THE GOLDEN YEARS

FATHER ROGER'S REFLECTIONS

PRIEST: A GIFT FOR ALL

THE PRIEST, DISCIPLE IN THE STEPS OF JESUS.

 Every priest makes a gift of his life in service to God’s People. The following is my gift to you.

 The seed of a priestly vocation was planted in my heart, it would seem, from the moment of my conception.  From the very first desires of seeking a way of life, I can never remember desiring anything else but the Secular Priesthood.  Oh, I dabbled with dreams of being a professional singer, a doctor and even a missionary or at times a contemplative religious. None of these daydreams ever rooted themselves.  The expressed thought of wanting to be a priest goes at least as far back as when I was 5 years of age.  The identity with the Secular Priest was an inspired response to a Sister at St. Joseph School who asked me what kind of priest I wanted to be.  My response was simply, “a parish priest”.  My consciousness connected with that and from then on, it was sealed in my heart.

 As a youth I was often left to myself and thereby developed a sense of solitude which I attribute to my love for contemplative prayer. The home discipline and underlying simple faith of Franco-American parents also prepared me to solo as a parish priest without other clerical assistants.  I was then too shy to be up front in the sanctuary as an Altar Server, but I was delighted to serve 5 years in the children’s choir.  At the age of 9 I was singing at funerals and leading the psalms at the Sunday parish celebration of Vespers.  I really felt happy doing that.  It was with this background that I continued being in choirs throughout high school, college and seminary life. Through it all, I was under the directorship of some outstanding choir director priests who gave me sufficient background to become a choir director in turn at both the parishes where I was to serve as an assistant over 18 years.  I knew that I wanted to use my voice for better liturgy.

 What a thrill it was for me to make my first major decision in life! Following graduation at the St. Joseph Elementary School in New Bedford, I was given a choice to leave home and continue my education through the next five years at College de L’Assomption, in the Province of Quebec, Canada.  This college offered a great formation in classic discipline.  I never regretted this choice and found that already I was being readied for that ministry that often required the qualities of a self-disciplined mind, heart and soul. My love for spiritual discipline began to show itself in my preferences for spiritual reading materials and a slowly developing love for liturgy and religious ceremonies. 

 At the end of my second year of college courses, I applied to the Diocese of Fall River as an aspirant candidate for the priesthood.  Bishop Connolly directed me to St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.  Seminary life was difficult for me because of lack of social skills with my peer group. The prayerful environment along with a few friends and the discovery of theology gave me much to feed the spirit and find a sense of direction already showing in my life.  I was satisfied to know I was at the right place.  That gave me the inner tranquility and assurance that lasted all these years. I found my heart securely balanced in the pathway of the priestly vocation. I never once doubted my vocation, although I realized I was totally at the mercy of God and of my bishop and  the seminary faculty if I was to reach the day of ordination.

 The day of Ordination and the First Mass and all the events surrounding this central stepping stone of my life left me with little memory of it all because of the excitement that filled my whole being.  It was like a surreal experience.

 I found that the priesthood is a process of constant growth in discipleship.  It awakens a need to be attentive to the work of God, open and trusting in the pathway that stretches ahead into the unknown.  I quickly learned the need to be docile and obedient to the priests with whom I was assigned if I was going to learn anything at all in active ministry.  In the first years, living with Fr. Dickinson who was the unofficial acting pastor, I learned to spread my wings, become creative, develop ideals and goals, organize church groups and find confidence in my ability as a parish priest.  But my sense of discernment kept me looking for a deepening of spirit as required by the varied turns in the needs of parish life.  

 Awe concerning the Church was much awakened when I was part of the presbyteral team to empower the effects of the Second Vatican Council in the parish.  It was then that I began to understand that the priest is a living organism in the heart of a truly live body, the Church.  The Church was awakening from centuries of quiet sustaining dormancy in the local front and I was part of witnessing the glorious awakening that sounded like a trumpet blast throughout the world and in the core of Catholicism. 

