Ordination Class of 2022: Deacon Bertrand Proulx

This is the second in a series of articles profiling the seven men who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on May 21.

WESTON -- Deacon Bertrand Proulx grew up in the Diocese of Fall River, attending Catholic schools until fourth grade and Somerset public schools after that. He was an altar server at St. Louis de France in Swansea and made his confirmation there.

He graduated from Fitchburg State College in 1983 with a degree in computer science, and then spent over 30 years working in the software industry.

Deacon Proulx eventually moved to Burlington and joined St. Malachy Parish. After seeing a notice in the church bulletin, he began volunteering at Fernald State School in Waltham, a now-closed facility for people with disabilities. For about 20 years, he helped transport clients to the chapel on Sundays.

Father Bill Leonard, the chaplain at the time, sometimes gave him additional responsibilities, like bringing Communion to those who could not come to the chapel. At one point, Father Leonard asked him if he would be interested in studying to become a deacon. But he did not give it much thought.

"I kind of didn't take that too seriously. I was really wrapped up in my career," Deacon Proulx said.

When Fernald State School closed in 2014, Deacon Proulx used his newfound availability on Sundays to become more involved with parish life. He volunteered to help teach in St. Malachy's new RCIA program, which ended up becoming a learning experience for him, renewing his faith and giving him a new drive.

"I was a cradle Catholic, but just going through that process and learning the material that I was going to teach the others, it lit a fire under me," Deacon Proulx said.

That was when he began to think seriously about his vocation. He was in his 50s by this time, and for a few years he tried dating, seeing whether his vocation was marriage. But as that did not work out, he started contemplating the priesthood. Though several people had suggested he had a priestly vocation throughout the years, he had never seriously considered it up to this point.

He talked to his pastor, who put him in touch with Father Daniel Hennessey, the head of the archdiocese's Vocations Office at the time. After about a year of discernment, he applied and was accepted to Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary.

"I felt this draw that I needed to do something more for Christ and to bring people to Christ. And I felt that, given my age and that I was fairly healthy for my age -- and I'm so fortunate to know there was a seminary for later vocations -- all these things kind of told me that I really should do this," Deacon Proulx said.

He was serving a pastoral assignment at the Regina Cleri retirement residence for priests when the coronavirus pandemic began. His visits to the senior priests came to an abrupt end in March 2020. Life at the seminary changed drastically during these months of separation: the seminarians had to eat alone in their rooms, and classes were held via Zoom.

"It was a difficult time, but it was also a time of more reflection, and realizing, despite everything that was going on, how blessed we are," Deacon Proulx said.

He was ordained a deacon in June 2021 and was assigned to St. Stephen Parish in Framingham. Three of the parish's five weekend Masses are in Spanish, giving Deacon Proulx the chance to practice the language he studied in the seminary. He has also found himself teaching again, instructing the parish's confirmation classes.

He said he would advise those considering the priesthood to spend time in prayer before the Eucharist, talk to a priest, and take advantage of opportunities for seminary visits or vocation retreats.

"Changing a career is not a decision to take lightly, but through your discernment, God will give you the grace to make the transition if that is what he's calling you to do," Deacon Proulx said.