|Fr Kenneth Leblanc, LC|
Part 11 in a series on priestly experiences and insights,
published on Thursdays in the Year for Priests.
November 5, 2009.
When in the Gospel, Christ refers to a harvest for
which laborers are needed, most of us think of the
need for more priestly vocations. But according to Fr Kenneth
Leblanc, LC, there is another important resource lying dormant in
the fields of the world: the laity.
As a priest
who works with lay people of all ages and walks
of life, Fr Kenneth is keenly aware of their potential
to be effective partners in the apostolate.
“There are so
many venues in the world and society that only lay
people can reach: the world of the workplace, education, science,
media, sports, fashion, the arts, and so on. It is
clear that the laity have the mission to transform the
world with the values and message of the Gospel,” he
“The lay people are a vast, oftentimes untapped resource in
the Church. They are like the sleeping giant that needs
to be awakened and formed.”
The road to home
When it comes
to awakenings, converts often make the best Catholics. And radical
hippie converts? Perhaps even more so…
Fr Kenneth’s own experience of
Christ began when he was six years old. At the
time, his parents were long-haired radical hippies who drank, smoked,
did drugs, and listened to music by groups like Black
|Fr Kenneth celebrating a Mass at Camp Caribou, a summer camp for boys.|
Everything changed on the day his dad, hitchhiking a
ride home, was picked up by a hermit (Br Anthony
Opisso) from the Cistercian-Trappist monastery near their home.
own journey had started in the Philippines, where he was
born and raised. After attending English-speaking high school in China,
he moved to the States, where he became a successful
banker in New York. Later, he decided to go to
medical school and became a doctor, but he still wasn’t
satisfied with what he was giving in Chicago, so he
decided to use his knowledge to help people in Africa,
the Dominican Republic, and various countries afflicted by poverty. Several
years later, he became seriously ill among the people he
While in a life-threatening fever, he promised God he
would do something great for him if he were cured.
He did get better and after much reflection and prayer,
decided to dedicate his life to convincing Jewish rabbis that
Christ was the Messiah who fulfilled all of the prophecies.
In order to fulfill this mission, he would have to
study Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Sacred Scripture, ancient rabbinical writings, and
the Dead Sea Scrolls. And he would have to pray.
he became a hermit living in the woods of the
Trappist Fathers in Rogersville, New Brunswick. There he lived for
40 years and wrote 5 books.
And on his way
back to the hermitage one evening, he picked up a
hitchhiking hippie. During that trip, Mr. Leblanc truly came home,
and he brought his family with him.
Stars and gold nuggets
conversation began with questions about the stars and the solar
system. Mr. Leblanc was not too sure about God, but
as the hermit began describing the incredible precision involved in
the workings of the solar system, something struck a deep
chord. How could there not be a God who ordered
such an intricate universe?
The hermit’s explanation of the universe and
its Maker filled a void that Mr. Leblanc had been
trying to fill with drugs and alcohol. It also answered
some questions he had been fielding from his little boy.
was partly the reason that my dad started searching for
answers, because I would ask my parents a lot of
deep questions, as kids often do,” admits Fr Kenneth.
Mr. Leblanc returned home and made some radical decisions.
came home and decided that we were going to pray
the Rosary every day,” says Fr Kenneth.
He also threw
the television out, burned his Black Sabbath records, and quit
smoking, drinking, and drugs cold turkey.
What did Mrs. Leblanc
think of the transformation? Fr Kenneth says she was delighted.
mother was quite happy with the change; with 3 sons
in the family, she felt it was high time to
get their act together. Having a growing family meant that
you had to take life seriously. She quickly became very
religious and fervent,” says Fr Kenneth.
The kids were excited by
their dad’s decision, and they welcomed it wholeheartedly.
liked the changes because our family became very united, happy,
and close,” says Fr Kenneth. “We really felt God presence
in our household and even my friends would notice it.”
his father continued to visit the hermit to learn more
about the Scriptures. Sometimes he would take his sons with
“It was really fascinating to hear this hermit speak of
the Bible. I could listen to him for hours… He
would say that the Scriptures were full of nuggets of
gold, and that if you took time to study and
pray over the Scriptures, God would reveal them,” says Fr
The golden nuggets truly did appear—two of them, right in
the family. Nourished by Scripture reading and daily family Rosary,
both Fr Kenneth and his brother Raoul heard and followed
a call to the priesthood. Fr Kenneth was ordained in
2002, and Br Raoul Leblanc, LC, now a transitional deacon,
will be ordained this December 12, 2009.