 Already during my college years, I had found the treasure of the gift of wisdom as I read the story of Solomon in the scriptures. I longed for that wisdom even though I did not completely understand its meaning.  In his Divine Providence God soon placed in my heart a supportive desire for Joy.  I had not realized how deeply the inscription of those words on my chalice, “Servire in Laetitia” (To Serve With Joy), would affect my spiritual options in the future.  Suddenly Joy became no longer an option, but a necessity in living the priestly life.  But the priest who will not only hoard the gift but awaken it in others as well must be tender and gentle, kind and attentive.  The model of a couple of pastors in the diocese urged me on to seek these supportive qualities.  One day, on my way to a priest’s retreat I asked the Lord to teach me the way of gentility and kindness.  At the opening conference the Retreat Master spoke these words, “This week we will be talking about gentility and kindness.”  WOW!  Whenever the Priest is open to God, his limitations do not count.  God fills in and answers the slightest longing of his heart. We just need to let ourselves be inspired to long for the gifts that can best serve the Master.

 As I matured and readied for the role of becoming pastor, I had to find the strength of overcoming any doubts about my ability to fit into the role of being the responsible Parish Priest.  I found confidence in realizing that as human beings we are all lacking, but as instruments of God we are all protected by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This attitude gave me much ammunition to carry out the new role of becoming a pastor in three consecutive parishes which previously had been served by two priests, but in my arrival had to adjust to one local pastor. They too had to and continue to have to trust that the Holy Spirit works within the frame and in spite of the human limitations of their parish priest.  That is what can make us lovable, the graced and infused work of the Holy Spirit.

 One can get caught up in “business”.  Administration, documentation, spiritual leadership, organization, problem solving, meetings, rehearsals, centralization of liturgical life, counseling, recalculating the needs of a community, healing the divisions and individual sufferings, following diocesan and Church directives, professional development, all these and many more leave the spirit confused and tired at times.  That is when I found out that PEACE is the factor that must bring balance to the ministry.  I had to learn to surround myself with peace, warm myself in it, heal myself in it and feed it to those who came seeking solace in their many struggles with life, family and Church. In my search for the gift of Peace, I soon learned through prayer that all tensions within the priest’s heart must come to rest by the power of LISTENING.  I began to learn to listen with an open heart to myself, to God, to others.  I began to hear more, to understand more, to be more sympathetic and supportive. The balance of life started making more sense.  I could feel a maturing of my inner wellbeing. What a difference that was from getting upset every time the doorbell or phone would ring and interfere with my priority at hand!

 During the past 50 years, I was no hero, no super-priest, no special contributor to the large needs of mankind.  In the face of history and time, my name too will be effaced from the memory of future generations.  But in the core of my priestly heart, I have learned, I have been a disciple, and I continue to make known the Good News that Christ is alive.  He continues to teach his “disciple-priest” that the whole purpose of our life is to serve as an extension of His ongoing love.  I celebrate the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, in this year of the Priest.  I am humbled to have been called into his following as a disciple of his Good News.  I only pray that my life may be serving someone to trust and follow God in all things and perhaps even to the priesthood. 

 By God’s grace these years of retirement are spent in continued service, continued learning and continued presence.  God has brought me to a place I imagined in my youth, a place of rolling mountains, loving people, seemingly endless sunshine and a peaceful heart with the friendship of a fellow priest to lighten my steps to my own life’s Emmaus. I still long to be perfected into that perfect priest who perfectly believes and trusts that following as a disciple will allow me to see the fullness of the Master at the end of it all.

 Because I left home before maturing more fully and since I was the youngest of my siblings I really did not have the opportunity of bonding with them as deeply as I would have liked to had I continued my earlier formation at home.  I regret this, but I offer it as part of our combined contribution to the gift of having a priestly vocation in the family. I thank God that in these late years, we still have time to connect, share and discover whatever is left of our time on this earth. 

 The Priesthood has always been the treasured gift of my life and I will bring it with me in praise to Almighty God.  May his mercy overlook what is lacking in each of us and may His kindness gather us together in the Sanctuary of his holiness!

