Personal Stories

Welcome to our meeting place ... where we can share our stories about the priests who have served our community.  If you would like to share your special story, please send it to info@shepherdstrust.org .  Feel free to be creative ... short stories, poems, brief comments ... it's up to you!


A Tribute to The Shepherds' Trust
by Dennis Hayes, Toronto, Ontario

I know my sheep, and mine know me
The shepherd echoed for eternity.
I give my life for all my sheep
To pass into my Father's keep.

And every Priest inspired by God
Follows the patch which Jesus trod.
To teach, to serve and tend the flock,
With every task, around the clock.

He dedicates his life for all:
The strong, the weak and those that fall.
It may be thought he's like a serf,
Not being paid the price he's worth.

Retirement time from little pay,
With little funds to go his way.
The Shepherds' Trust is striving still
To help the Priest, and always will.

So give all you can to The Shepherds' Trust,
By caring for those who cared for us.


My Thoughts on The Shepherds' Trust

How do I feel about the Shepherds' Trust? ... I am an ardent supporter of the Shepherds' Trust. The Shepherds' Trust is a much needed charitable endeavour that should have been started long ago. Taking care of the priests that have served this archdiocese for years and years is the responsibility of those they served.

I have heard people say that "the Church" should look after these men and provide for them. As Catholics, we should know that WE are the church. These men served us not the theologians, bishops, or canon lawyers in Rome. They were on the front lines, building our churches, dealing with our problems, celebrating our joys and sharing our sorrows. Thousands and thousands of parishioners counted on them. We didn't "rent" them from the archdiocese for a year or two, we welcomed them into our homes and into our lives. They became part of our family.

These men are gifts to us from God. At God's calling, they gave up nearly everything they had to serve us. In many cases, they moved far away from home, leaving behind family and friends. Theirs has not been an easy burden to carry. There are no wives with whom to share their load, no children to help out. Parents are long gone and if there are brothers and sisters they are as elderly as our priests, so any support from siblings would be minimal at best.

We cannot forget that in addition to financial support, our elderly priests need to feel wanted and needed as part of our community. Loneliness and feeling unloved or unwanted can be a huge burden for anyone, especially the elderly. I would like to see a network of people set up who can take them out shopping or for a drive, out for dinner or to various church events at different parishes.

I was very moved when several of our elderly shepherds concelebrated Mass at the Shepherds' Trust kick-off in October. I cannot and will not forget about these men and the richness they have brought not only to my life, but to the lives of my family over the last generation. How sad it is that it took us so long to recognize they were in need.

And if we are ever in doubt about how much our priest mean to us and what it would be like not to have them, we need only look to the many small towns and villages in northern Canada served by the Canadian Catholic Missions.

How very blessed we are.

 

How do I feel about the pulpit address? ... Having written it I am probably biassed.

It is difficult to write something from the heart that can be read by others in such a way as it sounds like it is coming from their heart also. I think though, for the most part I have succeeded. It is more important to me that it is from the heart rather than a cold laundry list of facts.

From the heart, it makes people think, not only about their current priests, but the priests from their childhood, the priests who come into their children's classrooms, priests who were friends of their family, etc. It personalizes the request and brings a face to mind. Although these may be my words, I think they reflect the feelings of thousands of parishioners, whose lives were touched by our priests.

 

Have any priests touched my life and left a lasting impression? ... Many priests have touched my life over the years. The Dominicans from St. Dominic's Parish in Mississauga were the priests of my childhood and old friends of my parents. I think of them often, can picture them sitting around our dining room table, in our school, at the church bazaars and fairs. I wish I could say thank-you to them now, but that was a long time ago and they have all passed away. I still pray for them daily.

St. Domenic's church was also fortunate to have a young parishioner named Brian Clough. Brian and his family were founding members of the Church of St. Domenic. Many years later, St. Domenic's parish, including my mum and dad, were overjoyed to welcome back Brian to the parish, this time as "Father Brian Clough". As my parents got older and more infirm, Fr. Brian's generosity in terms of his time, his prayers, his thoughtfulness, and compassion were a godsend to my brothers and me. Fr. Brian has left an indelible mark on the heart of the entire O'Meara family and we will be forever grateful.

In more recent years I am grateful to the dedication and spiritual guidance and friendship of Fr. Joe Shiels, whose homilies touch my soul and move me to action. He is a gentle and caring man who sees beauty not only in the photographs he so expertly captures but also in the minds and hearts of every person he meets. He has a zest for life that bubbles over into our parish community and as a result we are a busy, vibrant, welcoming and deeply spiritual parish.

