Much has been said in the past couple of weeks about our Brother Louis’ 70th birthday. He celebrated with all of Notre Dame’s student body yesterday and the faculty and staff plan a fête for him tomorrow.
Most in the NDPMA community know Br. Louis and all he does on a daily basis for the kids, but we guess many do not know too much about his own personal background and history.
A little over two years ago, the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s magazine, IRISH, published an article on how the Marist brothers serve their religious order as well as the various schools, churches and other institutions sponsored by the Society of Mary.
The following excerpt from that article features our own Br. Louis. Enjoy.
(Fall 2012 IRISH magazine)
A recent survey by the Catholic Church indicated that there were approximately 40,000 priests in the United States. That number includes about 27,000 diocesan priests and 13,000 religious priests. Religious sisters were at about 61,000, with nearly 16,000 religious brothers in ministry in this country.
Today, people are still choosing to become priests, sisters and brothers, but in fewer numbers. In fact, the number of men and women religious today more closely reflects a number consistent with the beginning of the last century.
In a basic definition of the difference between a priest and brother, a priest is ordained for a distinctive role as a minister of the sacraments, while a brother is a layman who also commits himself to Christ by the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience and who usually lives in a religious community, but typically works in a ministry that best suits his talents and gifts. A brother cannot perform the sacramental duties of a priest, but might be a teacher, electrician, cook, lawyer, technician, parish minister, office manager or even an artist. He tries to live his faith by being a “brother” to others.
There have been a number of Marist brothers who have played key roles in the history of Notre Dame, both in Harper Woods and Pontiac. But their roles have differed to a large extent from the Marist fathers who have been at Notre Dame. In general, the role of religious brothers in the church has not changed much over the years as they have continued to provide the structure and hard work upon which many religious communities and schools are built.
That is never more evident than with the Marist brothers who have served at both Notre Dame High School in Harper Woods and Notre Dame Prep in Pontiac. One brother in particular is a spot-on example of how important the vocation has been to the ND community. Brother Louis Plourde, s.m., has spent more than 30 years providing an incredible amount of support to Notre Dame, including the Marist priests, the teaching staffs, the countless parents, and most importantly, the students.
Fr. Leon Olszamowski, s.m., current head of school at NDPMA and who was principal at Notre Dame High School for seven years, said that above all else, the brothers always put the kids first.
"And Br. Louis has been instrumental in keeping the Notre Dame 'engine' firing on all cylinders for many years," he said.
The early years
Brother Louis Plourde, s.m., began his Notre Dame career in 1982 when he set foot on the Harper Woods campus. His job was to assist in the business office and with general work inside and outside the school.
“At first I was helping out with setting up for things like bingo, parents events, liturgies and then later on I started to help out in the office,” he said. “One of the things I was doing on a regular basis was to help count Fr. Bryson's money. If you knew anything about how he was, he would just throw everything in a box—change, dollar bills, everything—and turn it into the office. I would then have to sort it out and get it ready for the bank.” He said he really got to admire Fr. Bryson during that time, and all the good things he was doing for the school.
Plourde grew up in Lowell, Mass., about 30 miles north of Boston, where he attended St. Marie grade school followed by high school for the first two years at St. Joseph, which was run by the Marist Teaching Brothers, and then to the Marist Fathers high school seminary, called Marist Prep Seminary in Bedford, Mass. “Fr. (Clifton) Moors (teacher and administrator at NDHS) was one of my teachers in Bedford,” he recalled.
From when he was very young, Plourde says he always wanted a religious vocation and thought initially about becoming a priest. “But when I found out you can be a brother, I decided to pursue that instead.” That pursuit led him to the Marist Seminary in Framingham and, during his second year there, decided to enter the Novitiate.
“Fr. George Szal, s.m., who was a Marist brother and then a priest, was in my class at the seminary in Framingham,” he said. “Fr. Szal actually went to high school at De La Salle. Also, Fr. Leon was a year behind me at the seminary.”
In September 1967, Plourde took his vows in Rhinebeck, New York, along with both Ken Parent (faculty NDHS and NDP) and Gerry Timmerman (later Fr. Timmerman, who spent time at NDHS).
“My first assignment after I professed as a brother was in Bedford and then in Framingham doing mostly maintenance work. “Myself and a few other brothers did most of the work on the house in Framingham, turning it from a seminary into a retreat house,” Plourde said. “It really was a big job!”
The Notre Dames
Then it was on to Harper Woods to Notre Dame. “Fr. Demers was the rector at ND and he wanted a brother there so I got chosen to go,” Plourde said. “I thought it was time for a change. I had been in the Boston area for a long time, and it was an opportunity to go and work somewhere else.”
“I spent 12 years at Notre Dame High. I enjoyed working in the office with Chuck Stys '60 (NDHS), who was the school’s business manager, and Dolores Lynch, an assistant to Chuck. I also drove a bus route for the last three years there. Bill Raymond and Fr. Leon were the principals during my time at NDHS and I worked a lot with Doreen Vermiglio and Rosemary Patterson, who worked in the main office.”
He says some of his favorite times at NDHS were the festivals and carnivals the school hosted on an annual basis.
Plourde came to the campus of Notre Dame Prep in 1994 and fell immediately in love with the school.
“I still love it here—I love Notre Dame Prep,” he says unabashedly. “Even if I had an opportunity to be transferred back east, I would still prefer to be here. It would take a lot to get me out of here.”
Currently dividing his time between handling the campus mail and running the school’s printing and copying department, Plourde, 67, is a definite fixture on campus. And his devotion to school athletics is legendary. Known as “super fan” at NDP, he has been a regular attendee at many, many of NDP's athletic events over the years. His enthusiasm for the school and especially for its student-athletes has contributed greatly to successes on the field and court over the past 17-plus years. In fact, the Catholic High School League honored Plourde with its “Distinguished Service Award” at the league’s annual Hall of Fame banquet in 2011.
He says there are a lot of great NDP memories, especially being present for the 2007 state championship in volleyball. “It was lots of fun, huge! Fantastic season! CHSL champs too! Unbelievable!
“In general, I hopefully have a positive impact on the kids,” he said. “But the students and the parents also have always been extremely nice to me. And I can be a complete advocate and fan of the kids! As always, it's about the kids!”
He says he also enjoys his role in setting up for and participating in all the many liturgies during the school year. “I am officially the sacristan for the school.”
Olszamowski sums up Plourde's devotion to the school by saying that if "Louis had his way, he would never die and always be at some event at Notre Dame Prep." Olszamowski also says that he wants Brother Louis to do the eulogy at his funeral. "I can’t trust anyone else.”
Comments or questions? firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.