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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Another old friend gone: Father Wavreil

Father Adrian Wavreil, s.j., passed away last night. He was over eighty, so I cannot call it an untimely death, but it is rather strange that he should have had to die of snakebite, of all things!

He was a member of that almost dying breed called gentlemen. He was, in my definition, an educated man (and I am sure most readers know just how finicky I am about calling anybody educated). Twenty years ago, it was he who, along with my old teacher Father Pierre-Yves Gilson, got me into St. Xavier’s School, Durgapur, and thereby not only significantly changed my life but, I suspect, those of a lot of other people too.

For reasons best known to him and the organization that he served, he never contacted me after 2002, when I quit. He is one of the few human beings I missed, and I am the sort of person whose memories never dim, so I shall go on missing him forever, as I miss Fr. Gilson and Fr. Wautier, both now long gone. Today’s young people will of course never know what they have missed. Maybe they will never need to know!

God rest his soul. I hope in another birth we can be friends and colleagues again.


Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda,

I am so sad to hear about Father Wavreil's death. I wonder whether he was in Durgapur!

He was the one who got me into St. Xavier's School Durgapur when my father was transferred from Calcutta.

I still remember how I took the admission test sitting in a room alone with him. I shall forever remember his warmth in welcoming and while correcting my paper in front of me explaining the only sum that I got wrong.

Beyond school once I met him at Steel Market buying toys for destitute children. He recognised me and as a young person of class seven I do loved it when he bought me a chocolate telling that it spoils teeth.

I shall always fondly remember him and I am sad that he is no more. I have never been taught by him but still remember his smile. I have met some really nice fathers and sadly none of them are any more. People like Father Wavreil impacted a lot of lives and I thought selflessly.

May God rest his soul.


Arka said...

Dear sir,

A couple of months ago, when I paid a visit to the school I met Father Wavreil. He could still recognise me as the Spanish doctor of the play on Jesuits, which we enacted long back during the triple centenary celebration.

I'm very sorry for what happened to him yesterday night. He was a true gentleman and a true Jesuit. He loved the children of junior classes and the smile on his old withered face is unforgetable.

Out of sheer co-incidence my uncle passed away last night. He was admitted in the ICU of DSP Hospital. He was aged seventy two and he had a heart attack.

May both of them rest in peace. Both were honourable and good men.


Sriranjani Datta said...

i came to know father wavreil through my brother. And I have nothing but to express my heartiest grief for him.

May his soul rest in peace.


Ritambhar said...

Dear Sir,

I read your post today and was instantly flooded with old memories. When I was in class IV, I used to go to school in the first trip of the school bus and hence had a lot of time to while off before class started. Father Wavreil was the headmaster at that time. He loved to interact with us during that time, and I can fully appreciate Arka's comment above that he loved the children of the junior classes. I remember that I used to ask him a lot of questions and painstakingly responded to each of them, never getting irritated. We developed a special bond through those interactions. He was indeed a great man and his parting is a loss to each of us who has seen and known him from close quarters.


SleepyPea said...

Dear Suvro da,
I didn't know Father Wavreil nor Father Gilson nor Father Wautier, and I'm mighty glad that you put up Father Wavreil's photo. Maybe that's an odd thing to say - but I was trying to find a face to fit the name - and there was nothing I could find on google. Could you please put up a photo of Father Gilson as well some other time?
.....It is rather strange that Father Wavreil passed away from a snake bite of all things. Yes, may he be in peace, and yes, I do hope you can meet him in another birth.
Take care.

aranibanerjee said...

Father Wavreil was always so benign, so much of a relief, after the scare Fr Wautier would give us. Did he ever scold or whack? I doubt so. His great contribution lay in transforming St Lawrence from a school where learning and discipline had gone to the docks, to a place where South-Calcuttans would want their children to be in. And, they all would be proud of him.

Kaushik said...