As a member of St. Ignatius Loyola parish in Mississauga, I am also fortunate to be able to enjoy the wisdom, life experiences, and humour of Fr. Al Love, who assists at our parish on the weekends.

Fr. Owen Keenan, a young priest who came to us a year ago, brings a tremendous love of life to our parish and is especially loved by the children and the young people of the parish. We are indeed blessed.

Many priests have touched my life, just as they have yours.

Mary Ellen Hannah, Mississauga, Ontario


I Am Very Grateful for the Help that this Priest Gave Me

In 1984, my first husband died very suddenly and at the very young age of 41. As you can appreciate, I was very shocked and not able to make important decisions such as where to bury him. I phoned the local Rectory and spoke to the Pastor, Fr. Wallace. Within an hour Fr. Wallace came to my house and over a mug of tea, we talked through things and I was able to come to a decision about the best thing to do. Later, he was again of great help to me when the time came to let go of my late husband’s clothing. I am very grateful for the help that this priest gave me and at a time that I really needed it.

Trena Finnega, Unionville, Ontario


"Thanks" to Those Wonderful Priests

I firmly believe that we should take care of those who take care of us and for this reason I am glad for the existence of the Shepherds' Trust. It provides us with an opportunity to give back and to say "Thanks" to those wonderful priests who have spent a lifetime looking after us.

It was a pleasure and an honour to be able to speak to my fellow parishioners at St. Dominic's about the Shepherds' Trust. I am very grateful to have had this occasion to speak on behalf of our retired priests. Like most Catholics, I have encountered quite a few priests over the years and my experiences have always been positive and rewarding.

Louise Leung, Mississauga, Ontario


His Positive Outlook is Still Etched in My Mind

Our retired priests have given up much to serve us. I was honoured to give back in a small way, something to them by delivering the 2003 Pulpit Addressed at St. Clement's Parish. Prior to joining St. Clements, we were members of Our Lady of Sorrows which was under the leadership of Rev. Msgr. Kenneth Robitaille. Msgr. Robitaille is now retired but his positive outlook towards life and the love he freely demonstrated to the young children of the parish is still etched in my mind.

Yvonne McSporran, Toronto, Ontario


He Helped to Mould My Life

"Throughout my life, I have been moulded by others - my parents, teachers and priests, all had a hand in making me the person that I am.

Msgr. M. Polito is one of these people. When he first came to St. Clare's Parish, Fr. McGoey was Pastor - he was elderly and in poor health. Fr. Polito was his strength and helper, but always in a way that allowed Fr. McGoey to maintain his dignity - I learned from that!

Fr. Polito was always surrounded by the youth of the Parish - laughing and joking - but when those same young people needed advice and understanding they knew they could go to Father and he would LISTEN, help and encourage them. I learned from that too!

I learned that when I had a problem, I too could unburden myself and receive help and comfort and strength....everyone needs support.

I learned that Faith is not false piety, rather it is helping others, respecting them, it is living life in a spiritual and joyful way - it is LISTENING!

Thank you Msgr. Polito!

Ella Carell, Toronto, Ontario


He Helped Us Grow Up Spiritually

My fondest memories were about Fr. Corless getting our St. James baseball team to our games at Christie Pits. This is now the early 50's and Fr. is an assistant at St. James in west Toronto. I don't believe he coached us but he was more of spiritual director and inspiration for the teams. However, being one of the few people with a car, he often undertook to take the whole team to the games. That meant cramming 10 to 12 kids into his car. No seat belts in those days.

We all had to watch out for police and, when we saw one, we would shout "cops" and everyone would duck out of sight. Somehow, with all that divine inspiration, we won the CYO championship that year.

Fr. also helped with hockey teams. One memory which is vivid in my mind is Fr. Corless in our dressing room at Varsity arena just before the championship game. I asked Fr. to say a prayer for us to win. His reply was and I quote ... "Now, now, we can't ask Him to take sides only that He will help us to play a good game." He did help ... we won and Fr. was very proud.

Isn't it funny how incidents like that can stick with you for life. I remember them often and have told all my kids and grandkids about the fun we had and the wonderful priests, like Fr. Corless, who helped us grow up, spiritually and otherwise.

