Pope St. John Paul II says: ‘People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the “witness” par excellence (Rev 1:5; 3:14) and the model of all Christian witness,’ Redemptoris Missio, no 42.
Yes, witnesses are needed in every context: families, schools and colleges, religious communities, parishes etc. Being fully convinced of this, Fr. Alfred Roche tried to put it into practice in his day-to-day life wherever he was sent and with whatever task he was busy. Mr. Francis Rodrigues, St. Joseph’s Church, Lower Kasarkod, bears witness to this: “On account of his exemplary life and preaching, family members learnt to love one another in the families and many young men and women became priests and religious offering their life for the service of God. For, he was always preparing his sermons much in advance. As a result, when he was preaching one could not know how time was passing. One could feel how he was filled with the Spirit while preaching,” (witness no 44).
The above quote shows how the atmosphere in the families gradually got changed and how vocations for priesthood and consecrated life were fostered in the parish and beyond. Referring to the preaching of Fr. Alfred Roche, Mr. Francis Rodrigues says: “For, he was always preparing his sermons much in advance”. Yes, it is very true. As I know personally, he was reading the texts of the following Sunday’s liturgy on Monday itself in order to meditate upon the texts and to make the message contextual, existential, and practical.
In this context Sr. Elvira D’Souza, member of the Sacred Heart Convent, Brahmavar, would like to share her personal experience: “Fr. Alfred Roche was a real follower of Christ and the disciple of St. Francis of Assisi. His very garb and gait spoke of the austere life he led for Christ. He was another Christ for me. Always serene and joyful, he shed beams of light around him.... He won many a soul to Christ by his peaceful demeanour, gentle and kind touch. He never judged others, but excused their faults manifesting the mercy of Jesus. His heart bore the secrets of many; he embedded them deep within the recesses of his soul. His only axiom was to speak well of others,” (witness no 62).
The touching experiences shared by the above mentioned witnesses really confirm that Fr. Alfred Roche was an exemplary pastor who, following the Life-pattern of Jesus, the Supreme Pastor, and His faithful servant, St. Francis of Assisi, inspired, guided, and led the flock entrusted to his care. That is why Fr. Dolphy Pais OFM Cap, the former Provincial Minister of the Holy Trinity Province, Karnataka, writes: “The Holy Trinity Province of Karnataka in particular and the Capuchin Order in general, is privileged to have a ‘friar minor’ so exemplary and so simple. We pray that the Holy Catholic Church acknowledges the wonderful witness to sanctity borne by this noble son of St. Francis of Assisi” (witness no 73). I would like to conclude this short message with a saying in Latin, Verba volant, exempla trahunt which means words fly, examples attract.