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Fr. Hector Poulin, SDB (1932-2010)

By Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB

Father Hector Gilbert Poulin, SDB, suffered a fatal heart attack at Superior Residences of Brandon, Fla., on the afternoon of December 27 and was pronounced dead in Brandon Medical Center shortly after. Father Poulin was 78 years old.

Father Poulin was born to Edward and Clara Poulin in Nashua, N.H., on April 22, 1932. After U.S. Army service during the Korean War, he entered Don Bosco Seminary at Newton, N.J., in September 1956 and was admitted to the novitiate in September 1957. He made his first profession of vows as a Salesian of Don Bosco at Newton on September 8, 1958.


After practical training at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., and Don Bosco Tech in Boston between 1960 and 1963, then-Brother Poulin went to Italy for theological studies in the Salesian studentate at St. Anselm Salesian Institute in Bollengo, near Ivrea in Piedmont, from 1964 to 1968. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin on April 6, 1968.

Father Poulin’s first assignment as a priest was to teach at St. Dominic Savio High School in East Boston (1968-1969). From this year Father John Nazzaro, SDB, director of the Salesian community in East Boston, remembers: “I had Father Hector in high school at Savio. He loved to talk about the military, and believe me none of the kids would ever mess with him. He was strict, fair, and always around the kids. He was a person whom you could confide in with your problems, but a priest who was not afraid to give you a kick in the pants. Many alumni always have spoken highly of his time in East Boston, and he will be missed by many. He was a good Salesian priest and a good friend.”

At Don Bosco Tech in Paterson, N.J. (1969-1971), Salesian High School in New Rochelle, N.Y. (1995-97), and the Salesian Boys Club in Columbus, Ohio (1971-1974), he served as a competent and caring treasurer.

Father John Serio, SDB, director of Salesian High School while Father Poulin was there, writes: “Father Hector knew how to make people feel at home and make visitors comfortable. I never had to worry about the treasurer’s responsibilities being taken care of—Father Hector was very meticulous with the books and records, and he was a ‘Martha’ in the dining room, especially when we had students for dinner (which was very often). He did all the shopping, and wanted to be sure that the confreres wanted for nothing. He was quick to volunteer as confessor for the students. Father Hector was very down to earth, a good priest, a fine confrere.”

Father Poulin was a much appreciated and beloved assistant or pastor of five parishes in the Bahamas for 15 years: Mary Star of the Sea in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island (1974-1978), St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Nassau (1978-1979), St. Agnes in Eight Mile Rock, G.B.I. (1979-1983, 1988-1991), St. Michael in West End, G.B.I. (1985-1988), and St. Vincent de Paul in Hunter, G.B.I. (1988-1991).

Father John Puntino, SDB, served with Father Poulin in the Bahamas for several years. He recalls: “Father Hector was very sensitive to the plight of the poor and disadvantaged. He did not hesitate to offer funeral services even for non-Catholics if other churches refused to perform the rites because the family lacked funds. In one instance he bought a pair of shoes for a lady so she could attend her husband’s funeral. When a group of Haitian refugees drowned, he arranged for their burial and did the graveside ceremonies. On the other hand, whenever he sensed an unjust situation, he would confront it, calling at times on his soldier’s vocabulary for emphasis. Even in those cases, though, it was easy to see his sensitive and caring nature coming through a seemingly rough appearance.”

The Bahamas were a lonely outpost of the province when the Salesians served there, sometimes on different islands. So when they could get together, Father Hector made sure they enjoyed themselves, says Father Puntino: “He valued the times that the confreres in the Bahamas got together, and he made sure we had a good meal.”

Between and following his Bahamas assignments, Father Poulin was administrator of the Sacred Heart Center in Ipswich, Mass. (1983-1984, 1994-1995, 1997-2001), and chaplain of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Ipswich (1997-2005).

Sister Mary Farren, the sisters’ provincial, writes that Father Poulin “was much loved by the sisters at Ipswich.” The love is revealed by their recollections of him, which go beyond his chaplaincy among them to include his service to local parishes and at the retreat center. They discerned in him numerous virtues and human qualities: “extraordinarily zealous, holy, dedicated, gentle, thoughtful, loved his vocation as a priest, a compassionate confessor, always ready to accommodate himself to the needs of others, flexible in giving service, meticulous about the use of vestments/vessels to celebrate the liturgy, rejoiced in his privilege to ‘celebrate’ (not ‘say’) Mass, loving, caring, faithful and faith-filled, valiant in his struggle with Alzheimer’s.”

Some specific comments from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur: “Father Hector accommodated his schedule to the needs of the surrounding parishes whenever needed, regardless of inconvenience to himself. His homilies were short, with a clear message, related to the gospel of the day. He was very zealous in visiting the sick and/or counseling troubled teenagers or consoling families who were experiencing some sorrow.

Father Hector was very community-minded. If the kitchen staff was short-handed, Father would help arrange the meat on the platters and put them at the serving stations. In retrospect, Father Hector was happy fulfilling his priestly ministry, and his example was an inspiration to all who were touched by his life.”
Father Poulin’s parochial assignments also included Holy Rosary Church in Port Chester, N.Y. (1984-1985, 1991-1994), and St. Anthony Church in Elizabeth, N.J. (2005-2010), as an assistant pastor.

Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, on January 14, 2010, Father Poulin retired to the Salesians’ St. Philip the Apostle Residence in Tampa. In recent weeks his condition worsened, requiring hospitalization and then placement in Superior Residences of Brandon.

Father Poulin is survived by two sisters and two brothers in Nashua, N.H. Funeral arrangements for Father Hector Poulin: Tampa, Fla., at Mary Help of Christians Church, 6400 E. Chelsea Street
Reception of the body: Wednesday, December 29, 5:00 p.m. Wake: 5:00-7:30 p.m.

Mass of Christian Burial: 7:30 p.m.
Elizabeth, N.J., at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 853 Third Avenue Reception of the body and Rosary:

Thursday evening, December 30, 6:00 p.m.
Wake: 6:00-8:00 p.m., with service at 7:30
Mass of Christian Burial: Friday, December 31, 10:00 a.m. Burial: Salesian Cemetery in Goshen, N.Y., 1:00 p.m.



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