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Monday, October 27, 2014

Father Zenon Decary an All Saints Day blog includes three Maine Franco-American biographies

All Saints Day – three Maine Franco-American biographies

Although three Franco-Americans are summarized in my blog link above, the article posted below gives more information about Father Decary posted after speaking with Pat Frechette email is

A more in depth article about Father Zenon Decary was published in the on line publication Keep Me Current by Kate Irish Collins.

Another try for Biddeford priest’s sainthood

Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 5:17 pm | Updated: 5:24 pm, Wed Feb 26, 2014.
Pat Frechette with photograph of Father Zenon Decary in Saco. Father Decary was born in Canada ordained in 1894 and died in Biddeford ME in 1940. Photo credit Kate Irish Collins

By Kate Irish Collins

BIDDEFORD - There are many people locally who fervently believe that the Rev. Zenon Decary, born in 1870 and ordained as a priest in 1894, is still working miracles.

They also believe he should be granted the status of saint by the Roman Catholic Church, and they are dedicated to make that happen.

The first step in that long process is to get the new bishop from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland to agree to open an investigation into whether Decary was a “holy man,” who manifested the virtues of faith, hope and charity, along with those of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, during his life.
This is not the first time that an effort has been made to get Decary canonized by the pope, according to the diocese. In 1992, then-Bishop Joseph Gerry was approached about opening a case for beatification, which is the first step toward sainthood.
However, at that time Gerry said there was not enough evidence to support Decary’s reputation for holiness and there was also the absence of an authenticated miracle, which is required for someone to be beatified. In order for someone to be canonized, a second, separate miracle must also be authenticated.

Despite this backdrop, a dedicated group calling itself the Friends of Father Zenon Decary is once again attempting to get the priest, who served at the now-closed St. Andre Church in Biddeford, named a saint. Decary also served at churches in Westbrook and Augusta, as well as in Canada, where he was born.

Pat Frechette and her husband Gerry, who live in Saco, are the primary people attempting to get Decary declared a saint, although they are also supported by a core group of about a dozen members of the Good Shepherd Parish, which covers Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Lyman.

According to Dave Guthro, spokesman for the Diocese of Portland, Decary is the only Maine-based priest that’s ever been put up for sainthood.

He said that Bishop Robert Deeley, who was recently invested as the leader of the diocese, has not yet had an opportunity to review the request by the Friends of Father Zenon Decary to open an investigation and does not know when the bishop would make a ruling on the issue.

Pat Frechette said this week that the friends group formed about three years ago and has been hard at work since then gathering evidence of Decary’s holiness and his working of miracles both before and after his death in 1940.

In addition, the group has new efforts under way to prove that Decary was a holy man who is prayed to daily by many people seeking his intercession for healing and other favors. In fact Frechette believes she’s been blessed several times by Decary.

As part of the effort to gather proof that Decary did work miracles, Frechette has collected more than 400 letters written by parishioners who received favors from Decary both before and after his death.

Most of the letters were written soon after Decary died, and some were included in the book “The Good Father Zenon,” which was published in French in 1948 by the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. It was recently re-issued in English by the friends group.

The letters Frechette has collected speak of Decary healing the sick, particularly children. One of those is the Rev. Ron Labarre, a retired priest who is also an active member of the Friends of Father Zenon Decary.

According to materials provided by the diocese, Labarre has often spoken about the times he was healed by Decary as a youngster. The first time occurred when Labarre was 15 months old and fell into a tub of boiling water.

He was badly burned and the doctor at the hospital, fearing that Labarre would die, urged his mother to call a priest. Decary responded to the request and laid his hands on Labarre praying.

He then told Labarre’s mother, “Have no fear, God has designs on this little boy.” In thanksgiving for that healing, Decary asked the Labarre family to make an annual pilgrimage to St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec, which they did.

The second time Labarre said Decary healed him when he was suffering from convulsions. His mother again called on the priest, and Decary told her to have Labarre’s godfather make a metal cross, which Decary blessed and placed around Labarre’s neck.

Labarre said his convulsions ceased following that day and he kept the little cross with him always, until the time he was in seminary and the string on the cross broke, causing Labarre to lose it.

Another member of the friends group, Armand Janelle, tells the story of how, when he was a child, he was not able to walk. Decary, seeing his mother carrying him around one day, ordered her to place Janelle under a nearby tree. The boy was running in less than a week.

Decary also came to Janelle’s aid when he was 5 years old and had been struck by a car. One of his legs was so badly damaged that the doctors thought they would have to amputate, especially since gangrene had already set in.

Janelle’s mother prayed to Decary, who had died by then, and not long after the infection cleared up and Janelle kept his leg. Both Labarre and Janelle say to this day they pray to Decary daily seeking his help.

Other proofs of Decary’s holiness can be seen all along Pool Road, according to Frechette. She said when Decary’s brother, Arthur, who was also a priest, was assigned to St. Andre’s, as well, the two brothers would often walk from downtown Biddeford out to Hills Beach.

Along the way, she said, they would toss pennies on the ground and pray over them. Frechette then talked about the various institutions for good that sprang up on Pool Road, including the now-defunct Notre Dame Hospital, the current St. Andre Health Care Facility, the convent for both the Presentation of Mary and Good Shepherd sisters and St. Francis College, which is now the University of New England.

In addition, Frechette said that when Zenon Decary’s body was disinterred a few years after his death, in order for his grave to be moved, his casket was opened and his body showed no signs of decomposition, which she said is a sure sign of holiness.

Frechette acknowledges that it can take many years and lots of money to get someone canonized, but those facts are not a deterrent for her or the other members of the friends group.

She said their most immediate goal is to ensure that Decary’s spirit remains alive. To that end the friends are planning to create an interactive website, where people can learn about Decary, share stories of receiving favors from him and ask that prayers be said for them in Decary’s name.

In addition, the group has started a monthly healing service, which is held at 10 a.m. on the first Monday of the month in St. Ann’s Chapel at St. Joseph’s Church on Elm Street in Biddeford. And the group is also filming Masses around the Good Shepherd Parish, which are then shared with those who are homebound or living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

The friends are also in the process of creating a leaflet explaining the effort to get Decary proclaimed a saint.

“What we want most of all,” Frechette said, “is for people to cry out in favor of Fr. Zenon.”


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