Deacon Stephen LeBlanc Pilot file photo
This is the third in a series of articles profiling each of the nine men who will be ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on May 21. Earlier articles in the series are available at TheBostonPilot.com.
Ordination day marks the end of formal studies for the priesthood, but Deacon Stephen LeBlanc sees his studies as just beginning.
"The cleric is a person 'on the books,'" he explained. "A priest is a studious person who can examine things in life and go deeper with the concepts that have been taught in seminary."
"There are so many things in a treasure chest of stuff that all seminarians have gotten while we are here," he continued. "I am definitely looking forward to studying the things that we have been given at ground level here."
"Some of the best advice I have ever received is from well-informed priests who realized and read the situation in front of them based on their knowledge, grace of order and faith, and have passed it onto me," Deacon LeBlanc said.
Deacon LeBlanc, 42, was born and raised in Hanover. The middle child of three, he received all his sacraments at St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Church. After graduating Xaverian Brothers High School, he attended Villanova University in Pennsylvania where he studied business.
It was while at Villanova that Deacon LeBlanc first realized that he "that I could think in an intellectual way about my life and about my faith," he recalled.
After graduating, he returned to his parent's home and began working in downtown Boston. It was there that he first heard about the Roman Rite Mass celebrated according to the Missal of 1962 at Holy Trinity Church in the South End.
The Mass "helped me to understand the mystery of God and of the Church and all kinds of things," he said. "I'd been going to Mass since I was a child, but I didn't know there was a root to it."
"There was a lot more there that fed me," he recalled. "I could see the vertical aspect of my religion because it was right there."
Even the fact that the Mass was celebrated in Latin appealed to Deacon LeBlanc.
"I felt connected to prior generations who probably didn't study Latin but understood the thrust of it," he said.
He said his fellow parishioners, seeing his enthusiasm, asked Deacon LeBlanc to consider whether God might be calling him to the priesthood.
"I wasn't sure why they were saying it," he shrugged, "but I resolved to check it out."
Shortly thereafter, Deacon LeBlanc was accepted to Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Lincoln, Neb., a seminary established by Pope St. John Paul II in 1988 for priests wishing to celebrate the sacraments in the extraordinary form. For two years, Deacon LeBlanc attended that seminary, but determined he wasn't called to that vocation.
Upon returning to Boston, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church "came into" his life, he said. "It was there that the idea of the vocation came back to me and I realized that I couldn't keep waiting."
At the urging of Father Charles Higgins, pastor of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church, Deacon LeBlanc contacted Father Daniel Hennessey, vocations director for the archdiocese, in 2010 and told him he would like to enroll at St. John's Seminary.
"Now, here I am, I'm entering the role of ordained minister and it's fascinating because I'm now starting to carry out the life I started watching so many years ago," he mused.
He sees the challenge ahead ? ministering at a time when "people are taken up with the world and with themselves too much."
"There are all kinds of manifestations of this: people don't think they commit sin; people don't think they have to go to Mass; people don't think they have to live a moral life," he continued.
He sees his role as that of bringing the beauty of God into people's lives through liturgy and through prayer.
"God is really quite attractive, quite beautiful, in all kinds of ways," mused Deacon LeBlanc. "Someone once said, 'Beauty will save everything.' Well, when people realize how beautiful it is to relate to their God and that to live a life ? inside and out, right to the core ? with him is to be treasured, not just an obligatory thing," he continued, "then they can say that God is good and their relationship with their God is good."