Story of Rita Labombard

Press Republican FRIDAY. FEBRUARY 20, 1987
Mission center Rita LaBombard’s brain child

By Steve Manor
Staff Writer
CHAMPLAIN – The best way to describe Rita LaBombard
and her life is with two words “simple devotion.”
At 62, LaBombard is director of St. Mary’s Mission Center,
which she helped to establish 40 years ago, and her love of people
and God has never faltered. “We have only come this far
with the grace of God and the goodness of the people,” she
said during a recent interview.The many people who know
her say, above all else, LaBombard is humble, a bit shy and
always sincere. Born in Ellenburg, her father,
Joseph LaBombard, died when she was five years old. At age
15, her mother, Delia, married the late James Nichols.
“Both my parents played a very large role in how I shaped
my life. They were plain, simple living people, with a
deep, simple faith. They had a great devotion to going to mass;
My father, or rather my stepfather, taught me a great deal
about having his Philosophy was: never do to others what
you wouldn’t want done to you.He was also a great believer,
and often said ‘the Lord will provide” and he always did,”
LaBombard said.LaBombard, who never married,
moved to Champlain with her family about 45 years ago.
Having known the late Monsignor Robert Arquette, who
was then director of the propagation of the faith for the
local Roman Catholic diocese,LaBombard learned that there
were no headquarters to collect religious articles, package them
and a ship them to the foreign missions.
“People had religious articles, new and used, they were willing
to donate for shipment to the missionaries in Africa, but there
were no headquarters to collect them or ship them from,” she
said.”I inquired about trying to collect them locally and somehow
get them to the missionaries and Father Arquette
wrote back, saying whatever I did, I had his blessing,” she added.
LaBombard started collecting religious articles in boxes in the
back of the church. Local parishioners, who wanted to donate
some religious articles, simply left them in the boxes.
“I soon learned that, alone, I couldn’t do very much. I called
some of my friends, six ladies in town; that was in January of
1947. We met and we founded St. Mary’s Mission Center. We
decided on that name, because of our devotion to the Blessed
Mother and the work we would .do we devoted to her Labombard
recalled.With her parent’s permission, she used one corner of the front
porch on her parent’s home on Oak Street in Champlain. That
was where St. Mary’s Mission Center got its start.
“Before long, we were using the entire porch, then the entire
house. We were collecting, then shipping religious articles to the
missions in Africa. We received donations and had food sales to.
raise the money needed for postage,” she recalled.
Gradually, the center started collecting clothing local people
donated. “There was and still is a big demand for clothing over
in the missions. We now collect, sort, pack and ship 30 tons of
clothing a year out of the mission center,” she noted.
Incorporated as a non-profit corporation a couple of years
ago, the mission center is as busy as ever and it is still growing.
“My goal now is to maintain our level of work. My overall
goal is to have the center carry on and benefit more people. I’m
not getting any younger, so I am looking for some help ,
LaBombard said. The biggest problem she faces
is getting volunteers to help with the work at the center. “I
have worked in rectories most of Center.
My life, I work part-time at St.Mary’s rectory now, so that
doesn’t leave as much time as I would like to work at the center,
“she added.Over the years, the mission center has served another important
function, one which LaBombard chooses not to dwell on.
‘”We have always taken people off the street. We give them
their meals and a place to sleep. We are called by the border and
others to take someone in. In all the people we have had, we have
never had any trouble. The Lord has always protected us. No
harm has ever come to me or anyone and we have taken in a
variety of people,” she added. ” I soon learned that alone, I couldn’t
do very much. I called some of my friends, six ladies in town; that was
in January of 1947. We met and founded St. Mary’s Mission
Center. We decided on that name, because of out devotion to the
Blessed Mother, and the work we would do, we devoted to her.

Rita LaBombard

Published on March 31, 2008 at 6:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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