Saturday, June 30, 1962 will mark the first time in the 65 year history of St. Mary’s Church that the Sacrament of Holy Orders will be administered to one of its native sons. The ordination of Father Roger Labonte to the Holy Priesthood will go down in the annals of the parish as one of its most memorable events, one that most people seldom have an opportunity to witness.
This ordination is a blessing not only for the family of Father Laborite but for the whole parish as well. Not only is every member of the parish invited to be present at the ordination but any non-catholic will be more than welcome. The Most Rev. Ernest J. Primeau, Bishop of Manchester will be present to confer the ordination. The Franciscan choir from Rye Beach will sing at the ordination.
Father Labonte will sing his first Solemn High Mass at 11:15 on Sunday, July 1st, when he will be assisted by Father Raymond Bell also a White Father. St. Mary’s choir will sing at the mass on Sunday.
He is a member of the White Fathers, a missionary society devoted exclusively to work in Africa. Father Labonte, who has been at the White Fathers’ Scholasticate in Carthage, Tunisia, for his four years of theological studies, left June 16 by plane for Montreal Canada. He will make an eight-day retreat at Eastview, Ontario, before coming to New Hampshire for ordination.
Father Labonte, who spent most of his boyhood in Newmarket, graduated from St. Mary’s Grade School in 1948, already sure that his vocation was to the priesthood. He went on to Newmarket high school, at the same time helping his father with the dairy farming. When he was a junior he won a $50 first prize in a newspaper contest, writing a 100-word essay on what he hoped to be and why.
Following graduation in 1952 he prepared to enter the seminary and went to St. Therese, near Montreal, Canada, with the idea of improving his French. In 1956, he entered the White Fathers and two years later, after completing his novitiate and philosophy studies, he left for Carthage.
“I discovered another world, other men, with other ways of doing things,” Father Labonte recalls as he looks back on what has happened during the four years since he took a boat from Naples to Tunisia, North Africa.
“I can truly say that I do feel at home now,” he declares, “and when I leave it will be with a heavy heart as I have come to appreciate this country with its people.”
Father Labonte’s family will give a dinner at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday for members of the family and close friends. Following the dinner a reception open to all who wish to attend will be held at the school hall from 2:30 to 4:30. All are urged to attend to meet Father Labonte and to receive his blessings.
Printed: Newmarket Times, Thursday June 28, 1962
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