Augustinians of the Assumption

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Home WHO WE ARE Assumptionists Profiles Fr. DONAT LAMOTHE A.A.



Interviewer – Would you share with us your family’s background and your early education?

Fr. Donat – I was born in Keene, NH in 1935, one of two boys, where my father was a grocer. He eventually owned and managed his own mom and pop store where, during the war years, my mom worked with him. As my family was French Canadian, we spoke French at home. We belonged to St. Joseph’s parish where my brother and I went to school and had the Sisters of Mercy.

– How did you come to know the Assumptionists?

– While I did have an uncle who was a diocesan priest for the diocese of Manchester, NH, and who spent twenty-one years working in Salt Lake City, UT, I met the Augustinians of the Assumption in 1949 when I went to the Prep. While there I was impressed with how the they could be both priests and teachers, both of which greatly attracted me. During that time, I worked in the sacristy and continued to develop my interest in music. Studying the piano had been part of my life since elementary school. I continued with the organ, sang and was active in the liturgical life of the parish.

– How did your love of the priesthood and music continue to develop?

– Right after my graduation from the Prep, the tornado hit Worcester in 1953. I went on to the college for two years commuting each day on an Army bus. At the end of my sophomore year, I entered the congregation, did my novitiate in Saugerties, NY and was professed in 1956. After a brief time at home, I sailed for Europe on a steamer with Fr. Denys Gonthier, A.A. and spent some time in Spain and at our house in Paris. I finished my last two years of college in Belgium at St. Gerard’s.

– Where did you study theology?

– My first year of theology was in Lormay, France where I continued doing sacristy work and studied music and liturgy. My next two years were in Lyon, France where I continued my music and Gregorian Chant in particular at the St. Gregory Institute. While in Lyon at Valpre, I loved studying scripture. In 1962 I was ordained in Lyon with my parents present and which was followed by a week in Rome that included Palm Sunday celebrated by Pope John XXIII.

– What were your ministry assignments after ordination?

– Back from Rome, I was chaplain to a group of cloistered sisters in Marseilles and then finished my last year of theology in Lyon. Home in the U.S., I soon went to Ottawa, Canada for a year to do a license in philosophy before coming to the college in 1963 to teach philosophy and theology where I also directed the Glee Club and community liturgies.

– How did your focus on music and liturgy grow from there?

– In 1969 the college went coed just after Vatican II. I was asked to start a music program, so I went to Boston University to do a Master’s in music while I lived at our house on Pine Road in Brookline, MA. In 1972 the program began at the college where I taught the history of music and appreciation courses. In 1976, Fr. Richard Lamoureux, A.A., Chair of the Arts and Music Department encouraged me to go on for a doctorate, so I went to Strasburg to Study with a focus on the psalms used during the Protestant Reformation. My thesis research took me to Switzerland  to study with a specialist in the psalms who studied Claude Le Jeune, a Protestant composer off the 16th century and the translation of his works. In 1980 after three years and the defense of my work, I returned to the college to teach. This year I began my forty-eighth year of teaching! In addition to teaching courses, I conduct concerts on the early music of the Middle Ages and help out in parishes and with Mission Co-op. I also continue to work with a group of singers of Gregorian Chant who go out to parishes on an invitation basis.

– Do you have any hobbies or other interests?

Yes, I do icons in the Eastern tradition. Once a month I go to Sturbridge, MA where we have an outstanding collection of icons and do “Praying with Icons” and teach folks how to read them. My interest began with a retreat on Enders Island, CT with a master icon teacher from Russia. Iconography, the study of icons and the actual doing of them is a special and powerful form of prayer. Also, since 1986, I have been archivist of the college, the center of which is in the d’Alzon Library.

– Do you have any happy memories to share?

- In March 1986 our Assumption College choral performed at a general audience of Pope John Paul II. Needless to say, that was a very special experience to remember. And then again in 2002, we performed for the beatification of our Bulgarian Martyrs. As a further commemoration of them, I did icons, a copies of which are in Rome and the Philippines. One has yet to be sent to Bulgaria.

– What do you see as hopeful signs for the future of the congregation?

 – I see the growth of the congregation in Third World Countries like Africa, Vietnam, Korea, China and the Philippines. I also see the renewal of our Eastern missions as the center of our ecumenical work.

Icons written by Father Donat

The Meaning of Icons - video

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