Alexandre Louis Henry DeLestre was born July 14 1879 in Belgium. He was ordained a Priest in 1903 and immigrated to Canada around 1905 having been instructed by the Holy Father to tend to a new flock in a new country. His first few postings were in the Province of Alberta.
In 1909 Fr. Alex DeLestre was appointed as first resident priest of St. Benedict Parish…now known as St. Michael Parish, Leduc. He built a small presbytery cottage behind the church which was used by the clergy that followed. His next position took him to Coleman, Alberta where he served until 1916.
Called once again to a new Parish, Father Alexandre L. de Lestré, O Praem, replaced Father Garon in 1916 at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Coquitlam and was the Pastor there until 1929.
In 1929 he came to the Okanagan Valley, part of the Diocese of Nelson and served in a variety of positions in the Okanagan. He had a special affinity for St. Theresa’s Parish in Rutland. In 1952, at the age of 73 he found the position of Parish Priest was very tiring and he contemplated retirement until a new and wonderful adventure was presented to him.
A fairly new hospital in Oliver, St. Martin’s was owned and operated by the Sisters of St. Ann and they were in need of a Chaplain so Father DeLestre packed his meager belongings and headed south. The Sisters purchased the house next door to the Catholic Church and Father DeLestre moved in and assumed his duties as Hospital Chaplain.
In later years Father DeLestre took up residence in a suite of rooms at the hospital as it was more convenient for him in his declining years. Every morning he said Mass in the small chapel tucked away up in the top floor of the Hospital. He performed baptisms and administered the Last Rites and heard confessions when called upon. In his spare time, Father was an avid artist. I am sure there are some of his paintings still hanging on the walls of families in Oliver.
His longtime housekeeper Josephine Traven was given the house by way of Father’s will and she remained in the house until she was unable to look after herself and went to live in Sunnybank. The house was subsequently sold.
Father DeLestre was a beacon of light wherever he went. He always had a broad smile and a hearty laugh and was admired by all who knew him. The Sisters of St. Ann were very lucky to have such wonderful Chaplain. He made the rounds in the hospital twice or three times a day visiting not just Catholics but everyone who was in hospital at the time.
Father Alexandre Louis Henry DeLestre suffered a stroke on December 31, 1966. Our beloved Chaplain passed into the presence of His Lord on January 1, 1967 and is buried in St. Theresa’s Cemetery in Rutland, B.C.
St. Martin’s Hospital; the Sisters of St. Ann and Father Alexandre DeLestre:
One cannot mention St. Martin’s Hospital without acknowledging the Sisters of St. Ann and the beloved Chaplain, Father Alexandre Louis Henry DeLestre.
The Sisters of St. Ann:
The Sisters of St. Ann are a congregation of religious women founded in Vaudreuil, Quebec in 1850 by Marie Esther Blondin, now Blessed Marie Anne Blondin.
On June 5, 1858, four Sisters and a laywoman arrived in Victoria to begin educating children of the colony. Their arrival coincided with the Fraser Gold Rush, necessitating a response to changing needs.
They lived in a log cabin that became their first school, not only for aboriginal children but for children of the colonists as well. The school flourished, necessitating various additions and locations.
In 1871 they built the first wing of what has become St. Ann’s Academy, now a National Historic Site. Throughout the years, the education and health care provided by the Sisters of St. Ann in Victoria established them as a vital and important part of the civic community. Subsequent to their arrival in Victoria, the Sisters founded schools, hospitals and a broad spectrum of programs in communities throughout BC, the Yukon, Alaska and Washington State (St. Joseph’s Province).
St. Martin’s Hospital, Oliver, B.C.
St. Martin’s Hospital in Oliver, B.C. was built in 1942 by the Sisters of St. Ann. They owned and operated the hospital until the government decided to build a new hospital and St. Martin’s was officially closed in 1973.
The first Mother Superior was Sister Celine Marie whose birth name was Brenda Marie and for whom I am named. She was a kind and generous woman who looked after her flock with the utmost care and concern. Not all the Sisters were pleasant…I remember tangling with a very big Sister Luke who “helped” me onto the bed when I insisted I was just fine!!!! For the most part, I guess being Catholic, I found most of them to be kind and caring as long as us little Catholic kids knew our prayers!!!
All of the Sisters at St. Martin’s were Nursing Sisters but there were other nurses on staff as well. Way too many to mention but most of you know who they all were.
The hospital had its own kitchen and all meals were prepared on site. I remember when I was little and in the hospital, Ron Hovanes’ mother Lorraine brought my meals and sat with me for a little while every night.
Mr. Gobeil and Mr. Shanks were caretakers of the grounds and also took care of the upkeep of the hospital and did a fine job keeping the premises in pristine condition. Our very favourite Eugene was the exray technician and I remember the operating rooms were across from the exray lab.
St. Martin’s stood vacant for a few years while townspeople fought to keep it as a heritage building but it was eventually sold for peanuts and torn down to make way for a housing complex. When they tore St. Martins down it resisted the demolition until the very last when the heavy equipment finally cut the legs out from under it. Some of us stood across the street in tears as we watched our beautiful hospital come tumbling down. I am sure that we all have good memories of our beautiful hospital.