Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Abbe Gerard Lafreniere (RIP) - Tuesday in Lent Week III

Priest Ordained at 80 Passes Away

L’abbé Gérard Lafrenière qui a été ordonné prêtre par S.E. Mgr Terrence Prendergast, s.j. archevêque d’Ottawa le 25 mars 2009, est décédé paisiblement, le samedi 10 mars 2012 à l’âge de 83 ans.
Il est prédécédé par son épouse Gisèle Viau, décédée le 26 août 2007 et par son fils Jean. Il était le fils de feu Léon Lafrenière et de feu Emma Lauzon. Il laisse dans le deuil son fils Georges, sa sœur Georgette (feu René Richard), son frère Yvon (Hélène).
Il fût prédécédé par ses sœurs Thérèse (feu Émile Blais), Hélène et par ses frères Georges et Jean-Maurice. Il laisse également sa belle-sœur Diane (Denis Chevalier), ses beaux-frères Maurice (Marguerite Bourgeois), Armand (Lucille Lafrenière), Alain (Nicole Ménard) ainsi que plusieurs neveux, nièces, cousins, cousines et ami(e)s, sans oublier ses confrères prêtres et diacres permanents. Les plus sincères remerciements à Dr. Louise Coulombe et à Audry Tompson pour les bons soins prodiguées à Gérard.
La famille recevra parents et ami(e)s au salon funéraire Héritage, 2871, boul. St-Joseph, Orléans, le mardi 13 mars 2012 de 14h à 16h et de 19h à 21h. et le mercredi 14 mars de 9h à 9h45 en l’élise St-Joseph. L'Eucharistie de ses funérailles sera célébrée le mercredi 14 mars 2012 en l'église St-Joseph, 2757 boul. St-Joseph, Orléans.
Au lieu de fleurs, des dons à la Fondation Canadienne du Foie ou à la Société Saint-Vincent de Paul seraient appréciés. Les messages de condoléances peuvent être faits au www.heritagefh.ca.

Gerard Lafreniere, who was ordained a priest three years ago at the age of 80, died on Saturday after a brief illness, two weeks short of his third anniversary of ordination. 

Here is one of the many articles that appeared on the occasion of his priesthood (courtesy: Sunmedia):

OTTAWA - When Fr. Gerard Lafrenière was nine or 10 years old he told his mother he wanted to be a priest.

He maintained that dream even after he married Gisèle Viau at the age of 30, became the father of an adopted son, Georges, and embarked on a career in the insurance business.

On March 26, Lafrenière’s dream was finally realized when, at the age of 80, he was to be ordained in St. Joseph’s parish in Orleans, where he has served as a permanent deacon for 30 years.

“I had this on my mind my whole life,” he said. “(God) came and got me by the neck and said, ‘It’s your time.’ ”

He received the call from God, but the push came from his wife. She died in 2007 but, while terminally ill, she said to him several times: “Why don’t you become a priest?”

He replied it didn’t make sense because he was well past a priests’ normal retirement age of 75. But a year after his wife’s death, priests he knew began pressuring him to contact the archbishop. “No way! I’m too old,” he told them.

He continued to serve as a permanent deacon in his parish, assisting at Mass, doing marriages and baptisms, first Holy Communion preparation and visiting the sick. Then one day the associate pastor of the parish was moved, leaving rector Msgr. Peter Schonenbach alone.

Schonenbach told Lafrenière it would be a great help if he would join the priesthood. So Lafrenière sent a letter to Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. He didn’t expect to receive a reply.

Prendergast admitted he was surprised, but said “you have to take each case as it comes.”

“The people of God can always use another priest,” he said.

But Lafrenière had to put his training on hold when he experienced some health problems while at the junior seminary in Ottawa. He was told he was too hard on himself in his studies. Now he is like a man reborn.

One of the archbishop’s staff thought Lafrenière was a monsignor when he came to visit. “He looks like that,” he said. “He’s got a great sense of himself; he’s a very happy person.”

After consultations with clergy and permanent deacons, Prendergast decided to go ahead.

“Anyone who knew him, all unconditionally said ‘yes,’” he said. “Other people who didn’t know him said it doesn’t make sense to ordain someone who is 80.”

Prendergast noted that many thought Pope Benedict XVI, who was nearly 80 when elected Pope, was too old and frail for the job. “He seems to be thriving,” he said. “The Lord is full of surprises.

“Why are we putting up barriers, artificial ones?” he asked. “Some of the older priests working with him said he was already in effect functioning like a priest. His knowledge of canon law was excellent, and his files for marriage preparation were meticulous.”

Prendergast thinks Lafrenière’s insurance experience makes him detail oriented.

St. Joseph’s reserved 50 places for Lafrenière’s relatives from his side and his deceased wife’s families.

“I’m so happy for him,” said his son Georges, now 45. “I have no words to express all that happiness.”

He said his father will make an excellent priest because “he has the years of listening,” he said. “When people are talking, he’s all ears, he has the ears of the heart, that’s how I would describe my father,” he said.

Lafrenière said he has felt God’s presence his whole life. “He made me make a great detour in my life,” he said. “I let Him conduct my life. Otherwise, if you are sort of backing off, you won’t go very far.”

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Let us pray for the repose of his soul, for the consolation of his family and friends.  And let us remember to pray also for vocations to the priesthood:

Lord God, in every generation you have provided shepherds after your own heart and spiritual fathers for the family of the Church.  Hear us in our day as we beg you, "Do not leave us orphans!  Send us the Holy Spirit!"

Stir up in the heart of those whom you have chosen to be priests an awareness of your call and the courage to say, "Let it be done to me according to your word."

By your Spirit, mould them in the heart of Mary to be the image of your Son, faithful stewards of your grace.  Shape them into zealous apostles, who will preach the gospel with boldness, celebrate the Eucharist with reverence and be living signs of your love for all people.

We ask you this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

* * * * * *

O God, founder and ruler of your people, drive away the sins that assail them, that they may always be pleasing to you and ever safe under your protection.  Through Christ our Lord.

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