions throughout a growing archdiocese of Toronto.

“One of dad’s favourite passages was to consider each day is a bonus, a gift from God,” Maria De Manche said. “Live each day as if it was the last one, concentrate, spiritualize each day, each moment, and leave the rest in God’s hands.”

Mr. De Manche is survived by daughters Maria and Theresa, both active with the Toronto Catholic school board and church choir activities.

The funeral Mass was held Oct. 24 at St. Brigid’s parish in Toronto. Mr. De Manche had been a parishioner at St. Brigid’s for more than 50 years.

(Mastromatteo is a freelance writer in Toronto and former journalist with The Catholic Register.)

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