Father Roger J. Levesque, 84

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Father Roger J. Levesque, 84, died on Monday, July 23, 2018. 

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Father Levesque was born in Fall River on Jan. 12, 1934. He was the son of the late Romeo Levesque and Germaine (Lavoie) Levesque. He is survived by his sister, Claire Guillemette (late husband Armand) of Texas, seven nieces and nephews, 21 grandnieces and nephews and 18 great-grandnieces and nephews. 

Father Levesque attended Assumption College in Worcester. He pursued his seminary studies in Montreal, Canada, studying at the Seminaire de Philosophie and the Grand Seminaire de St. Sulpice. Father Levesque was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop James L. Connolly on April 25, 1959. 

He served as parochial vicar at St. Ann’s Parish in New Bedford, Notre Dame in Fall River, St. Theresa in South Attleboro, and St. Joseph in New Bedford. He was named pastor of St. Elizabeth’s in Edgartown in 1977; St. Joseph’s in Attleboro in 1981; St. Michael’s in Swansea in 1983; and St. Joseph’s in New Bedford in 1994. 

From 1999 to 2004, he served as founding pastor of St. Joseph-St. Therese Church (formerly St. Joseph Church) in New Bedford where he remained until retirement. 

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Saturday, July 28 St. Bernadette Church. 

Father Philip Hamel, Father Levesque’s successor at St. Joseph-St. Therese Parish, was the homilist at the funeral Mass. He began by quoting a priest who was preaching at his own grandfather’s funeral. “We are here to celebrate the life of a very special man. That man is Jesus Christ.”

Father Hamel focused on how Father Levesque’s humility always pointed to Christ, how his predecessor always “said yes to God.” He recalled how Father Levesque was told in his first assignment by his pastor, “You can choose to simply be a good priest in your parish or you can climb the ecclesiastical ladder.” Father Levesque chose the former and found much joy in doing so.

Father Hamel spoke about a 1974 homily which Bishop Daniel Cronin gave at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton (at the invitation of the seminarians from Fall River). “Sometimes people think that humility means deflecting compliments. That’s false humility. When someone pays you a compliment, just say ‘thank you.’”

When Father Levesque retired, he would come by his old rectory in New Bedford every Wednesday (his “day off,” he called it) and would sit and chat with whomever dropped by. “People would compliment him and he’d say ‘thank you,’” Father Hamel noted.

“He was extraordinarily humble,” Father Hamel said of his predecessor. “I’m sure he had to work hard to develop these qualities.”

Bishop Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., told the priests of the Fall River Diocese more than once that they should look into the mirror each morning and repeat the words of St. John the Baptist, “I am not the Christ.” “Father Roger recognized that,” Father Hamel said, “but he knew that every time he put on the chasuble [for Mass], he stood in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. He was using the Lord’s grace to bring people into the Church. (He) humbly recognized he was a tool of the Lord.”

Father Hamel said that Father Levesque “was a very supportive mentor in many ways” to him. “When you look [at the photograph portrait in the rectory for which Father Hamel made Father Levesque pose], you see his kindness. He never thought of himself as less than others, he never thought of himself as more than others.”

Father Levesque’s nephew Philip spoke after Communion and recalled how his mother Claire, as a child of four, overheard Father Levesque’s mother praying for his health when he was six and was suffering from a severe infection. An older sister had already died and Mrs. Levesque prayed to God, “If you let me keep this one, You can have him as Your own.” 

Philip Guillemette said that his uncle “never aspired for higher positions in the Church because he found happiness in serving God.”

Donations in his name may be made to the Cardinal Medeiros Residence for Retired Priests, 375 Elsbree Street, Fall River, Mass. 02720. 


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