Fr. Cleary and Laetitia Blain Bid Farewell to Chaplaincy

Fr. Cleary and Laetitia Blain Bid Farewell to Chaplaincy

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

After 36 combined years of service to Boston College, two mainstays of the University Chaplaincy are preparing to leave their posts at the end of the semester.

University Chaplain Richard Cleary, SJ, and Musician-in-Residence Laetitia Blain, who have served the BC community for 11 and 25 years respectively, depart with distinct sets of accomplishments but a shared satisfaction about their time at Boston College.

"The best part was working with the students. They help keep you young," said Fr. Cleary, who will take six months off and participate in a spiritual and theological renewal program before he begins a new assignment.

Blain echoed that sentiment, adding, "I think being in a place where young people keep challenging us is the one thread all along that has kept me so happy, alive and youthful."

Boston College is honoring the work of Fr. Cleary and Blain this spring. The Chaplaincy held a farewell celebration for Blain on April 3, and will sponsor a luncheon for Fr. Cleary on May 1 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Lower Campus Dining Hall Heights Room. He also was recognized at the April 15 concert of the University Chorale, of which he has been a member.

As chaplain, Fr. Cleary oversees a 12-person staff that is responsible for the spiritual well-being of a diverse and multi-faceted campus. Under his leadership the scope of the Chaplaincy has expanded and students, faculty and staff now participate in a wide range of programs aimed at fostering faith, justice and community. Those offerings include pastoral counseling, sacramental preparation, retreats - such as the popular 48 Hours program for freshmen - and ecumenical worship and fellowship opportunities.
Richard Cleary, SJ, and Laetitia Blain. (Photo by Justin Knight)

The Chaplaincy also sponsors 10 campus liturgies each Sunday as well as University-wide Masses periodically during the academic year, such as the Mass of the Holy Spirit. Its reach now extends beyond Chestnut Hill as well, with the development of such programs as 4Boston, Urban Immersion and Ignacio Volunteers, which annually sends BC students to work in Belize, Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

"An amazing number of Chaplaincy programs have been developed and expanded under Fr. Cleary's leadership," said Vice President for Mission and Ministry Joseph Appleyard, SJ. "He has clearly left his mark on BC. I can't tell you how many students I've met who talk about his personal influence on them."

Fr. Cleary said he hoped the Chaplaincy would continue to form closer ties with more of the student body. He praised the Chaplaincy staff for their many hours of work behind the scenes and on weekends.

Blain's involvement in the musical and spiritual life of Boston College has also been considerable. As director of Music Ministries, she is in charge of music for all University Masses. She also is director of the Liturgy Arts Group and founding director of the Boston College Madrigals.

"I know people who would go anywhere Tish is singing, just to hear that magnificent voice," said Fr. Appleyard. "But the many students she has trained, and the wonderful music they have given us at liturgies and concerts all these years, represent her greatest accomplishment."

Blain had almost decided to take a job at another university in 1975 when she interviewed at Boston College, she recalled, but "as soon as I got here I was sold. I've loved it here ever since."

Blain expresses satisfaction in being a part of BC's liturgical and musical expansion over the years. She said that as BC has sought to strengthen its Jesuit-Catholic identity in recent years her job has also become more challenging and more rewarding.

"It's also meant a lot more work," she said, with a laugh.

Blain said she is retiring early because there are several things that she still wants to accomplish, but cannot do so while working full time.

"I will sing for as long as I can," she said. "But it will be so hard to walk away."


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