MY BIOGRAPHY

Born October 1, 1935

Parents:  the late Jeanne (Charest) and Lionel LeDuc

Siblings:  Leo LeDuc and his wife, Jeanne, of New Bedford, MA

Rene LeDuc and his wife, Lucille, of New Bedford, 

Normand LeDuc and his wife, Cecile, of Brockton, MA

Mrs. George+ (Jeannette) Poyant of Madison, NH

 

Attended:

St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School, New Bedford, MA (1941-1949) with the Sisters of St. Joseph du Puys.

College de L’Assomption, L’Assomption, PQ, Canada (1949-1954) with the diocesan priests of the Archdiocese of Montreal.

St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, MD (1954-1960)with the Sulpician Fathers.

Ordained April 2, 1960 by the Most Reverend James L. Connolly, Bishop of Fall River at St. Mary's Cathedral, Fall River, MA

 

Pastoral Assignments:

Assistant Pastor at Sacred Heart Church, No. Attleboro, MA (1960-1969)

Assistant Pastor at St. Joseph Church, New Bedford, MA (1969-1979)

Pastor at Sacred Heart Church,  No. Attleboro, MA  (1979-1988)

Pastor at St. George  Church, Westport, MA  (1988-1996)

Pastor at St. Louis de France Church, Swansea, MA (1996-2003)

Retired from active pastoral ministry on June 25, 2003

Served as Retired Senior Priest at St. Joseph Church, Firebaugh, CA       2003

Continues to serve as Retired Senior Priest at St. Malachy Church, Tehachapi, CA since 2003

 

Other assignments:

Founder and director of the Catholic Young Adult Organization in the           Attleboro Deanery, MA (1961-1969)

Chaplain to the New Bedford District Diocesan Council of Catholic               Women (1971-1978)

Director of the Greater Attleboro and the Greater New Bedford                    Deaneries Annual Catholic Charities Appeal (1967-1975)

Director of St. Joseph School, New Bedford, (1969-1979)

Director of St. Mary-Sacred Heart School, No. Attleboro, MA (1979-1988

Director of St. George School, Westport, MA (1988-1990)

Chaplain of the Catholic Scouting Committee in the New Bedford               Deanery (c.1971-1979)

Member of the Attleboro Deanery and Diocesan Councils of the                Catholic Youth Organization (1961-1969)

Member of the Diocesan Liturgy Commission

Member of the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal serving as Advocate

Member of the Diocesan Sacred Music Commission

 

                 

Also served as: 

Chaplain of the Southeastern Councils of Union-Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Catholic Family Life Insurance) USJB-CFLI

Chaplain of USJB Duvernay Council #42 – No. Attleboro

Chaplain of USJB St. Therese Council #433 – New Bedford

Founding Chaplain of USJB St. George Council #441 – Westport

Founding Chaplain of USJB St. Ls. de France Council #442 – Swansea, MA

Chaplain of the Fall River Club Richelieu for Franco-American leadership

Member of the Greater New Bedford Committee of the Boy Scouts of America

Recipient of the Silver Beaver and the Catholic Boy Scout’s St. George Awards for outstanding service to Catholic Scouting and the BSA.

 

 

A SUMMARY

Since I was a child I always had a love for the Priesthood.  It was nurtured through Catholic Education in a New England parochial school followed by 5 years of classic discipline in a Canadian college.  This led to 6 years of formation in the seminary in Baltimore, MD. 

After ordination in 1960 I served 19 years as assistant pastor in two different parishes in the diocese of Fall River.  Then, for 25 years I served as Pastor in three consecutive parishes.  Retiring from pastorate in 2003 I came to California to help a priest friend as a senior retired priest in residence. This is a super situation, since it allows me to keep active in ministry without the responsibi-lities of pastoring. 

In retirement I have had an opportunity to visit the western USA including Hawaii and Alaska.  I traveled to Italy, Philippines, Hong Kong and China with hopefully more to go. It is also during these years that I developed a hobby with digital photography. With my friend, we developed a local service of greeting cards, photos and framed pictures under the logo of Padre's Prints.  I also like to spend quiet time at the keyboard to hear many of the old tunes of my youth.

Now I rejoice in 75 years of life and 50 years of ministry.  May there be many more, please God!

CONTACT ME

frleduc@aol.com

Check me out on FACEBOOK: Roger LeDuc