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Walsh University Mourns the Passing of Br. Marcel Sylvestre

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The Walsh University community mourns the loss Br. Marcel Sylvestre, FIC, Ph.D., who passed into the loving arms of the Lord on Saturday, May 4, 2019. He was 90 years old.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory can be mailed to Walsh University, Office of Advancement, 2020 East Maple Street, North Canton, Ohio, 44720 (Attn. Brothers of Christian Instruction Scholarship Fund).

In 2017, after calling Walsh’s campus his home for 12 years, Marcel Sylvestre, FIC, Ph.D., moved from La Mennais Hall in North Canton to live with the Brothers of Christian Instruction in La Prairie, Canada, for a short time, before transferring to live in Alfred, Maine. His involvement with Walsh spanned the history of the University, from his first appointment to the Board of Directors in 1964 to leadership positions over the years including Sociology Professor, Academic Dean and Interim President.

As a resident Brother, his impact on campus included serving as the Mission Outreach Coordinator for the American Province of the Brothers, raising funds for Haiti earthquake survivors, organizing a recycling partnership with the North Canton Fire Department and conducting workshops on development assistance around the world. Among his many professional accomplishments is the founding of a school in Haiti in 1996, the Université Notre Dame d’Haïti.

Most recently, his influence led to Walsh’s honor of hosting the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, as the 2017 Commencement Speaker. Archbishop Pierre worked closely with Br. Marcel and the Brothers of Christian Instruction in both Haiti and Uganda.

Marcel Sylvestre was born in Biddeford, ME, in 1928. He attended local Catholic schools and entered the Brothers’ novitiate in 1944 and took his final vows as a Brother of Christian Instruction in 1950. He holds a B.A. in history from La Mennais College, ME, an M.A. in Catholic Social Thought from The Catholic University of America, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from The Ohio State University.

After teaching in Massachusetts and New York from 1947 to 1960, he served as high school principal with schools under the administration of the Brothers of Christian Instruction in Fall River, MA, and Detroit, MI, until 1966. As principal of Msgr. Prevost High School in Fall River, Br. Marcel can count Walsh’s President Richard Jusseaume ’67 as one of his students.

He first became affiliated professionally with Walsh as a Board Member in 1964, just four years after the college was founded. He joined the staff and taught sociology from 1966 to 1975, interrupted by three years as a teaching associate at Ohio State. He was appointed academic dean at Walsh from 1975 to 1980, after which he enjoyed a sabbatical at Sangre de Cristo Center before returning to teaching. Br. Marcel was a board member at Walsh from 1964-75, Board Secretary 1975 to 1980 and returned to the Board of Directors in 1995.

He has held various positions during his tenure at Walsh, including a semester as the college’s Interim President during a time of transition. When approached to serve as the third President of Walsh in the summer of 1977, Br. Francis Blouin accepted the position with one condition -- that he could travel to Rome and complete his dissertation before taking office. Br. Marcel stepped forward and offered to serve in his place as Walsh’s Interim President during the fall semester. Br. Francis returned from Italy and officially took office in January 1978.

In 1982, Br. Marcel was elected to a six-year term as first assistant to the Superior General of the Brothers of Christian Instruction and was re-elected in 1988. After 12 years in Rome, with special responsibility for the mission territories of the Order, he served as Education Coordinator for residents at York County Shelters at Alfred, ME. 

In January 1996 he was called to Haiti where he was a Founder and Vice Rector for Academic Affairs at the Université Notre Dame d’Haïti. In August 1999, he began six years of service as Projects Officer for Terre Sans Frontières, La Prairie, with special responsibility for projects in Haiti, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

He also served as chairman of the Walsh Board from 2000 to 2009, and as the Mission Outreach Coordinator for the American Province of the Brothers of Christian Instruction.

In August 2005, the offices of Mission Project Service moved from Cape Vincent, NY, to Walsh University, and Br. Marcel returned to Walsh to prepare the seventh edition of “Agencies for Development Assistance.” The English edition appeared in November 2007 and in Spanish and French versions four months later. The book is a compilation of information on 326 agencies from 26 countries that are willing to provide aide to groups in Africa, Asia, Latin American, the Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. It has now reached more than 4,500 copies and approximately 140 countries.

At the age of 88, Br. Marcel continued to travel regularly to conduct workshops related to the book he helped to update and publish.

“Walsh should be clearly Catholic, deeply Christian and warmly human,” said Brother Marcel. “And if we accomplish this, God will continue to give the increase that we have had over the past years. If you want to see a beautiful example of God’s work, just look around you.”

Eternal rest grant to Br. Marcel, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.