Thursday, December 10, 2015

Fr. Paul Bedard, SDB (1926-2015)

Fr. Paul Bedard, SDB (1926-2015)

Fr. Paul in 2010
Fr. Paul Bedard, SDB, died on December 7, 2015, at Carrollwood Care Center in Tampa from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Fr. Paul, a member of the SDB community of Mary Help of Christians Center in Tampa, had turned 89 three weeks earlier. He was a Salesian for 58 years and a priest for 50 years.

Paul Bedard was born to Camille and Emilia Bedard in Saco, Me., on Nov. 16, 1926. After high school, he served in the Army in Japan, tried college under the G.I. Bill but dropped out, and worked for Standard Oil in Saudi Arabia for two years. Dissatisfied with that life, he returned to the States “and drifted for the next two years” but began attending daily Mass and thinking about the priesthood again—having made a short-lived experiment with Maryknoll’s junior seminary in the 1940s. Several orders turned him down because of either age or lack of a college degree. After quite a few years of trying to discern God’s will, he discovered the SDBs through a vocation ad in Our Sunday Visitor, and he was accepted as a candidate (“Son of Mary”) at the old age of 29, enrolling at Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., in July 1955. He made his first vows on September 8, 1957, at St. Joseph’s Novitiate in Newton.

Bro. Paul Bedard, Bolivia, 1960
An average student, Bro. Paul earned a B.A. in philosophy from DBC in 1960 and then went as a missionary to Montero, Bolivia, where the Salesians were trying to start an agricultural school. When that didn’t work out, he taught in the diocesan minor seminary in Cochabamba. He did theological studies in Cordoba, Argentina (1962-1965), but returned to the U.S. for ordination in Newton in 1965 and some brief experience on the staffs of St. Dominic Savio High School in East Boston, the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y., and Salesian Missions in New Rochelle, N.Y. (1965-1966).

Following ordination, Fr. Paul returned to Bolivia to complete his theological studies and then teach high school (1966-1967). Encountering difficulties related in part to anti-Americanism and in part to antipathy from a superior (whom he struggled for years to be able to forgive), he returned to the New Rochelle Province, where he served in a variety of ministries for the next 43 years.

He was briefly an assistant pastor at Holy Rosary Parish in Port Chester, N.Y., in 1967 and then was sent to Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, La., to teach (1967-1968). He wasn’t happy doing that and took a two-year leave of absence for vocational discernment while serving as a parish priest in Portland, Ore. (St. Paul, 1968-1970); he decided that he wanted to remain a Salesian.

He was assigned to teach at Don Bosco Tech in Boston (1970-1975)—which was his favorite assignment—and Salesian Prep in Cedar Lake, Ind. (1976-1978), with a year between as assistant pastor at St. Anthony Parish in Paterson, N.J.
Fr. Paul's ordination in the chapel of Don Bosco College, Newton

The parish ministry that he found more satisfying than the classroom occupied most of the rest of his active life: Ste. Claire Parish in Montreal (1978-1984), Mary Help of Christians in New York City (1984-1985), Holy Rosary in Port Chester (1991), St. Anthony in Paterson (1991-1994), St. Anthony in Elizabeth, N.J. (1994-1996), St. Benedict in Etobicoke, Ont. (2004), and St. John Bosco in Chicago (2004-2005).

From 1985 to 1990 Fr. Paul was chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Miami, for which he prepared by taking a clinical pastoral education course at Cabrini Medical Center in New York and attaining chaplain’s certification. This program developed him personally as well as professionally. To his supervisor, staff, and peers he demonstrated “honesty, integrity, and commitment to be himself, a strong faith and the ability to share this faith with others,” as well as his love for Don Bosco and the SDBs; they saw him as a prayerful man

Fr. Paul presiding at Mass in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians

in Turin during a pilgrimage of SDBs from our province.

He also served on the retreat teams at Sacred Heart Retreat Center in Ipswich, Mass. (1996-1999), and Don Bosco Retreat Center in Haverstraw (2005-2010). From 1999 to 2004 he was responsible for care of sick and elderly Salesians in Stony Point, N.Y. He made a short foray into the foreign missions again in 1990, in Sierra Leone.

Fr. Paul’s fluency in both French and Spanish benefited many. Still, in 2007 he described his life as an SDB as “mostly in the background, unimpressive, bland.” Earlier this year, he confessed that he couldn’t think of anything he’d done worth remembering: he never held “positions of authority” and “was a mediocre teacher.” He considered himself to have been a “flunky” in parish work who gave homilies neither “stimulating nor inspiring.” He also humbly confessed, “I know I could have tried harder, been more spiritual,” and he regretted not always having imitated “our Lord, our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. John Bosco, Michael Rua, and the thousands of great Salesians who have been examples to follow.”

Fr. Paul poses with Fr. Pascual Chavez, Rector Major,

at Salesian HQ in Rome
His confreres observed him in a different light. Fr. Romeo Trottier wrote: “I lived with Paul a few years in Montreal at Ste-Claire Parish; he was assistant pastor at the beginning of the 1980s. He was really a man of service and he did it with great generosity. Much empathy for the poor (beggars) who asked for help—even to the point of cooking a steak for them at 9 in the evening. [He was] faithful in visiting the sick—e.g., Communion on 1st Friday. He was a man of prayer and faithful to attendance in community.”

Fr. Paul summed up his spiritual life with quotations from St. Augustine and St. Paul: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You” from Augustine, and “I live now, not I, but Christ within me” from Paul.

Fr. Paul with the house mascot, Zito, at St. Philip Residence
In 2010 Fr. Paul retired to the St. Philip the Apostle residence at Mary Help of Christians Center in Tampa, where he remained until recently, when infirmity necessitated his move into Carrollwood Care Center.

Fr. Paul was waked at Mary Help of Christians Church in Tampa on Wednesday, December 9. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on December 10 with his director, Fr. Stephen Ryan, presiding and preaching.

A second set of services will be celebrated at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y., on Friday, December 11: wake at 4:00-7:00 p.m. and Mass of Christian Burial at 7:30 p.m. It’s anticipated that Fr. Steve Shafran, provincial, will preside and Fr. Frank Kelly will preach.

Burial will take place on December 12 at the Salesian Cemetery in Goshen.

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