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Home WHO WE ARE Assumptionists Profiles Fr. PHILIP BONVOULOIR, A.A. (1929-2012)

Fr. PHILIP BONVOULOIR, A.A. (1929-2012)

Fr. PHILIP BONVOULOIR, A.A. (1929-2012)


Interviewer – Would you share with us a bit about your family, your Assumptionist roots and educational background?

Fr. Phil – I am from North Adams, MA, where my Dad was an insurance agent. I grew up with two brothers and two sisters and had the Sisters of St. Anne in elementary school. When it came time for high school, I went to Assumption Prep and the on to the College. I entered the community in Canada and after graduation from college I went to France on the Isle de France to study. My four years of theological studies were influenced by some of the great theologians who were later to impact Vatican II, especially in systematic and liturgical renewal. I was blessed to have my parents come to southern France in 1954 for my ordination.

Where did your assignments take you after your ordination?

– After returning to the U.S., again on the Isle de France, I was assigned to teach English and Religion at the Prep, where I was also the Dean of Students for fifteen years.

During that time I spent five summers studying at Boston College for a Master’s in Psychology and Counseling. Then in 1970, with the closing of the Prep, Frs. Albert Poirier, Leo Brassard, Paul Vaudreuil, Bro. Donald Espinosa and I got together to look at ministerial opportunities beyond New England. As it turned out, Bishop Joseph Hodges of Wheeling, West Virginia was most responsive and welcoming to us. So we took a parish is Weirton. Fr. Leo and Bro. Donald taught at Madonna High School, while Fr. Paul and I worked in parish ministry and adult education. The other valued member of our community was our canine friend Duchess. I had always wanted a dog! Those were very happy years in West Virginia.

Did you come back to New England after that?

– No, in 1976 I went to Moscow and ministered to the international community which included embassy personnel and commercial people living there at that time. Moving about the city always required caution. I wore a cross on my jacket in public, on buses etc. Often folks would bow their heads in recognition, giving evidence of their respect for this Christian symbol and how they struggled to keep their faith alive.

Where did your assignments take you after Moscow?

– In 1980 I moved to Sturbridge to work at St. Anne’s for a short while before moving on to NYC for nine years. Following that assignment, Fr. Peter Precourt, Bro. Richard Gagnon and I moved to St. Joseph’s Parish in Pawtucket, Rhode Island where I did prison ministry for six years. I found that work to be a real eye-opener in many ways.  It was a challenge and unique experience to preach the gospel and celebrate the sacraments with that population. I truly loved it!

And now where has your journey led you?

– I am now back at St. Anne’s in Sturbridge where I enjoy ministering to the elderly in their homes and at a nearby nursing home. That is a most grace-filled experience for me. I also train Eucharistic ministers in the parish to provide the same service. In addition, I am involved in the RCIA process.

Do you have any outstanding memories that you would like to share?

– Yes, I had one experience in Moscow that I will never forget. Whenever I could, I enjoyed going cross-country skiing in the suburbs. On several occasions, I noticed a fellow in the dead of winter with an easel painting a church while overlooking the city. Since I admired his work, I set up an appointment with him to see his other artistic pieces. Well, out of the woods came the police who arrested me and promptly took me off to jail. After an hour of being interrogated by the KGB, who suspected me of buying icons to smuggle out of the country, I somehow convinced them that I was innocent and they let me go. I will never forget that experience!

What do you see as challenges in the future for the Church and the congregation?

– I see internationalization as an enriching future for the Church and the challenge that it presents to the clergy. But along with that, I see the growing appreciation of the role of the laity. That is exciting because, in many ways, they keep the faith alive in so many parts of the world. I saw it in West Virginia and Moscow. And we must remember that empowering the laity and working along with them was a dream of Fr. d’Alzon.

NOTE: Since this interview took place, Fr. Phil passed away on April 28, 2012.
May he rest in peace.

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