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
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,
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
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
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.
Reception of the body: Wednesday, December 29, 5:00 p.m. Wake:
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.