Jesus, the Pastor par excellence, who came into this world to rebuild the broken relationships both on the vertical level (Divine and human) and on the horizontal level (among the humans) and to reunite the scattered sheep, prayed to the Father: “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17,11).
The all-loving and all-compassionate Father had bestowed upon Fr. Alfred Roche this grace to be a messenger of reconciliation and communion. That was the reason why, after his dedicated service to the novitiate-fraternity at Monte Mariano, Farangipet (Diocese of Mangalore) he was transferred, as the first Capuchin parish priest to the Holy Family Church, Brahmavar (diocese of Udupi).
This parish was handed over to the Capuchins in 1956 because of the schismatic currents growing in the parish and in the vicinity. Sr. Bernardine D’Souza, member of the Sacred Heart Convent, next to the church, bears witness to this: “Evil spirit started fishing in the troubled waters. In no time Jacobites and Bible Society built their churches in Brahmavar. We find four churches within half a kilometre. In such a complicated area, Fr. Alfred, a young, energetic, enthusiastic, zealous Capuchin priest was appointed as parish priest” (witness no. 13).
It is evident that it was not easy to take up the responsibility of a parish priest in such a ruptured situation. It was his deep spirit of faith and obedience to the Higher Superiors that facilitated him to accept such a challenging apostolate with great optimism. Let us listen to the witness borne by Dr. Henry D’Souza, Bishop of Bellary: “Fr. Alfred Roche was firmly anchored on God; consequently, there was a glow of joy in his face. He visited families of Brahmavar, Barkur and Sastan often, availed himself to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the sick, and even reclaimed many former Catholics from the schismatic Syrian community” (witness no 93).
Being humble by nature and kind at heart, Fr. Roche could easily meet and greet people of different Christian denominations and hold a fraternal dialogue with them, not so much at the head-level but at the heart-level. Mr. Archibald Furtado has something beautiful to share with us: “Fr. Alfred Roche, in his life time never criticised people of other faiths, but he lived what he preached, the highest Christian values of love for one another and that was an influential factor for convincing many to come close, listen, and follow him” (witness no 98).
It is inspiring to know that, while focussing on the faith-formation of his flock and fostering evangelical brotherhood and sisterhood with the separated brethren, the God-centred pastor did not distance himself from the members of other religions. Mr. Shivaram Shetty, Rtd. Head Master, Matpadi, Brahmavar, bears witness to this: “Due to caste and colour, there was sickening restlessness among us. In such a situation, Fr. Roche marched forward to help everyone without any discrimination. This daring attitude of his was indeed an external proof of his godliness.... Simplicity in life and commitment to his duty, bear witness to his Saintly Life” (witness no 64).