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‘I try to live a life of gratitude’

January 20, 2021

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 Jonathan Monfiletto
Contributing Writer

MASSENA – From his first day on the job as a New York State Trooper until he retired 23 years later in 2019, Darin Chartrand learned to rely on his faith as a lifelong Catholic to help him get through the difficult situations his career presented to him.

“My faith is important to me because it really helps me get through the tough times. (As a Trooper), a lot of times you’re dealing with untimely deaths and just bad situations that turn people’s lives upside down,” he said, noting the numerous times he had to investigate suicides, fatal car crashes and other deadly incidents that ran the gamut of ages from the young to the elderly. “The one thing that helped me get through that was my faith. It was also comforting to the people we were dealing if we were able to share a little bit of that with them to get them through the hard times.”

Chartrand, who lives in Massena and attends St. Mary’s/St. Joseph’s Church with his wife, Michele, and their four children, recalled one specific incident when he was a brand-new trooper undergoing a 10-week field training with a senior trooper.

While traveling back roads and learning the area he would patrol, Chartrand and his colleague received a report of a fatal agricultural accident involving a teenage girl.

“We were literally right up the road, so we beat the ambulance there by quite a few minutes,” he said, noting it was his first experience with such a tragedy. “There was literally nothing we could do to save her except to pray with her family.”

Calling the family “very faith-filled,” Chartrand noted he and the family used their shared faith to help one another and said that moment set the stage for the rest of his career as a trooper.

“No matter how bad the situation was, I knew my faith would get me through,” he said.

As a cradle Catholic, Chartrand said his faith has sustained him through his personal life as well as his professional career. He grew up in Croghan as the oldest of five boys, and his next youngest brother was born with severe cerebral palsy and dealt with several medical conditions throughout his whole life.

“That brought our family very close together,” Chartrand said. “One thing that my mom and dad always made sure was that we were in church every Sunday. Our faith is what bonded us together and got us through the hard times. It got us through growing up with all the challenges my younger brother had.”

Faith continues to carry Chartrand and his family through life’s ups and downs. He and Michele have four children – a 23-year-old son, a 19-year-old daughter, then “a long gap,” he called it before a 7-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter.

“We try to lead by example, if you will,” Chartrand said. “We’re a very tight-knit family.”

One of the things that has kept the family tight over the years has been their experiences of family weekends at Camp Guggenheim, which Chartrand noted helped them not only grow closer as a family but also grow closer to other families.

“You make lifelong friends down there. All of our kids enjoyed it,” he said. “The families you meet, you become lifelong friends.”

The Chartrands taught third-grade faith formation for many years in their church until the two parishes combined. He served as an extraordinary minister of the Holy Eucharist, and since churches reopened amid the pandemic he has served as a greeter to welcome people and help them find a seat in the sanctuary while practicing social distancing.

The Chartrands also went through the Formation for Ministry program together and commissioned as lay ministers in 2015 – a process that involved their then-newborn son sitting in his stroller in the back of the classroom.

“Stuff gets thrown at you in life that you didn’t (expect). I know it’s all God’s plan,” Chartrand said, adding his younger daughter was born the day he was supposed to turn his uniforms in upon his retirement. “I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I’m sure God’s got a plan.”

Along the way, he calls Michele “one of my biggest inspirations.” She attended church with him for a number of years before going through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Now, she is “very devout,” Chartrand said, and serves as a Servite of Mary.

“Her spirituality, I really admire it and I really get a lot of strength from it, from the example she sets,” Chartrand said. “She’s kind of my strength also as we all struggle through the journey of life.”

In his prayer life, Chartrand calls himself a private person – he likes to pray in the sanctuary of his bedroom and enjoy the quiet as he communes with God. At the same time, he tries to set an example of faith for his children by praying with them before meals and at bedtime so they can develop their own relationship with God.

“I try to live a life of gratitude,” Chartrand said. “That’s the most important thing. Kids need to see their parents praying. They pick up on that.”

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