Quam Bonum (The Larocque et al cottage on Big Rideau Lake)

Quam Bonum

(I wrote this a number of years ago in respsonse to a request for information about Quam Bonum.  Fathers Robert Charbonneau and Christopher Quinaln have since died – Father Charbonneau last year and Father Quinlan 24 June 2014.  Father Linus Bastien is facing over twenty sex charges – the first charges were laid January 2012 – as of July 2014 he has yet to stand trial )

In 1968 the then Father Eugene Larocque, along with a group of priests from the Diocese of London, Ontario, purchased a piece of land and farm house close to the scenic Westport, Ontario. Westport is about 90 miles from Cornwall.   The house burnt down and a large bungalow/cottage was built on the site. The property itself is a beautiful and secluded spit of land which juts into Big Rideau Lake. The location is probably equidistant from Newboro and Portland and, in fact, the group used to go to the marina in Portland to purchase gas for their boats and, I think, for groceries.

As you go towards the property you are up high, looking down at the water and land quite a distance down. There is a farm on that road owned by a D. Cheetham. Several people have talked to him and he recalls nothing unusual but, in truth, his property is quite a distance back from the road and at most he would see cars travel by on their way down to the cottage area. From his home he has no visual at all of the property. The only way it can be seen is by going to the road, across the road and to the edge of the land to look down.

Also, one important exception to the seclusion +++ is a small cottage on an adjacent lot to Quam Bonum which is readily visible from the Larocque cottage and vice versa. That cottage is owned by a fellow by the name of Seeward who owns a number of rental cottages on down the road but not at all visible from the Quam Bonum site. He apparently rarely if ever occupies or uses that cottage now. If he was there – and not involved himself! – he would have seen and heard a lot.

The group (Larocque et al) named the site/cottage “Quam Bonum” a Latin phrase familiar to priests as reference to the first lines of Psalm 132 which begins “Ecce quam bonum. . .” and translates:

Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethern to dwell together in unity;

Like the precious ointment on the beard, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron,

Which ran down to the skirt of his garment: as the dew of Hermon, which descendeth upon Mount Sion.

For there the Lord hath commanded blessing, and life for evermore.

The property was originally purchased in 1968 for $2,500. It sold in the Fall of 1998 for $300,00. A lawyer from Ottawa by the name of Guest purchased it. The property had been on the market in the Spring and Summer of that year and then was taken off when the group decided not to sell. Apparently the lawyer and his wife convinced the owners to change their mind. My husband and I visited to spot shortly after it changed hands.  Guest and his wife knew that the property was owned by a bishop and “a bunch of priests from London.”

The names that I can find as having had joint ownership in the cottage are:

(1) Father G. H. (Gerry) Duscene (ordained 1953. Deceased),

(2) Father Robert Albert Charbonneau (ordained 1953). He has a brother Paul (also a priest – ordained 1948) who founded a place called Brentwood Recovery for alcoholics but also, if I recall correctly, has branched out and, much like Southdown, deals with sexual problems. Paul spent a number of years as a military chaplain and then, from 1981 on, became involved fulltime with Brentwood. I don’t know if Paul was connected to Quam Bonum. What is interesting is that Robert’s address for a few years (‘91-‘93) was the address for Brentwood.

(3)  Father Martin Johnston (a former school teacher. Ordained 1962 at age 34). He is the one who has been looking after the “Boy Scout Association” in London for years. He has also been very active in the charismatic renewal, the Cursillo movement, and COR (Christ in Others Retreat, weekend retreats for young people). He travels to South America nearly every year. Parishioners also recall him going on vacation every year “somewhere up in the islands in Kingston” and, on one occasion, saying he was taking ten days to go there to “fast and pray.” Some thought and understood that he had a cottage “in Kingston.” Some recall that the place he went to had once had a large house which burnt down and was replaced by a new cottage!

Father Johnston is a very close friend of Father Christopher Quinlan (ordained 1962). They were ordained at the same time and apparently were together all the time. Father Quinlan apparently used to go to the cottage with Johnston. I have a vague recollection that Quinlan’s name is on the deed but not 100% certain and can’t find the little piece of paper with the names.

There was also a Father Linus Bastien (ordained 1951) who went to the cottage. All of these priests were from London. Quite a hike to take for a little vacation every year!

Larocque was ordained in 1952. He became Bishop of Alexandria Cornwall in 1974. After he became bishop and moved to Cornwall people recall him going to saying Mass at Elgin when he was at the cottage.

I have pictures of the cottage and property taken the year before it was sold. I will try to find and post them.