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Prep Reunion 2006

Keynote speaker
Former Prep teacher and headmaster
Fr. Oliver Blanchette, A.A. AP’35

Good evening!

Please excuse me if you have trouble in identifying just who is speaking to you! Is it Robert, Bob, Bobby? Could it be Minsky or Cutie? Or is it Olly or Fr. Oliver. Take your pick!

In any case I am amazed over the enthusiasm with which men of your experience and stature hold to your Assumption Prep School experience, a school that no longer exists. I honor that loyalty and I am pleased to be with you this evening. All the mores so because this is not an Old Boy’s Club get-together for you are here with your lovely wives. That makes it all the more refreshing for me a confirmed old bachelor. One who, nevertheless, is happy in these troubled times for our Church, to have struggled to lead a celibate life in order to love, not less, but more and always for the sake of the Kingdom-

Your loyalty has obliged me to reflect on the preciousness of our roots at the Prep and on the many branches that have grown from those roots, branches reaching outward and upward in so many ways. There have Doctors, Lawyers, Priest, Missionaries, Politicians, Athletes, Coaches, Teachers, Judges, Superior General, Scientists, Businessmen and so many more, including of course, so many, many wonderful husbands and fathers. It has also impelled me to look above the roots and beyond the branches to something even greater, to how roots and branches were preparing each of us for his unique role in fostering here on earth the Kingdom of God, Father of us all.

I speak as an alumnus of Assumption Prep. For in 1934-1935 I was “Minsky” the P.G. student, buddy of another P.G. named Lapointe, whose nickname was the source of mine. But I speak especially as a member of the faculty and, of course, as an Assumptionist.

Reflecting on what these roots as an Assumption Prep Alumnus might have offered us, one can think of several benefits. There was an opening to a broader and deeper view of the life through an introduction to the humanities. There was the general sense of discipline the experience gave us. And, more specifically the disciplined life of studies that helped us in College and beyond. But as I looked out over our troubled world where extremism, be it in the form of terrorism or a dangerous presumptuous nationalistic ideology, is so rampant I wondered if Assumption Prep had not, in spite of its limitations and weaknesses, formed many men with a sense of realism and balance, yet one opening to something beyond, something greater, to working and sharing in the Kingdom of Our Father, that together we so often prayed about, a Kingdom of justice, peace, love and joy.

And how might that sense of realism, balance, and hope have played itself out? Each of you could give a moving response to that question. I just received a letter from Rene Manes, Class of ’35. He spoke of the recent death of our classmate Roland “Max” Achin Prep ’35. Max was a character, a remarkable P.R. man who during our college years at Assumption as manager of our tennis team had us playing teams like Harvard, Navy…. He didn’t’ tell people were playing their second or freshman teams. Once I played at Harvard, the recent New England High School champ. It was over in twenty minutes. Oh well! Max loved the show. HE came to novitiate in Quebec with me, lasting only a few months. But then there was military service and marriage to a fine German girl. One of his sons was blind. Max took wonderful care of him. That son graduated from Assumption College. Roots, the branches, Max was in the family insurance business, marriage, had produced something greater. A good husband, a caring father.

One other response that might interest you a bit is the one. It’s the summer of 1991. There is a knock on my door. Fr. John, then our Provincial Superior, asks “Oliver would you be willing to go to our East African Mission? You could help the students, brothers, with their English but especially I believe your simple presence, as an older religious would be appreciated and beneficial. Think it over for a few days and let me know.” So for the last 7 school sessions I’ve been either in Nairobi, Kenya or Arusha, Tanzania, helping the Brothers with their English teaching about Religious Life, preaching (and fortunately not in Swahili!) and doing a bit of spiritual counseling. On my 90 th birthday I was made an honorary African elder a cherished privilege in Africa. One your African Assumptionist wrote: “Father Oliver, as an African elder, is now a tree of a Spring of Wisdom where young people can feel helped, counseled or reassured in their vocation.” Reading these lines, where the truth had kindly been inflated quite a bit, I nonetheless, realized that Fr. John was right. “One’s simple presence can make a difference.”

In today’s world we need that sense of Missionary Presence more than ever. And I like to think that the roots of such a presence were planted in that sense of realism, balance and openness and hope that was sown in our Prep School experience. And more than ever that Missionary Presence takes the form of solidarity. It’s no longer enough to be charitable toward the poor. We are called, as one human family, to live in communion with one another accepting that when anyone is oppressed in any way and loses something of her/his dignity, I too am diminished and I am called to be concerned about that loss of all of us. Traditional African culture puts it this way: “I am because you are; you are because I am.” My prayer is that thanks to our common roots at Assumption Prep, our various life experiences, and strengthened by God’s merciful love, we have been prepared for this something beyond, this something greater, that is to be men (people) of solidarity, of Missionary Presence to all others, whoever, wherever they may be.

For more info, contact Melanie Demarais at 508-767-7146

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