|CELLE QUI PLEURE|
I want to make this a celebratory review because the call for the departure of the missionaries makes me all the prouder of my family's connection to this "Mission Outpost" of the La Salette Missionaries. I say "Outpost" purposely, and pointedly. I say it that way because Missionaries are, by their vocation, movers and shakers, and settlers and builders. By vocation, missionaries are called to preach, teach, establish, found and turn over a ready to be driven product. Missionaries are never more at home than when they are in unknown territory. Missionaries are never more eloquent than when they struggle to communicate in a second or third language. Missionaries are never more satiated than when they cope with strange cuisine. Missionaries are never happier than the day they finally understand that "Yes, I'll try my best" means "NO."
Here are some thoughts that I have been sleepless over for the last few nights.
1. Immaculate Conception was founded to serve Franco-Americans. It did that very well. Some forty years ago, Holy Rosary Church, only about one fourth of mile away, was dismantled and the weepers and mourners were as much Franco-American as any other national group. The missionaries of La Salette, children of the Mother who told them to "Make this known to ALL my people" had made good on their promise.
2. It has been quite a while since the Franco-American community has diminished and the Puerto Rican community has grown. The missionaries had just the right guy in the wings. Father Tom Reilly, MS came to the parish and blessed it with his liguistic ability to handle French, Italian, Spanish and English. [I am sure that his Franco-American patois was not very great.] Now, that's making it known to ALL my people.
3. The main lobby of the old Immaculate Conception school is perhaps no longer the exhibit hall of the priests who had studied and graduated from the school. At least one of them was related to me, or so his brothers said. Henri Durand was a paratrooper chaplain during the War. René Brisebois also served as a chaplain during the War. Maurice Rondeau was a dear friend who sadly enough, died young. There were many more, but I can only remember those three off hand and a fourth that I will carry only in my heart.
4. For those of you who doubt that this was a mission parish, I present the greatest missionary of them all to serve us, Julien Marie Ginet, MS. He took the church from very humble beginnings and made it a monument to God's glory. Working people made it happen. It didn't matter whether they were Franco-American or not. The people of this blue collar ward made it happen. Fr. Ginet was a tough Frenchman. He was from a section of France very near La Salette. He left there, came to North America and never returned to his home country. He stayed here on orders from Our Mother Mary to make it known to ALL her people.
5. This tough Frenchman saved my grandfather's emotional life. When my grandfather lost his right hand in an industrial accident at the old Lyman Mills his psychological health was deeply impaired. I think that it is after this that his eldest son also died from a nasty set of circumstances. Not violence. Lack of medical expertise and technology.
Fr. Ginet started to visit the family every Saturday night to play Parchesi. One Saturday, so the story as I heard it, goes, Fr. Ginet told my Grandfather, "Joseph, take your tool box and come to the rectory after the daily Mass on Monday morning." It's a longer story than this, but suffice it to say that Joseph followed the pastor's command. From that moment until about 1949, some 50 years, Joseph worked at the parish center as a carpenter and cabinet maker. Yep, he taught himself how to do it without his dominant hand.
6. During and after Father Ginet, missionaries from far away places on the globe came to Immaculate Conception. There was William Breault, MS who came after a stint in Madagascar. There was Joseph Labonté, MS who had spent time in Burma before the white people were told to leave from there. There were some priests who came from the La Salette mission in Saskachewan. All of these dedicated men gave everything that they had to the apartment house dwelling blue collar population of the "Flats."
I could go on, but I won't. I have made my point. The La Salette missionaries should not be bathed in our tears these days. They should be celebrated and thanked for the apostolic success that, by the Grace of God, they have shown the Church. They have done valiant work for God and God's flock over one century. There are other vineyards to be cultivated where the La Salette Missionaries are dearly needed. Let me name just a few, off the cuff; Bolivia, Argentina, Haiti, the great Canadian Tundra as well as Eastern Europe and many countries in Africa. Lest I forget, the inner cities of the United States of America, its jails and prisons as well as its hospitals and universities.
Therefore, thank God for the La Salette Missionaries. For many of us, they made us who we are. Why cry over that? They gave the Church a couple dozen good priests just from Immaculate Conception alone. Why cry over that? They took care of the growing Puerto Rican community in difficult times. Why cry over that?
Remember, it is the missionary's vocation to be the John the Baptist of the Church...he prepares the way and then gets out of the way.
Come to think of it, isn't that something like we are all called to do? Even Jesus came to give us the way, teach us how to walk it, pass the way on to others and then go home to where we all belong. So, when I get called back home, you now know that you do not have to cry for me.