Dcn. Andre Blanchette, LC, to be Ordained to the Priesthood on April 29th, 2023
Deacon Andre Blanchette, LC, was born on May 16, 1991 in Quebec, Canada. He entered the Cornwall Vocational Center in 2003. He received the cassock in 2008 at the novitiate in Cornwall, Canada and two years later he completed his studies in the humanities at the Cheshire Humanities Center, United States. In 2012 he began his philosophy studies in Rome. During his apostolic practices he helped as prefect of discipline at the vocation center in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, in the United States. Returning to Rome in 2018, he began his theology studies at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, which he interrupted in 2020 to support as a training instructor at the Cumbres Institute in Bogotá, Colombia. He finished his theology studies in 2022 and is currently developing his ministry as a novice assistant in the city of Madrid, Spain.
Deacon Andre Blanchette, LC, will celebrate his first mass at 9:00 am, April 30th, 2023 at San Salvatore in Lauro Catholic Church in Rome, Italy.
“Come, listen, all you who fear God: I will tell you what he has done for my soul” (Ps 165:16). God loves everyone in a personal way. He looks at us and fills us with his delicacy. He puts His trust in us and calls us to do great things for Him. This is what I see when I reread my life. I hope you can say the same.
The first gift God gave me after giving me life was from my family. My parents lived in a pivotal moment in Quebec culture. Their parents had grown up in a culture strongly governed by the Catholic faith, where religious, priestly and missionary vocations abounded. But in the ’60s of their childhood, culture had passed to a decided refusal of the Church, to then join the current religious indifference. However, God willed that the seed of faith they had received and the grace of the sacrament of marriage should not remain inert. My mother had always loved going to Mass; She thought the homilies were beautiful. My father was dissatisfied with the responses of rationalism, effective in denigrating faith, but unable to propose anything better. It was in this context of research, accentuated by the inability to have children in their early years of marriage, in the midst of existential debates with co-workers that appeared in my parents’ lives, like a beacon, a believing couple, young and happy, of an attractive life and who offered convincing answers. One day, my father came home and said, “This Sunday I’m going to Mass.” The next step was the Ignatian spiritual exercises under the direction of a holy Jesuit father, Fr. Lacasse. Around these retreats, which have become annual, they found a group of friends who supported them in the faith. After seven years, when the Lord had guided them to abandon their infertility, they received what they fully committed into His hands: a son, Samuel, the one they had asked so much of the Lord. It would not be long before I arrived, followed by my sister Jeanne and my brother Luc.
How many good memories I have of those years spent with my family! Of course, our daily quarrels were not lacking. Also, I complained about having to attend the mass that seemed so long and being the only friend of mine who didn’t have a TV or video games at home. It wasn’t until I grew older that I realized the oasis in which the Lord had made me grow. Not only for the love that reigns between my parents and for the love they have for us, but above all for their faith: a discreet and deep faith, a “normal” faith, because it is daily, a faith like a delicate perfume that, without imposing itself, fills the house. I greatly admire my parents for living their faith in such a deep and respectful way.
From these years of childhood, I keep in my heart two key moments, one at its beginning, the other at its end, two moments when I clearly distinguish the action of God, two moments that form a foundation while remaining for me a mystery.
The first goes back to the ceremony of my baptism. I was baptized at the age of one month in a community baptism without a Eucharist. The rite includes a concluding prayer at the altar followed by a blessing. As the congregation prayed to the Lord’s Prayer, the priest took me in his hands – I was the least of the newly baptized – and lifted me up above the altar. Far from crying, as earlier when mom was adjusting my white garment, I opened my little arms crosswise, staring at a large cross hanging from the ceiling of the church above the altar. I cannot explain what happened. However, I know this wasn’t just a coincidence.
The second moment also followed a sacrament, that of my confirmation. I was eleven years old, and although I did not fully understand the importance of this sacrament, I was disappointed that the ceremony took place on any evening of the week after school and that the small party at home was only with my brothers and sister. After the celebration, while I was still in the church, the catechist asked me, “Andrew, what do you want to do when you grow up?” “I’m going to be a priest,” I replied. These were the words that came out of my mouth and, at that moment, they were sincere, even though I did not know where they had come from. Yes, it is true that I had noticed that the parish priest was happy, that I knew someone who said he wanted to be a priest and that I played at saying Mass as a child, just as we played at being a doctor or cook. But the thought that I could become a priest had never occurred to me before.