The hermit had already
seen the gold glimmering under the surface. When he first
met Fr Kenneth, he took one look at him and
quietly commented to his father, “There is something about him;
he has a big vocation.” His father nodded and kept
it quiet until after his son had gone off to
the seminary, not wanting to influence his decision.
In fact, Fr
Kenneth discovered the Legion of Christ thanks to the hermit’s
“Br Anthony Opisso and I always had a great friendship.
Eventually, he was the one who introduced me to the
Legion of Christ and who organized my trip to visit
the novitiate in Cheshire,” says Fr Kenneth. He was 17
at the time.
A fire inside
“The more we get closer to
Christ, the more we burn to make him known to
souls. This makes us look for apostolate. This was my
experience as a 16-year-old. I did not have the concept
of apostolate very developed, but I did it because I
felt pushed by the Holy Spirit. My enthusiasm for my
newfound faith impelled me to want to have others discover
it too,” he says.
Now, his role as a
priest is to introduce people to Christ, teach them how
to pray, and help them on their way toward a
personal and growing friendship with the Lord. His goal is
to help ignite that fire of faith and love and
then give it practical means to grow through the apostolate.
think it is important to challenge the laity in taking
on roles, giving them a specific mission that they are
accountable for. This will develop their sense that they are
lay apostles and that God depends on their generosity,” he
In some cases, he says, he has had the chance
to witness the transformation of fearful, hesitant people into intrepid
One woman who joined Regnum Christi started out with
very low self-esteem. She was quite shy and she needed
constant affirmation and encouragement. Over the course of two years,
her transformation became evident to those who had known her
before. She has since blossomed into a confident, organized, outgoing,
happy, and fulfilled woman who is “always giving Christ to
others in every way she can.”
Another woman told Fr
Kenneth that she used to be so timid that she
had a hard time ordering a pizza over the phone.
“Now she is an unstoppable apostle and puts me to
shame,” he says.
For Fr Kenneth, prayer and apostolate
together help people awaken to their true potential. The road
to home doesn’t end with becoming a recipient of the
sacraments. It’s a constant journey, and it involves living as
an active apostle who works to bring others to God.
Not everyone will do so in the same way; people
have different gifts. But the journey should never be a
solitary affair. Even a hermit’s vocation, hidden away in the
woods, has a deep impact on others. Whether the impact
is visible or not, a living faith is inherently contagious.
Fr Kenneth says, “The more we pass on the faith,
the more our own faith grows. Many people’s spiritual life
does not prosper precisely because no one has shown them
the way to really work for Christ in the apostolate.”
short, lay people need someone to show them that Christ
is real and that he is counting on them to
bring others to the faith. This is Fr Kenneth’s work—and
to do so, he relies heavily on the help of
lay people who are true partners in the apostolate.
seen the difference of working alone and of working with
a team of lay apostles,” he says. “Once you experience
it, you never want to be a lone ranger or
be afraid to let others take on responsibility as you
go about your apostolate as a priest,” he says.
lay people has enabled him to turn baby steps into
giant steps, and to supersize his impact as a priest.
find that working alongside lay apostles multiplies my priesthood by
a thousand. It really increases my capacity to reach souls.”
Kenneth Leblanc was born and grew up in Rogersville, New
Brunswick, a small town in Eastern Canada. He entered the
Legion of Christ at the age of 18, and completed
preparation for the priesthood in the United States, Canada and
Rome. He was ordained a priest on December 24, 2002
in Rome. He is currently stationed in Cornwall, Ontario and
works primarily with Regnum Christi members in Toronto. His younger
brother, Raoul, is also a Legionary and will be ordained
a priest this coming December 12 in Rome.
To read the
other articles in the series, click here.