Maine Catholics mourn beloved priest Blanchette

Posted Sept. 29, 2010, at 8:58 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:50 a.m.

Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland will concelebrate the funeral Mass here Friday of the Rev. Brian D. Blanchette, 60, who served hundreds of Catholic parishioners throughout the state and was remembered Wednesday as a kind and generous individual and a “gifted storyteller.”

Blanchette died Sept. 25 at a hospital after heart surgery, according to the diocese. He most recently served as parochial vicar at St. Anne in Gorham, St. Anthony in Westbrook, St. Joseph in Bridgton, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Windham.

Blanchette was born in Houlton, the son of Onezime and Ernestine (Rossignol) Blanchette, and spent 10 years as the teaching principal of the Monticello Grade School, according to an obituary published Tuesday in the Bangor Daily News. He also earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Maine.

At age 33, he decided to become a priest and was ordained to the priesthood on May 12, 1985, by Bishop Edward O’Leary.

He previously served at St. Mary’s Parish, Presque Isle; Immaculate Conception Parish, Calais; St. Francis Xavier Parish, Winthrop; St. Michael Parish, Augusta; and Cluster 23 serving primarily at St. Joseph Parish in Bridgton and Elizabeth Ann Seton Mission in Fryeburg. He also served as chaplain at St. Joseph’s College, Windham.

Mary Francis, who now lives in Presque Isle, met Blanchette when she lived in Calais and was a communicant of Immaculate Conception Parish. She said Wednesday that she “loved” to listen to Father Blanchette’s stories.

“He was very down to earth, very caring,” she said. “He talked so much about his family, and he talked a lot about his time as a teacher. You could tell how devoted he was to his family, and it was clear that he felt that the students that he taught actually taught him a great deal as well.

“I only lived there for three years, and I hated to move because I knew I would miss going to Mass under Father Blanchette,” she said.

Kim McDonald of Winthrop was a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Parish during Blanchette’s tenure. She described Blanchette as a “gifted storyteller” who loved animals and people in general.

“I think that anyone who knew Father Blanchette was blessed to have him in their lives,” she said. “You could tell he loved life and doing the little things everyone enjoys, like spending time with family. He loved cars as well. I know a lot of people in the parish used to talk to him about cars.”

McDonald said that Blanchette also helped her best friend’s niece adjust to college life after she moved to Maine to attend St. Joseph’s College in Windham.

“She moved to the college from Connecticut, and she didn’t know anyone,” she recalled. “One of the first people she really got to know was Father Blanchette. She always talked about how much she enjoyed his services. She was an elementary education major, and he talked to her a lot about his time as a teacher. He was very encouraging, and she is now a third-grade teacher in New Hampshire.”

Reception of the body will be held at 5 p.m. today at St. Mary’s Church in Houlton, where visiting hours will follow until 8 p.m. Visiting hours will also be held 9:30-10:45 a.m. Friday at St. Mary’s Church. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 1, at St. Mary’s Church, officiated by Bishop Malone. A reception will be held after the service.

Donations may be made to Good Shepherd Food-Bank, P.O. Box 1807, Auburn 04211-1807 or online at www.gsfb.com. Funeral arrangements are by Bowers Funeral Home in Houlton. For an online register go to the obituaries archive at www.bangordailynews.com.

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