Canon Anselm Bourde de la Rogerie

3rd October 2017

The obituary of a learned and popular priest, who had spent 50 years in Guernsey. From The Guernsey Press, 16th December 1954. Anslem Bourde de la Rogerie was an erudite man who wrote learned articles on the history of the island. He gathered together invaluable information about Victor Hugo and the time he spent in Guernsey and published it in 1944 as Victor Hugo à Guernesey.

One of the most beloved personalities in Guernsey has passed from our midst with the death of Canon Anselm Bourde de la Rogerie, which occured in the Presbytery, Burnt Lane, yesterday.

Although appointed an Honorary Canon of the Diocese of Portsmouth in March, 1952, it is as Père Bourde that he will forever be remembered in this island, where for over half a century he laboured so faithfully as a parish priest.

Born at Avranches, in 1871, Père Bourde was ordained at Coutances Cathedral on December 22, 1900, and celebrated his first Mass at Avranches on the Christmas Eve. He had intended to go to Jersey, having decided to come to the Channel Islands because priests were needed there at the time owing to the large French community. Providence ruled otherwise, however, and although he did indeed come to the Channel Islands it was to Guernsey and not Jersey that he was sent, in 1901, to be parish priest at St Magloire.

Five years later Pere Bourde became Rector of Notre Dame du Rosaire, an office which he was destined to hold for 48 years, and up to the date of his death. His ministrations to the French community who formed his congregation were such that he endeared himself to all. Never did a parish priest have a better tribute paid than that voiced by the oldest parishioners of Notre Dame on the occasion of the presentation made to mark his golden Jubilee in the priest hood. It was: ‘He has lit a flame of love in our hearts that will die only when we die ourselves.’

There was about Père Bourde a simplicity of manner, an air of otherworldliness which was one of his greatest charms.  Though honours were rained upon him during his long life of service to the French community, he received them with becoming modesty, and carried them with that same spirit of simplicity which forbade all thoughts of self-aggrandisement.

He was a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur, Chevalier de L’Etoile Noire, and a Licencié en Droit. The French Government also made him an Officier de l’Instruction Publique, and earlier that same year (1952) came the Roman Catholic Church’s own recognition of the services of a faithful servant when he was made an Honorary Canon. For may years Pere Bourde was Chaplain of the Knights of St Colomba, Chaplain of Les Ancients Combattants and President of La Société Française de Bienfaisance.

A man of erudition, possessed of cultural gifts, Père Bourde used those gifts  by identifying himself with the cultural ife of the island. He became a member of the Council of the Société Guernesiaise, and was Hon Vice-President of the Cercle Français. Possessed of a delightful sense of humour, and a keen wit, Père Bourde never failed to make use of them when opportunity afforded. He observed on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee presentation, that: ‘after being in Guernsey for 50 years I could claim to be a Guernsey donkey!’

Loved island

Père Bourde took part in the activities centring around the visit to Guernsey in 1952 of the Fremch Ambassador a the Court of St James’. He attended the States luncheon given at the OGH Hotel, and the Soirée at Hauteville House.

He loved the island, its traditions and its customs, and when asled if he would like to evacuate from Guernsey just prior to the Germnan Occupation he replied: ‘I would sooner die in Geurnsey than live in England.’ He has had his wish. Half a century is a long time, and Guernsey, mourning the passing of this beloved son of her adoption, will long remember his life of devoted service performed so faithfully, so lovingly, and with such quiet self-effacement. Père Bourde, for his work among the French community in the island, was made an Officier de l’Instruction Publique shortly before the Second World War. This honour was conferred on him by the French Governement, and the presentation was made by the late Mr H Leroy in the absence of M le Baron de Coudenhove, French Consular Agent.

Special Dinner

In December, 1950, Père Bourde celebrated the Golden Jubilee of hs ordination. The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Reverend J H King, was unable to be present for the occasion, but he came over in October of that year and, in anticipation of the occasion, sang Pontifical High Mass at Notre-Dame du Rosaire Church. A special dinner in Père Bourde's honour was later held at Le Chalet Hotel, Fermain.

When the actual jubilee was celebrated, Père Bourde was presented with a cheque for £123, subscribed to by members of his church, who also presented him with an illuminated address. Tributes to the veteran priest were paid by M Lambert, French Consular Agent, the Very Rev the Dean of Guernsey, Brother Celsus, Director of Les Vauxbelets, and Mr Joseph Allain.

The late Mr T G Hickey, who also voiced his appreciation, recalled that originally Père Bourde was to have gone to Jersey, but the Bishop, fortunately, had sent him here. He described Père Bourde as 'the children's priest.' Congratulatory telegrams were received from the Bishop of Portsmouth and M Valadier, French Consul for the Channel Islands, among others.

In March of last year it was announced that Père Bourde had been appointed Honorary Canon of the Diocese of Portsmouth. He was the oldest serving priest in that diocese. In the same month he was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre de l'Etoile Noire, for this servics to the French colony in Guernsey.