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Finding God through tragedy, heartache, music

August 26, 2020

Editor’s note: The following is an installment of an ongoing series featuring how Catholics of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are living out their faith. To suggest an individual to be featured in this series, please call the North Country Catholic at 315-393-2920 or email dfargo@rcdony.org.

By Darcy Fargo

HELENA – Though he was raised in the Catholic faith, Michael Rabideau, now 60 years old, said most of his spiritual growth “has taken place in the last 10 years,” and that faith helped him overcome tragedy and hardship.

Originally from Plattsburgh, Rabideau attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through grade 12.

“My younger years were spent at St. Peter’s Elementary School, and my later teen years were spent at Mount Assumption Institute, now known as Seton Catholic,” he said. “I learned to love God through my interactions with the staff at those two schools.”

In his youth, Rabideau and his siblings also participated in a folk group that provided music at St. Peter’s Church in Plattsburgh, where his family attended Mass. He said his parents provided him and his siblings “a loving, nurturing environment,” and they ensured the family was connected to its home parish.

When, as a young adult, he became married, he and his wife moved to Gloversville, where Rabideau began a career in teaching. While he and his wife were devoted to one another, Rabideau said his devotion to his faith waned during that time.

“My faith and commitment to God took a back seat,” he said. “I attended churches in the area where I taught my first few years, but I have to admit that it was sporadic at best.”

Rabideau said he became even more distracted and distant from his faith as his son hit the teenage years and began struggling with drug addiction.

“He started out as a typical boy who loved sports and video games,” Rabideau said. “But in his teen years, he traded these pastimes for drugs and alcohol. The next 10 years were filled with struggles with addiction (and) frequent stints in various correctional facilities.”

Rabideau said his son’s problems, as well has his own well-being was further compromised when his wife died in 2010.

“Our marriage lasted 27 years,” he said. “When she died on April 1, 2010, a part of me died as well… We both lost a vital part of our lives.”

At the time of his wife’s death, the couple’s son was receiving substance abuse treatment at Rose Hill in Massena, an inpatient treatment program for youth. Shortly after her death, Rabideau, then a resident of Ogdensburg, began attending Mass and participating in Al-Anon, a program that supports the loved ones of alcoholics and addicts.

“I started to attend regular church services again, and I found the rooms of Al-Anon, a place of recovery that helped me deal with my son’s issues as well as my ow,” he said. “I have found serenity and a means of sharing my experience, strength, and hope with my Al-Anon family.”

While the program doesn’t overtly talk about religion, it emphasizes a relationship with a “higher power.” Developing his relationship with a “higher power,” God for Rabideau, helped him grow in his faith.

“That relationship and spirituality made me want to become more acquainted with the Church,” he said.

As he began dealing with his personal and spiritual development, Rabideau also found love again, meeting his now wife Jeanette.

“She helped me through the rough patches of my relationship with my son,” he said. “And she was instrumental in my coping with the loss of my mother four years ago from Alzheimer’s disease. I have her constant love and support as proof that God’s love is present in my life.”

Through his involvement in Al-Anon, Rabideau became acquainted with St. Peter’s Parish in Massena.

“I was emceeing a (Al-Anon) ‘Day of Sharing’ at St. Mary’s Social Hall, and (St. Peter’s Parish pastor) Father Mark (Reilly) was a guest speaker,” Rabideau said.

Rabideau and Father Reilly were later put in contact with another through another parishioner, also involved in Al-Anon. Father Reilly encouraged Rabideau to participate in that parish, and he soon became a lector, greeter, usher, cantor and a volunteer with Alpha, a program of evangelization.

“I agreed to attend this gathering, and that began a three year association with Alpha, a spirituality program that has grown from 10 people when I attended as a guest to 60 people in the last real-life cycle we did last fall. Our current online session on Zoom has also yielded some awe-inspiring results.”

Rabideau also participated in Cursillo, further helping him develop a network of faith-based fellowship and tools for evangelization.

In addition to participating in Alpha and Cursillo, Rabideau has started writing about his faith, producing a number of faith-based books.

He also participates in a more personal writing-based ministry.

“I write a letter to my dad every single day – 365 days a year,” he said. “Since we lost my mom four years ago, I thought it would give him a boost in morale and help our connection. It’s basically a page or a page and a half typed, and I send it through the mail. He has all those letters in plastic sleeves. He waits for the mail to come each day, and he shares those letters with the people in his retirement home.”

To foster his own faith, Rabideau said he participates in Mass regularly. He also has a particular attachment to the “Serenity Prayer,” a common prayer in 12-step programs.

“I say that prayer every day,” he said.

Rabideau said music also helps him develop his relationship with the Lord, and that music is often inspiration for his writing and a method of prayer.

“I have found that most of my daily hopes and prayers can be expressed through a portion of a song,” he said.

To find Rabideau’s books, search his name on Amazon. He also produces YouTube videos featuring songs and lyrics that have inspired him and/or are referenced in his writing. His videos can be found by searching YouTube for “Michael Rabideau Music of My Soul.”

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