New priest settling in at St. Patrick’s Church in Northfield

The Rev. Paul Bombardier is the new priest at St. Patrick’s Church in Northfield.

The Rev. Paul Bombardier is the new priest at St. Patrick’s Church in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

The Rev. Paul Bombardier is the new priest at St. Patrick’s Church in Northfield.

The Rev. Paul Bombardier is the new priest at St. Patrick’s Church in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

St. Patrick’s Church at 80 Main St. in Northfield.

St. Patrick’s Church at 80 Main St. in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-24-2024 12:16 PM

NORTHFIELD — The new priest at St. Patrick’s Church says the community has embraced him “with open arms and warm hearts.”

The Rev. Paul Bombardier started at the 80 Main St. church on Dec. 7 after Bishop William Byrne reassigned him from Holy Cross Catholic Church in Springfield following about 6½ months there.

“It’s been really great,” he said of his new post. “I want to help the parish continue to grow, because since being here our Mass attendance has doubled, which shocks me.”

Before Bombardier’s arrival, St. Patrick’s Church had been without a resident pastor for about a year, as the Rev. Thomas Lisowski was on medical leave.

“I think I can speak for the majority of the parishioners when I say we feel very blessed to have Fr. Bombardier as the new pastor,” parish council member Mary Johnson wrote in an email. “He seems like a great fit for this little country parish, which draws people from Vermont and New Hampshire as well as locally. In the short time he has been here, he has initiated some new programs and definitely brought a breath of fresh air into the life of the parish.”

For Bombardier, his new assignment is something of a homecoming from another homecoming. He was born and raised in western Massachusetts to a family of French Canadian descent and grew up bilingual in English and French. He presided over parishes in his home state until he was offered a job by the director of the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré — and he learned that his mother’s maiden name (Paré) belonged to one of the families that founded the picturesque town along the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec.

“So it’s really, literally, going back to my roots,” Bombardier said of his job in Quebec, adding that it was “a lot like parish ministry, without the administrative stuff.”

He was there for seven years before returning to the United States and serving in Springfield. Before getting necessary approval from Bishop Mitchell Rozanski to go to Canada, Bombardier was assigned to Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge after a stint at a parish consisting of St. Joseph Parish in Shelburne Falls, St. John the Baptist in Colrain and St. Christopher in Charlemont.

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“It’s forced me to grow, which is never a bad thing,” the 71-year-old said sitting in his new rectory in Northfield. “And I’ve always maintained that God sends me where I need to be — not just for the people there, but for me, too.”

Bombardier attended Westfield State College and worked at a National Blank Book Co. warehouse before studying for the priestho od at the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Leuven, Belgium.

“I always wanted to study abroad,” Bombardier recalled, mentioning he was ordained a priest on Aug. 7, 1982. “[It’s been] very challenging, in both a good and a negative sense, which is the story of life in general.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.