I remember accompanying you some time in October 1990, to the St. Xavier’s College here at Calcutta when you donated blood (we waited at the adjacent Roy & Trivedi, the diagnostic lab, for hours in a never-ending serpentine queue) for one of your ailing Fathers. Was he Father Gilson?

Love and regards,
Kaushik Chatterjee

Suvro Chatterjee said...

That's right, Kaushik. Funny you should remember after all these years. Few people bother to remember such things when they comment about me!

I was one of the last people to give Fr. Gilson blood. He died with my letter under his pillow: as his personal physician later told me. On our deathbeds we all finally find out who mattered and who didn't.

Feste said...


I had the good fortune of staying with Fr. Wavreil sj off and on in Durgapur. Whenever I went there, he had made me feel welcome. He was the Superior there. That too, even when I had spoken unpalatbly of the Jesuits to him. He just smiled and made me feel at home. In these times of Catholic persecution; here was a man who never tried to convert anyone at all. And I vouch for it. Such heinous lies are being spread against Christians that I cannot rest cozily in my secured academic niche. I have long had many clerical friends and not once has anyone asked me to eschew my religion at all.

All Father did was to silently witness Jesus in his daily life. He reminded me of the Little Flower of Jesus every time we met. In fact, he took the trouble of sending me photocopied pages of theologians whom he felt I should read. But for him I would never have had access to such materials. Though I never liked Lonergan, he sort of forced me to read him so that we could debate. I had often taken long walks with him in the St.Xavier's grounds in Durgapur. We prayed together. He said the Holy Rosary; I muttered the Gayatri Mantra. He loved to paint and listen to both Eastern and Western classical music. He had once lent me his whole collection. He believed that none could ever study theology without a sense of classical music.

The small things reveal a great soul. Each and every time I stayed with him, without failure he had dropped me to Durgapur Bus-stand near the station on his scooter at 5.30 am. Not once did he allow me to go alone to the bus-stand. When I heard that this great man had died; I felt a real loss. He had wanted to visit Bishnupur and stay a night with me visiting the terracotta temples and my college. Sadly, I had postponed his visit to this winter and now he is no more.

Apart from a personal loss, Bengal has lost a man who had become Bengali and truly a Renaissance individual. His external life may not have been remarkable but the interior man was a burning flame of love. Not something airy fairy. But he tried to love his fellow-people as His Father in Heaven loves His people in a tangible and concrete manner. And love knows no boundaries. Fr. Wavreil spoke to me through his life as a living Holocaust and what it means to live the theology of the Cross than many an erudite priest I have had the misfortune to meet so far.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I have made an exception to a general rule by allowing in the comment from "Feste" here, because to my mind it was a relevant and good tribute - but I shall be glad if "Feste" deigns to tell me who he really is.

aquietchild said...

This makes me sad. Really.. In the picture that you have uploaded, he already looked so pale, and different from the image I have of him, during those years from 1990-1995, when he was our headmaster.
Alas, time and tide waits for none. May his soul rest in peace.

- Chironton.

dhhe2001 said...

Dear Sir,

I have a funny story share about Father Wavreil. As a small child, I had gone for my admission test with my dad. Fr. Wavreil was talking with my dad. In the meantime, I slipped under the table to find out how he moved from one table to another without getting up from the chair. (Of course I had not seen chairs with wheels before !)

Suddenly I had vanished from my dad's side. Fr. Wavreil was much amused on finding me under his table, studying the wheels. He even praised me for my curiosity.

That was Fr. Wavreil, a perfect teacher, for me.


Mandar Mukherjee said...

It's from quite an old memory I recall Fr. Wavreil teaching us English in class ix in St Lawrence High school way back in sixties.he was a very handsome young man in his thirties with filmstar looks. I remember he even praised my voice hearing me from a text book passage that he gave me to read. Coming to know that much later he became the principal of our school and seeing his photograph makes me feel very nostalgic. Am also saddened to know he passed away in Durgapur in 2008. May his soul rest in peace.