Ron "Butch "Collingbourne", Barrie, Ontario


Our Ongoing Thanks!

Seeing the article on Fr. Reeves in your Fall newsletter brought back a flood of memories. It was wonderful to see his smiling face again!

Fr. Reeves was an assistant at St. James Parish on Annette St., in west Toronto, when I was a young parishioner there, along with my mother and father. He married Mary Anne Snyders and me on Sept. 3, 1960. We were one of the first couples to be married in the new "round" church. We have just celebrated our 43rd anniversary so it appears the blessings given by Fr. Reeves on that day have worked their magic.

In the early 70's , we caught up to Fr. Reeves at St. Mary's Parish in Barrie. We had moved there from Montreal ( and have stayed since ). It was comforting to renew an old acquaintance at that time.

We do hope and pray that Fr. Reeves is able to enjoy a great retirement. He has certainly earned it and our ongoing thanks for giving Mary Anne and me a great start to our life together.

Ron Collingbourne, Barrie, Ontario


I Always Appreciated His Honesty and Sense of Humour

In September 1980 Father Edward Platt married Lucy and I at St. Luke's in Thornhill, Ontario. I was concerned that he would give me a hard time since I had been confirmed in the Anglican Church and Lucy was Roman Catholic. No such thing! He was very kind to me and asked only if I would make the commitment to raise any children of the marriage in the Christian Faith. I was only too happy to make that promise, and we shook hands. Throughout the years Lucy, John, Matthew and I attended St. Luke's as a family and Lucy always kidded me that she thought Father Platt liked me more than her! Never once did he try to "convert" me, and I always appreciated his honesty and sense of humour. When it came time for him to "retire" I was very sad and must confess that it took me a little time to warm up to his replacement, Father William Burns. As time has passed, I have come to know that, just like Father Platt, Father Bill is kind, generous, wise and has a good sense of humour ... all essential qualities to be a good Parish Pastor. Sadly last year my lovely wife of 22 years, Lucy, died and was buried from St. Luke's by Father Bill. That is the sad news, the good news is that on August 17th of this year, I was confirmed a full member of the Catholic Church ... again at St. Luke's. And so Father Platt, it took me a long time, but in the end you win! Thanks for everything you have done over these many years. Respectfully and most sincerely yours, David.

David E. Ingham, Thornhill, Ontario


You Were Always There

No eloquence here, just a big, from the heart, thank you for always being there. The weddings, christenings, funerals and as a friend to my dear father Raoul.  I was and will always be grateful that he had you for a friend, no words can express how I feel. You worked hard for us and all in the communities you shepherded into being here in Oshawa.  Just want to say merci - and God bless you.

Marie-Jeanne Heard, Oshawa


Your Work in Retirement is Helping a Lot of People

I just want to express my sincere thanks to Father Lawrence Dugo for his excellent eulogy in the chapel of Paul O'Connor Funeral Home on September 4th for my father Albert M. Miceli.

My family received several compliments from friends and relatives in attendance about Father Dugo's eulogy. His comment that 'Dad wasn't perfect and none of us is perfect - that's why they put erasers on pencils' struck a responsive chord with many of us.

Personally, I was amazed on how accurate he portrayed my father after only a brief 5-10 minute conversation with my mother, brother and myself prior to the chapel service.

His poignant but down-to-earth eulogy was very important to us and made our grieving a little easier.

It was also ironic that my father/family attended Precious Blood Church in Scarborough in the late 1950's and early 60's where Father Dugo together with Father Murphy and Father Prance were the parish priests at the time.

It has been a difficult few months for us as we miss Dad dearly but your eulogy has helped us cope with our loss.

God Bless you Father Dugo and please remember Dad in your prayers.

On behalf of my mother, brother and his family thanks again. Your work in retirement is helping a lot of people.

John Miceli, Toronto, Ontario


In my Life He was the Shepherd of the Century

My name is John Anthony Vella and not to be confused with your John A. Vella - I am 60 years old, married for 39 years we have three children and three grandchildren.

My story is regarding Father Charles Downs who came into our parish and lives when I was about fourteen years of age at Saint Matthew's Parish in Toronto. He came to help an aging FR. L. Woods, He took on all the duties and probably more than he was expected to and I am sure he was a great help to the pastor.

