It is with a heavy heart that I break the news that one of my favorite former pastors, Father Rene Gagne (he used the French pronunciation, "Gah-nyeh", not the Americanized "Gag-nee"), went home to Almighty God on December 10. The even sadder part is that I didn't know about it until today - 10 days later, and five days after his funeral. He was 79, and just 19 days short of 80.
In the eight years I served as organist and music director of Precious Blood Church in Woonsocket, RI (1989-1997), 6-1/2 of those years were with Fr. Gagne (until his retirement in January 1996). He had a great love for classical music, especially operas. He was known to travel to New York City just to catch a good opera. His appreciation for good liturgical music was evident as well. For 11-1/2 years, his organist was Henri St. Louis, one of only a handful of top-notch organists in Rhode Island, and probably the best in Northern Rhode Island. On the day of my interview, Fr. Gagne told me, "I want to hire someone who can do justice to the organ." The organ is a three-manual, 26-rank Aeolian-Skinner, which was built and donated to the parish in 1947. He had referred to Henri as a "pro". He was absolutely right!
Before Henri was Henri's organ instructor, the late George Beaudet.
Fr. Gagne's resume:
1951 by Bishop Russell J. McVinney at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, Providence
1951 St. John the Evangelist Church, Slatersville (North Smithfield)
1951-52 St. Joan of Arc Church, Cumberland
1952-59 St. Ann Church, Woonsocket
1959-60 St. James Church, Manville (Lincoln)
1960-68 Holy Family Church, Woonsocket
1968-73 St. John the Baptist Church, West Warwick
1973-96 Precious Blood Church, Woonsocket
Upon retirement, he still remained active and did volunteer work at St. Augustine and Blessed Sacrament Churches, both in Providence. I heard a while back from one source that he did a couple of Latin Tridentine Masses at Holy Name as well.
Fr. Gagne will be sadly missed. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.