Jul 5, 2011

UPDATED: Diocese mourns the loss of Father Paul Archambault



By Carolee McGrath

SPRINGFIELD --  Parishioners from across the Diocese of Springfield are mourning the loss of  Father Paul J. Archambault.  The 42-year-old priest was found dead Sunday at the rectory of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart  (OLSH) Church on Boston Road, here.

Father Archambault was a chaplain at Baystate Medical Center and a part- time parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Hampden and in residence at OLSH.

Springfield police confirmed Father Archambault died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

Mark E. Dupont, spokesperson for the diocese, said Father Archambault celebrated 4 p.m. Mass at St. Mary Church in Hampden. He was later called to Baystate Medical Center’s emergency department to minister to a Catholic patient. He was last seen leaving the hospital at 6:45 p.m.

“We know that he had been quite busy performing his priestly duties throughout the holiday weekend, which was very typical as he was a very dedicated and devout young priest,” said Dupont.

Father Archambault was scheduled to celebrate Mass at St. Mary’s again on Sunday morning. When he didn’t show up, his friends and family became concerned and began a search.

“Thoughout the day Sunday, with assistance from Springfield police, calls were made to anyone who might have had contact with Father Archambault. Later, in the afternoon, based on some information that had been received, another search of the OLSH rectory was conducted and his body was discovered,” Dupont said.

Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell quoted the poet, John Donne and said, " 'Any man’s death diminishes me….'"

He added, in a formal statement, "We are all diminished by the tragic death of Father Paul Archambault.  He was a good and pastoral priest, a caring chaplain, and a devout man. Yet, he was not immune to illness. 

Most of us realize that physical illness can be fatal; we sometimes forget that the same is true of illnesses that have no physical cause but wrack the spirit still.

We pray our merciful God bring Father Paul safely home, rewarding all the good he accomplished and relieving the burdens he found unbearable.  May he rest in peace.”

George D’Astous, Father Archambault’s cousin, said his family is devastated. “Father Paul was a people’s priest,” said D’Astous. “He loved all those people who were in need. He wanted to bring back the traditions of the church because he loved our Lord so much that he wanted people to recognize the love and mercy that Jesus has for us.”

Father Archambault graduated from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass., in 2000. He also earned a master's degree in divinity from Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn. He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Springfield June 4, 2005.

He served as a parochial vicar at St. Theresa Parish in South Hadley following his ordination. He then took a leave of absence to explore a vocation with the Franciscans at Sacred Heart Friary in Waltham, Mass.

Upon his return he was in residence at St. Patrick Parish in Chicopee and then moved to OLSH.

For the last several years, Father Archambault led a Eucharistic Rosary Procession  through the streets of Northampton, where he grew up. D’Astous has worked  alongside him, year after year, to organize the procession, which attracts hundreds of people. The "To Jesus Through Mary" procession, was held on June 12. “He loved our Blessed Mother and he wanted people to consecrate themselves to Our Lady, to her Immaculate Heart. That was the movement he was trying to start in the diocese,” said D'Astous.

He also celebrated a 7 p.m. Mass at Mary, Mother of Hope Church in Springfield on July 1. This was part of an all-night vigil held in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Father Archambault was also very involved in the diocesan pro-life movement. He took part in the 40 Days for Life vigils, and was often seen praying in front of the Planned Parenthood League of Springfield. He recently gave the blessing at the New Women’s Center, a pro-life crisis pregnancy center, which just opened its doors in Springfield’s North End.

“He took a stand for what he felt was the truth and he didn’t want to shy away from it,” said D’Astous. “People are going to miss his smiles, his cheerfulness, his words of comfort to others. All those things are going to be lost.”

Fabienne Dubois, a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Wilbraham, worked with Father Archambault on various pro-life activities. Father Archambault occasionally led the Family Hour at St. Cecilia’s, which Dubois organizes. “We as Catholics in the Diocese of Springfield are mourning the loss of a strong courageous priest who was always ready to catechize and evangelize,” said Dubois. “He was always standing up for the truth and what is right. He so believed in what he was doing.”

Robin Sheehan, who also knew Father Archambault through the pro-life community and the rosary procession, said he gave so many Catholics courage to witness for Christ.  She said when she heard of his death, St. Paul’s words to Timothy came to her. In 2 Timothy 4:2, St. Paul writes, “Proclaim the message, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement -- but do all with patience and with care to instruct.”

“He was so consistent. He didn’t mince his words. That’s what I saw in him,” said Sheehan. “Father Archambault, we will truly miss you. Your courage, your faithfulness and the willingness to stand for the unborn inspired so many.”

Father Archambault was a 1987 graduate of Northampton High School.  He was predeceased by his mother, Mary (Rochon) Archambault.  She died Dec. 30, 2008. He leaves his father, Gerald of Northampton; his brother, Gerald Jr. and his wife, Melissa of Granby; his sisters Diane Hammill and her husband Dave of Easthampton and Joyce and her husband, James of Maryland.

His wake will be held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, 99 King St., Northampton, on Monday, July 11, from 4 to 7 p.m. A prayer vigil will follow at 7 p.m. A Liturgy of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Bishop McDonnell on Tuesday, July 12 at 11 a.m. at St. Elizabeth's. A funeral procession will follow to St. Mary's Cemetery in Northampton.