How it All Began

Richard and Brother Francis

Richard and Brother Francis

Many have asked how Richard Gagné became involved with the orphans in Uganda. In order to fully explain his mission in Uganda, we have to go back to the late summer of 1961 when Richard entered the Juniorate of the Brothers of Christian Instruction in Alfred, Maine.

The Brothers of Christian Instruction is a Catholic order of teaching brothers. They have the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and their primary work is teaching in schools. Richard stayed with the Brothers in Alfred, Maine for 5 months and then left the Juniorate to return to Fall River, Massachusetts where he finished high school. Monsignor Prevost High School in Fall River was one of the schools of the Brothers, and they provided an education which, to some degree, resembled a military school. It helped Richard to learn to schedule and make the best use of his time. Richard attributes the success he’s had in business to the education he received from the Brothers. He began donating money to the Brothers of Christian Instruction for their retirement plan.

It was while visiting one of the remaining Brothers who had taught him in Fall River that Richard was invited to return to Alfred, Maine. When meeting the Provincial of the order, Brother Francis Blouin, in the year 2000, Richard learned that the money he had been donating was sent to Africa. Noticing that Richard was irritated by this, Brother Francis indicated that the needs of the remaining Brothers were rather simple and that they had sufficient funds for retirement. This did not satisfy Richard fully and Brother Francis invited Richard to come to Uganda to see what the money had done.

The first trip to Uganda was in January 2003. Brother Francis Blouin and Richard travelled together from Logan Airport in Boston. Brother Francis had accumulated Richard’s donations and requested that the amount be doubled by Terres Sans Frontières in Montreal, Canada. He was able to get that doubled once again by the Episcopalian Faith Foundation in Africa. That money built a water purification plant on Lake Victoria (in Uganda) that serves 7,000 people, mostly children. While we might consider 200,000 liters of water a day to be minimal in the United States, it is huge for Uganda.

Brother Francis had been travelling to Uganda for a few years to see that the Brothers who taught in the schools in Uganda remain certified. He had retired at age 70 from Walsh University in Canton, Ohio where he had been president for 15 years. As he approaches age 83 today, he remains the President Emeritus of Walsh. In 2004, Brother Francis was invited by the Brothers in Kisubi, Uganda to be the director of Uganda Martyrs University at Kisubi. He accepted immediately and resigned from his civil post to which he had been appointed by the Governor of Maine as well as his religious assignment as being leader of the Interfaith Council for the Northeast of the United States. He had also been editor of Church World Magazine.

Richard had helped in the initial years of the founding of Uganda Martyrs University at Kisubi with financial donations for

buildings and scholarships for students. He also helped with the funding of residences for the teaching Brothers and Nuns. His first visit to the Mbabaali Memorial School for Orphans was in 2003 and by 2004 he had become very much attached to the children there. Today, Richard’s focus is on the school for orphans. If you Google the Mbabaali Memorial School for Orphans, it will come up on your screen as the only free school for orphans in Uganda.

Richard and James Kyeyune with children

There is no connection between the Mbabaali Memorial School for Orphans and the Brothers of Christian Instruction. The School

for Orphans is non-denominational and the children may be Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, Muslim, etc.

Being an orphan is what determines eligibility for that school.

Brother Francis feels that Richard’s experience in the Juniorate from August of 1961 until January of 1962 was a temporary

vocation or calling for what Richard is now doing in Uganda. Richard is aware that, had he become a teaching brother, he would likely have been sent to the mission of the Brothers in Kisubi, Uganda for training for a couple of years. Richard arrived in Kisubi 41 years after leaving the Juniorate in Alfred, Maine.

Richard considers it a real blessing to be involved in helping these children because his passion has always been to make a difference in the life of a child.