Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 23, 2003
Kind-hearted Fr. Briere followed Doherty
Edmonton priest joined Madonna House
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Madonna House apostolate is grieving the death of one of its long-time members, Father Emile-Marie Briere, author of several spiritual books and a former Edmonton priest.
Briere, who was known for his work with the clergy, youth, marriage preparation, social justice, labour movements and the poor, died in Combermere, June 16 at the age of 85.
As an author he wrote many articles and books including The Power of Love: For the Uncomplicated Christians, Katia: A Personal Vision of Catherine Doherty, Under Mary's Mantle: Our Lady's Love for Canada, and Priests Need Priests, among others.
He was ordained a priest by Edmonton Archbishop J.H. MacDonald in 1940, after which he worked as assistant parish priest in Morinville. But his key responsibilities were as professor at St. Joseph Seminary (1941-55) and diocesan director of Catholic Action (1946-53).
Msgr. Don MacDonald remembers him as "an excellent philosophy and theology professor, who kept up with the signs of the times."
"As a priest, I remember him to be ideal - after the heart of Christ. As a person he was very humble, compassionate, very intelligent and at the same time very humane."
He was very observant of what's going on in the community, in the country and in the world, MacDonald told the WCR.
When Briere was still in Edmonton he worked as an animator with apostolic groups such as the Knights of Columbus, the Young Christian Students and the Young Christian Farmers.
On a 1940 trip to the World's Fair in New York, Briere met Catherine de Hueck Doherty at Friendship House, where she was serving the poor in Harlem.
In 1947 Doherty moved to Combermere and her work developed into Madonna House. Briere reconnected with her when she gave a lecture in Edmonton in 1953.
Briere was instrumental in establishing two Madonna Houses in Western Canada: Maryhouse in Whitehorse (1954) and Marian Centre in Edmonton (1955).
In October 1955, he went to Madonna House in Combermere for an extended visit and there he discerned a call to live his priesthood as part of the Madonna House community.
In Combermere, he taught different courses, gave spiritual direction and supported Doherty and her work in the formation of committed laymen and women in the Church.
He helped in local parishes and gave days of recollections and retreats within the Pembroke Diocese.
Patrick Stewart, director of Edmonton's Marian Centre, met Briere in 1988.
"He's got a great love for the Lord, great confidence in the Lord and he's got a goodness of heart."
Stewart remembers him "having a very good sense of humour. He is very interested in people."
Even when one just met him he showed interest in people and could instantly be their friend. He's got so many friends when he left Edmonton in 1956, noted Stewart.
One of them is Dr.Joseph Lauerman, who first saw Briere, as a newly ordained priest giving a sermon at St. Joseph Cathedral.
"I was so impressed. He came through as a very spiritual and humble person. I encountered him next when I was interning. He was a patient of one of my professors. Once again he came across as a very kind and gentle person."
Lauerman's friendship with the priest developed deeply when he went on a holiday to Phoenix, Ariz., in the early 1950s.
He and his wife happened to be on the same plane with Briere. The couple invited the priest to go with them.
While in Phoenix, Briere said that he wanted to go to the slums.
"We didn't quite know why he wanted to do that. But we took him, had a look around and he again met a woman that he admired a lot - Mrs. Doherty."
This was one of the few instances that Doherty met Briere before the latter went to join Madonna House.
"Of all the people I met in my life, Father Briere stands out as a very kind and deeply spiritual person. He had a very profound effect on me and in my faith. It's been a privilege to have known him," Lauerman told the WCR.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for the late priest, June 19 in Combermere.
On July 6, Edmonton's Marian Centre will celebrate his life in a Mass at 10 a.m. His friends are invited to attend.