Northeast Catholic College is located in Warner, New Hampshire, and has 90 students and five majors: great books, literature, philosophy, politics and theology. Most of the student body and faculty are practicing Catholics. The college first offered classes in 1974, director of admissions and communication Michael Beecher said, because its founders “saw a need for having truly faithful Catholic colleges in the U.S.”
The curriculum integrates the “great books” of Western civilization with the Catholic faith, reading both Catholic and non-Catholic works “through a Catholic lens.” Beecher continued, “We interpret them in a Catholic manner, examining them with both human reason and with the eyes of the Faith.”
A truly Catholic space
The Catholic character of the school is visible throughout the campus, with daily Mass, confessions and various devotions. The school has two single-sex dorms, both with chapels and the Blessed Sacrament reserved, in which students lead morning and evening prayer. Compline, or evening prayer, is always sung. The school’s choir also sings at the Diocese of Manchester’s Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Father Roger Boucher, chaplain, focuses on celebrating beautiful liturgies, including a daily novus ordo celebrated ad orientem, a weekly extraordinary form Mass and an occasional Eastern-rite liturgy. The reason there are three forms, he explained, is that “we want to expose our students to the history of the liturgy.”
It was the liturgies that attracted freshman Mark Stolarski of St. Louis to the school. He came to the campus at age 16 for a summer camp and “loved the beautiful liturgy.” Stolarski now serves as sacristan.
Olivia Syphan, a senior from Pennsylvania, learned about the Liturgy of the Hours in her freshman year and took over leadership of morning prayer the following year. “Morning prayer, or matins, is such a beautiful connection with the universal Church, especially with other people,” Syphan said.
She also leads the community Rosary, and sung compline in the woman’s dorm chapel — a “beautiful tradition” started her freshman year by a classmate. She also plays the organ at Mass.
In 2018, Northeast Catholic partnered with Father Michael Gaitley and the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy to provide spiritual direction to students; Father Gaitley opened the school year with a retreat, and there are opportunities to do acts of service with the missionaries, such as working with the poor on the streets of Boston or visiting shut-ins at a local nursing home.
“Through this new relationship between Northeast Catholic, Father Gaitley and the Marian Missionaries, our students will have a unique opportunity to grow in their understanding and experience of key sources of the spirituality of our patron, Pope St. John Paul II, particularly his emphasis upon Divine Mercy and Marian devotion,” said George Harne, president of Northeast Catholic College, when the partnership was announced. “Under Father Gaitley’s guidance and the leadership of the Marian Missionaries, Northeast Catholic’s emphasis on personal conversion, sacramental discipleship, service and community will enter a new and dynamic phase. With great joy, we welcome this partnership and look forward to the fruit it will bear on campus, in the larger Church, and in our nation. All of those who have benefited from Father Gaitley’s work will rejoice with us that it has found a collegiate home where it can lead young people to a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ.”
In addition to the work with Father Gaitley, there is plenty of peer ministry and student-initiated programs. As Emma Towne, a senior from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, said, “The students literally minister to one another.”
Towne especially likes having a Blessed Sacrament chapel in both the men’s and women’s dorms, and describes it as a “lifesaver.”
“In the midst of finals, or just at the close of a busy day, I have gone into our small chapel and just enjoyed being with Christ and deepening my relationship with him,” she said. “Having the chapel within the (residence hall) for private prayer and recollection sends the message that one’s faith, while communal, must also be nourished by intense private prayer, and I must allow God to work through me in order to grow more fully into the person he created me to be.”
Towne is also active in Spes Vitae, the school’s pro-life club that prays in front of abortion clinics, and Orantes, a Sunday evening discussion of Scripture before adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Hence, the combination of Father Boucher providing the sacramental life, Father Gaitley’s spiritual formation and the student-led programs, Towne said, “allows many opportunities to serve, to encounter the other person and, most importantly, to worship God through the liturgy and daily life.”
Jim Graves writes from California.
|Responding to the Call|
Six years ago, Father Roger Boucher was retired when he learned that Northeast Catholic College was in need of a chaplain. The New Hampshire native had served as a college chaplain for a decade beginning in the 1970s, as well as for a time at Thomas More College, also in New Hampshire, so he decided to “answer the call.” It’s been a decision he’s happy he’s made.
“I love this college; the students are wonderful,” he said. Coming off of 20 years as a U.S. Navy chaplain, Father Boucher said, “I tend to treat them like sailors, expecting a lot from them, but I think they like that.”
Father Boucher was one of four children, and his father served in the state legislature. He had two uncles who were priests, one of whom served as a missionary on an Alberta Indian reservation.
“They inspired me. They were my heroes,” he said.
In the late 1960s, he entered seminary for the neighboring Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts. While studying at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Pope St. Paul VI released Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical affirming the Church’s teaching on contraception and sexuality.
“The student body rebelled,” Father Boucher recalled. “I’m more traditional, so I pulled out of the school.”
Father Boucher was ordained a priest in 1973, and in the following decade he joined the U.S. Navy as a chaplain. He ministered in remote regions of the world for 20 years, before retiring at the rank of commander.
While he’s reached retirement age, Father Boucher has no plans to slow down.
“I’m a workhorse,” he said. “I wouldn’t know what to do if I was retired.”
When he’s not at Northeast Catholic, the indefatigable priest helps out at diocesan parishes on the weekends.