Brother Francis Blouin Makes Final Trip to Uganda

Dear Friends,
On February 3 of this year I joined Brother Francis Blouin of The Brothers of Christian Instruction to help this great man revisit Uganda for the last time.

If it were not for Brother Francis Blouin, there would be no Uganda Martyrs University at Kisubi. Brother Francis had been President of Walsh University in Canton, Ohio for 15 years and is today the President Emeritus.

At age 83, Brother Francis visited the United States in August 2011 to see a group of neurologists in southern Maine with the hope that he might determine what was wrong with his health. To make it to 83 is something that he considers a real accomplishment and something for which he is very grateful. However, his legs had weakened very rapidly and severely. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). This is a very debilitating illness, yet Brother Francis immediately took a positive approach to this. He indicated to me that he has two years or more and that he would reach at least age 85.

Brother Francis continues to work today, having recently finished the editing of a book. He is still very active in helping others, including Uganda Martyrs University at Kisubi and helping me with the Mbabaali Memorial School for Orphans. Recently, he revisited Walsh University for a two-week period during which he gave the commencement address at graduation.

I had been talking with the Brothers at Kisubi, urging them to name the academic center building after Brother Francis Blouin. Things move slowly in Uganda. It was imperative that action be taken soon because Brother Francis’ physical condition was deteriorating. When I got the news that the decision had been made to name this building at the university after Brother Francis, I was elated and immediately made plans to get Brother Francis to Uganda.

I am amazed at the help and the attitude of the airline workers. Understandably, there were wheelchairs and electric carts wherever they might have been needed. What amazed me was the attitude and the helpfulness of the airline workers. These people accompanied us all the way. We were not transferred from one airline staff member to another; rather, that airline worker took us from one terminal to our final destination gate in another terminal. Their kindness and willingness to help impressed me.

While the trip was challenging, it was doable. I had enough reward miles to get Brother Francis a first class ticket which made it possible for him to rest much better and to actually sleep during the 39-hour trip to the airport at Entebbe in Uganda. A large group from Uganda Martyrs University was there to greet us. Our flight was delayed about 2 hours, yet the 40 or so people who had waited several hours at the airport were in very good humor and disposition and very pleased to see Brother Francis return.

Brother Francis and I had our usual rooms next door to each other and during our visit there I feel that Brother Francis hardly rested much at all. He said that he received 25-30 people each day in his room. This ranged from one individual to groups of as many as four or five. Brother Francis was so happy because he said the people who came to see him were the ones he wanted to see, and they came from all over (The Sudan, Kenya, and The Congo).

Please remember that the Mbabaali Memorial School for Orphans is not connected with Uganda Martyrs University at Kisubi. The only requirement to be eligible to attend the Mbabaali school is that a child to be orphaned. I spent two days of my February visit at the school for orphans. I truly love those children and I am very confident that they love me, and my repeated visits are gaining more and more trust among the local people.

Brother Francis belongs to a Catholic Order of teaching Brothers. In the Catholic Church, everyone must answer to someone of higher authority. I had telephoned Brother Jerome Lessard who is the superior to Brother Francis, and Brother Jerome said he would encourage Brother Francis to go on this trip. He told me that it would give Brother Francis closure on his work and projects in Uganda. When Brother Francis came to the U. S. in August of 2011 for health reasons, he thoroughly intended to return to Uganda in some capacity. The ALS renders that impossible. This trip was extremely meaningful to Brother Francis, and he said it was one of the happiest and most rewarding trips of his life. I am so very grateful to have been part of helping this take place for Brother Francis.

We are making great progress at the school for orphans. The pictures that you see are self-explanatory because of the text boxes. Should you have any questions, please give me a call.

Thank you so much for your consideration and for your continued support.
Richard A. Gagné
Founder, the Richard Albert Gagné Charitable Foundation