The Legionaries of Christ
At that time, I already knew the Legionaries of Christ. Through a family friend, Mr. Foisy, we met Fr. Kenneth, then seminarian of the Legionaries of Christ. From the age of ten, I attended weekend retreats at the Apostolic School, a secondary school run by the Legionaries in Cornwall, Ontario, for young people thinking about the priesthood. She was only a four-hour drive from my home, but the fact that she was in an English-speaking province made her look much further!
The stays at the apostolic school fascinated me. Eventually, I found young people my age in front of whom I could be fully myself, without fear of being ridiculed for my faith, with whom I could play and pray. I remember those moments with a smile, because today I realize that everything was not so beautiful and easy, but at that moment, the difficulties I encountered seemed insignificant. For example, during the first retreat, I had to shower with cold water all weekend because I didn’t understand how the hot shower water worked! The fact is that life at the apostolic school was not extraordinary, but when I came home, I could only talk about my happiness and enthusiasm. I admired the joy and charity among the students. I was also attracted to the life of novices who lived in the same institution. I was impressed by their universality and prayer life. These retreats helped me move forward in my faith. I joined ECYD (a Catholic youth club that offered daily Christian life commitments appropriate to my age) and started serving Mass, which suddenly made it much more interesting.
One day, when I was finishing a summer camp with the legionaries, Fr. Louis, who had accompanied me for the past few years, invited me to the apostolic school admission program. I was twelve, the minimum age, but I thought this five-week program was useless. Entering the apostolic school was not even an option for me, because I knew my parents would not allow me. Leaving home at the age of twelve to enter a minor seminary where I would only come home a few times a year and, in addition, in an English-speaking province of Canada, impossible! But Fr. Louis was persistent, and I came home thinking, “I’ll try.” If the apostolic school was not for me, I would not have lost anything. But if God called me, how would I know if I didn’t try? I don’t know how my parents let me go to this summer program. They probably thought like me that I would soon come home. Indeed, I had already been admitted and enrolled in an excellent high school in Quebec City.
I also don’t know what happened in me during those five weeks. I can only say that the Lord deceived me. At the end of the program, it was clear to me: the Lord was calling me to be a legionnaire. I was so convinced that I didn’t understand how my parents didn’t see it the same way. Today, I understand them! Letting go of a twelve-year-old son is painful! My parents feared that my decision would be rushed and that it would prevent me from making a free life choice when I was old enough. So we asked for prayers. And God was quick to respond.
That summer, it was my mother’s turn to do her week of retirement. The preacher was Father Jean Galot, a Belgian Jesuit and renowned theologian in Rome, who came to spend the summer in Canada. My mother shared her concern with her: she had a son who wanted to join the legionnaires, but who was only twelve years old. What should she do? She wanted the best for this son whom God had entrusted to her. Father Galot replied that she had nothing to fear. Going to the apostolic school wasn’t going to hurt. The legionaries of Christ are good and they are faithful to the Pope. He himself knew them well: he taught them theology in Rome!
Reassured, my parents allowed me to enter the apostolic school for one year, permission that would be renewed year after year, until I was seventeen years old and entered the novitiate. For me, this “for one year” already meant “for life”: I left everything to follow Christ.
Today, I can only be filled with gratitude and admiration for my parents. I admire their wisdom and discernment regarding my possible vocation. They knew how to pray, reflect, ask for advice, examine the fruits, but above all, walk one step at a time.
I myself marvel at the ways in which the Lord has guided me. Why did he, at such a vulnerable age, draw me in with such clarity and strength? Why did he want me to grow up in his house, keep me in the shade of his wings, and fill my teenage heart with high ideals for him and his reign? I can only recognize his great love for me.
What about the 20 years since that first decision? The voice of the Lord became soft. There have been storms, doubts, battles, darkness… but the Lord did not waver. Patiently, he made me grow, like a gardener who, after sowing, waters the earth, protects the small shoots, removes the brambles and waits. Today, I can say that he can’t wait: his dream is about to come true! I don’t know what awaits me. I only know that his plans infinitely surpass ours. His soft voice, full of hope and life, draws me to follow him.
All are warmly invited to join us for the live broadcast of the Ordination Mass on Saturday, April 29th, at 10:00 am Rome time (4:00 am EDT, 1:00 am PDT), here.