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Most Reverend Romeo R. Blanchette
Bishop of Joliet, 1966-1979

Bishop Blanchette

 

Bishop Romeo Roy Blanchette was born in St. George in Kankakee County, Illinois, to Oscar and Josephine (Langlois) Blanchette on January 6, 1913. After attending Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago from 1928 to 1931, he studied at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, from where he earned his BA in 1934 and his STL in 1937.  

Following ordination to the priesthood by George Cardinal Mundelein in the chapel of  St. Mary of the Lake Seminary on April 3, 1937, Fr. Blanchette continued his studies in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University, earning a licentiate of canon law (JCL)  in 1939. Fr. Blanchette served as notary of the matrimonial court in the Archdiocese of Chicago (1938-1949) until he was “loaned” by Cardinal Stritch to the newly established Diocese of Joliet, where he became Chancellor. In 1950, he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese and named a Domestic Prelate.  He became a Protonotary Apostolic in 1959. 

On February 8, 1965, Pope Paul VI named Msgr. Blanchette Auxiliary Bishop of Joliet and Titular Bishop of Maxita. He received his episcopal consecration on April 3, 1965, from Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, with Bishops William Aloysius O'Connor and Ernest John Primeau serving as co-consecrators. He chose the episcopal motto, Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy).Bishop Blanchette attended the fourth session of the Second Vatican Council. Following the death of Bishop McNamara, Bishop Blanchette was elected Diocesan Administrator and then named the second Bishop of Joliet by Pope Paul VI on July 19, 1966. On August 31, 1966, the feast of St. Raymond Nonnatus, Bishop Blanchette was installed as the second Bishop of Joliet by Archbishop John P. Cody of Chicago at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet. 

It fell to Bishop Blanchette to implement the directives of the Second Vatican Council, especially in regard to the renewal of the liturgy, the involvement of the laity in the life of the Church, ecumenical outreach to various ecclesial communities, and dialogue with non-Christians. Bishop Blanchette oversaw the celebration of the Diocese’s Silver Jubilee (1973-1974), choosing the theme “Let Us Give Thanks to the Lord.” The observance culminated with the consecration of the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus on March 24, 1974. 

Having been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), Bishop Blanchette resigned as Diocesan Bishop  on January 30, 1979. For the next three years as the painful disease progressed, he lost all use of his limbs, and eventually his ability to speak. He refused pain medication and offered his suffering for the Diocese. He learned to communicate and even write articles for the diocesan newspaper by blinking his eyes. He died on January 10, 1982, at the age of 69. His funeral was celebrated by Bishop Joseph L. Imesch on January 14, 1982, at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus. The body of Bishop Blanchette is entombed in the mausoleum at Resurrection Cemetery in Romeoville, Illinois.

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