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Home WHO WE ARE Assumptionists Profiles Fr. OLIVER BLANCHETTE A.A. (1916 - 2020)

Fr. OLIVER BLANCHETTE A.A. (1916 - 2020)


Worcester, March 2011
Would you share with us a bit about your background: family, childhood, early education etc.?

I was born in Springfield, MA in 1916 and was an only child. My father was a toolmaker and my mother was quite sickly and died when I was seven years old. My grandmother and two aunts lived across the street. They along with my father raised me in a very loving environment. I went to St. Thomas Aquinas school and had the Holy Cross sisters as teachers. It was one of them who first encouraged me to think about being a priest some day. When I finished elementary school, I went to a public technical high school.

How did you come to know the Assumptionists?

After high school, I wanted to further my education. I was a distant relative of Fr. Wilfred who had a diocesan priest friend, Fr. Antonio. It was he, who in 1934 encouraged me to go to Assumption College. After graduation, I chose to enter the community and did my novitiate in Quebec, Canada. I did my seminary work at Laval University and was ordained in 1944.

Where did subsequent community assignments take you?

Following my ordination, I moved back to Worcester to teach religion. After the tornado, I was headmaster and superior at the prep from 1956 – 1962. That was the year that our General Superior, Fr. Wilfred, sent me to France and Rome to prepare as master of novices. I was there for six months before going to Canada as Regional Superior for one year. Then I was assigned as novice master in Saugerties, NY for three years where I also became very active in the Cursillo movement. From 1968 – 1970 I was superior at the prep until it closed. Then I moved to The John XXIII Retreat Center in Cassadaga, NY until that closed in 1978. While there I was involved in a variety of retreat experiences, including our summer family retreat program. I also worked in the ministry to the divorced in the diocese of Buffalo. After that house closed, I came back to Worcester to do parish work and eventually went to St. Anne’s in Sturbridge, MA as an associate for twenty years. During those very happy years, I also continued working in Cursillo and became involved in ecumenical efforts, reaching out to Muslims, participating in the Emmaus program for priests and did RCIA ministry in the parish.

Did you ever have an assignment beyond the U.S. borders again?

Yes, in 1999, Fr. John Franck, A.A., the Provincial at the time, asked me to go to East Africa. While there I preached retreats, celebrated English liturgies and for the most part worked with seminarians.  It was out of that experience that some folks from St. Anne’s decided to support our East African missions in a significant way.  In 2007 I returned to Worcester and Old English Road where, through the internet, I became very involved in our Lay – Religious Alliance.

Have you enjoyed and hobbies or other interests over the years?

As a young man, I enjoyed all kinds of sports, especially tennis, until I was in my 60s. Now I read mostly and keep up to date on the life of the Church. My favorite reading materials today include America, the Tablet and the NCR.

What is your vision or hope for the future of the Church and/or the congregation?

Well, as Jesus has promised us, I believe that He will always be with us. That being said, I believe that the Church is in need of adapting to the times and that the pain we have experienced in recent years will change us for the better in the long run. I also strongly believe that we religious will always have something to offer, however it is the role of the laity that is key to our Church of today and the future. They have so many gifts that will benefit the Church and society at large. With regard to the congregation, I believe that our efforts need to go beyond survival to living life as freely as possible in the context of today. We need to continue to grow in our efforts of globalization. I hope that this will be a focus of our general chapter as it looks at internationality. The importance of this is evident in such countries as Bucharest, Togo, Vietnam, Africa and the Philippines. As our father Augustine teaches us, ours is a journey of the heart and the mind. Fr. d’Alzon told us to study but love more and we will contribute to the transformation of society in the Church’s service of the Kingdom. The strongest inspirations in my life were Blessed Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council. I do believe that the ‘best is yet to come’ as I approach my 95th birthday on March 12th!

Worcester, May 2010
Interviewer - As an Assumptionist priest, what has been at the heart of your many years of faithful ministry in the Church?

- Fr. Oliver - At 94 years of age, the core of my life I would say is the fraternal love of being an Assumptionist, the impact of the Second Vatican Council and living a life of service to the Church. It is because of those gifts and realities in my life that I can continue with purpose, passion, hope and energy.

- What is the specific hope and direction of your energy at this time?

- What excites me with great energy and hope for the future is the continued efforts of the Assumptionists in the empowerment of and collaboration with the laity. This is becoming more and more evident, I believe. It is further supported by the life and work of Fr. d'Alzon and the congregation's document "Encountering God...and humankind.

- What effects do you see taking place as a result of this growth?

- It has already begun to take shape around the world and here in the U.S. with some measure of success.  It is seen in the laity's response to the call to universal holiness, in the service of the Church and consequently to the world. In partnering with the religious, I see this lay Assumptionist movement as prophetic, gifted by great diversity and potentially having global benefits for the congregation and society as a whole.

- How would you sum up your efforts in bringing this dream to fruition?

- I believe wholeheartedly in this dream and its future possibilities. This is the best stage of my life!

Note: Since this interview took place, Fr. Oliver Blanchette, A.A. passed away on May 11, 2020. May he rest in peace.

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