Supreme Knight's Eulogy for Jean Migneault
In Memory of Jean B. Migneault
by Carl A. Anderson
September 11, 2008
Your Excellency, Reverend Fathers and deacons, Gisele and family, my brother Knights and friends all.
One of the things that has always struck me as I’ve studied the history of the Knights of Columbus is the way in which exceptional, dedicated men have driven the Order’s growth and accomplishments over the past 126 years.
Father McGivney was the first of such men, but far from the last. Thousands of talented men have stepped forward down through the years, dedicating a major portion of their lives to building an organization of Catholic laymen that contributes strength and a tradition of personal holiness to our Church.
But of all the men I’ve known, none ever gave of themselves more thoroughly and enthusiastically than Jean Migneault.
He joined our Order at the age of 22, and by the age of 42 he was the state deputy of Quebec. He was already a member of the Supreme Board of Directors by the time I took my first degree, and when the two of us came to New Haven in the 1990s, he quickly became a good friend, a valued colleague and an endless source of knowledge about our history, the way we work, and how we get things done.
When I was elected Supreme Knight in 2000, there was never any doubt about who I wanted to serve alongside me as Deputy Supreme Knight. Jean was the kind of person that anyone would want at his side. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
A few months after we had taken on our new jobs, we decided to travel together to the province of Quebec. We traveled from one end of the province to the other, and it was obvious that the affection for Jean among our brother Knights here was undiminished by the passage of 25 years since he had served here as state deputy.
It was February, and Quebec being Quebec, there was a bumper crop of snow and ice on the ground. As we were arriving for a visit to Cap de la Madeleine, Jean slipped on the ice in the church parking lot and fell flat on his back. The Quebecers gave him a good razzing about his apparently having forgotten how to walk in the winter back home.
The next day, as we were arriving for an appointment with Cardinal Turcotte, it was my turn to slip on the ice, and my landing was no more dignified than Jean’s was the day before. Another round of robust laughter ensued, and now Jean and I were members of the brotherhood of “inelegant landings”, and the humility that accompanies it.
For six years, Jean was the indispensible man in my administration at the Supreme Council in New Haven. Wise, experienced, faithful and totally dedicated to the task he had taken on, he helped us get through challenges large and small, from the shock and aftermath of 9/11 to our response to Hurricane Katrina and scores of less dramatic but equally important events.
His decades of experience in the banking industry and his exceptional management skills were vital to our success. Jean’s concern for welfare of our employees at the Supreme Council was immense and he will be long remembered for his dedication to each of them.
At the farewell reception for Jean and Giselle upon his retirement it seems that every employee was there not only say ‘farewell’ but also to personally thank him for all he had done for them. His warm, generous smile and genial nature helped make us the professional family at the Supreme Council that we are. He lived our principles of charity, unity and fraternity not just in the council hall, but every day, wherever he was.
After his awful diagnosis several years ago, Jean was determined to live out his life with grace and dignity and courage.
Today when I think of Jean, I think of a little known episode centuries ago at the famous battle of Agincourt. When toward the end of the day, when it was clear that the French had been defeated and their army had begun to leave the field a small band of knights broke from the French line and charged straight into the enemy line.
That evening the survivors discovered something they hardly thought to be possible: the knight who had led that courageous charge had been blind; he had tied the reins of his horse to those on either side of him. Although the outcome was never in doubt, this knight’s character would not permit him to admit defeat and he charged straight at an enemy he could not see with all his strength and determination. This knight became a hero to an entire generation of knights, and so has our friend, Jean Migneault.
When we visited with him several weeks ago after our Supreme Convention in Quebec that he would have loved to attend, it was apparent that whatever his physical condition, his mind was as keen as ever. We had a long conversation about our brother Knights in Quebec and the future and welfare of our Order in this province.
Patiently and earnestly, he used every modern technological marvel available to him to read, to write, and to keep up on current affairs and the world around him. He died as he lived: full of mental energy and intellectual curiosity, even though his body could no long bear the ravages of ALS. The way in which he bore his sufferings reminds us inevitably of the way in which the pope he had met so often, John Paul II, had traveled a similar path.
The friendship that Dorian and I have shared with Jean and Gisele over the years is more important to us than words can describe. To Giselle, and to your sons and their families, we offer our heartfelt prayers and sympathy. His suffering is over, and he already sees the happiness that awaits him in God’s heavenly kingdom.
Your complete, immeasurable devotion to your husband, father and grandfather has provided an enduring witness to the value and the dignity of human life. You have lived a precious witness to the strength of Christian love. We will always remember you and we will always remember Jean.