Fr. Charlie (as he insisted we call him) decided that he would turn every young person he could find that was hanging around doing nothing into a sports fan as intense a he was. I think his purpose was two fold, one to get us busy and the other (by his example) to slowly but surely instill in us an intense love of the Catholic faith and the religious ceremonies. Based on the fact that we were a band of rowdy teenagers with very little interest in religion I think he did very well.

Father would invite a crowd of us to join him at the church on Friday in lent for the Stations and Benediction so that we would be there in time to all pile into his big old car (with no second gear) and he would drive us all to the other end of town to see the St. Michaels Buzzers play at Ted Reeve Arena. Then he would stand at the door and barter for a reduced rate to get us all in. This was only one of the many places that he would take us others included ball games, stock car races, and more. Slowly but surely he turned us all into intense sports fans. What we did not realize at the time was that because we usually had to meet him at the church that we were being slowly involved in church life. He would ask us to "help out" with this service and that service, He taught us the skills of protocol on the altar and of High Mass and set up an order that he even had us competing for the place of honour next to him during special ceremonies.

We were off the streets, we were now sharing Fr. Charlie's intense love of sports and we were developing a whole new attitude to religion, church and the Catholic lifestyle. Most of the young men that had come into contact with this man served on the alter into their twenties.

At a time when I questioned every thing, and disbelieved even more I met a man that knew how to communicate and reach the closed mind of a typical teenager who already knew everything. His ability to direct and lead and mostly the example he set was the most definite turning point in my life.

Father Charles Downs died young but left a definite legacy with the people he had shepherded. Others remember him for the peace and comfort he was able to bring to the sick and the dying or his ability to "talk" from the pulpit as if it was a discussion at the dinner table.

Father Charlie was usually late, sometimes untidy, but always well organized in his plan to serve ..... In my life he was the Shepherd of the Century.

John Anthony Vella, Jackson's Point, Ontario


In Our Time of Need

Last November 2001, my Mom was sent to the hospital Emergency department for suspected pneumonia. My sisters, brother and I were understandably upset, as our incredibly active, feisty and healthy 81 year old Mom had never been ill before. Father Joseph Shiels, my Pastor at St. Ignatius Loyola in Mississauga, who had happened to call me right after I learned of Mom's illness, immediately sensed the worry in my voice. Without a word, Fr. Joe went down to the hospital to give Mom the Anointing of the Sick. He chatted with her while she continued to wait in the Emergency Department, and prayed with her. When I arrived at the hospital, Mom was beaming, and couldn't believe that Fr. Joe had taken the time to visit her.

During the next 2 days, while Mom remained in the Emergency Department (due to a shortage of beds), Fr. Joe visited her again, to pray, chat and make her laugh. While he was with her, she had forgotten her frustration over being in a hospital bed instead of shopping at Square One! She and my family were so grateful for his spiritual encouragement and words of care. On the third night, when Mom's pneumonia suddenly worsened, she was admitted to Intensive Care. The next day, Fr. Joe came once again. She had yet another chance to pray with him. She was so happy to have had the chance to receive the Anointing again, and was so grateful for his visit. And we were equally thankful for that opportunity, as the next day Mom was sedated and put on life support.

During the emotional roller-coaster of the following three weeks, when Mom would come close to death on several occasions, and then seem to bounce back, Fr. Joe helped my family and me to cope. He visited our unconscious mother, and offered spiritual guidance along with a compassionate shoulder to cry on.

On a Saturday afternoon, the doctors gave our family the dreaded news that Mom's condition was failing quickly. Our first thought was to call Fr. Joe at the Church. I was told that he had stepped out but would return my call when he came back. Since I was in the ICU, and had no means of receiving calls, I told the secretary that I would try again later. Within 10 minutes, the floor nurse came into Mom's room to advise me that there was "a Fr. Joe" on the phone! I don't know how he got through to the ICU, but I was so happy to hear his voice. Although he was preparing to celebrate Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola, and the hospital was about 20 minutes away from the Church, he dropped everything and came down to give Mom another Anointing. He spent a great deal of time talking to us, as we were beside ourselves. When the nurse asked us to go home for a while that evening, I felt helpless, hopeless, desperate and empty. My emotions were all over the place, and I needed to talk to someone. I called Fr. Joe. He was tired, I could hear it in his voice, yet he spoke to me for almost an hour. I hung up the phone with a greater sense of faith and strength with which to handle the next day, when Mom did pass away.

I don't know how we would have gotten through the next few days without him. He and his associate, Fr. John Asadoorian, came to the funeral home on both days to lead us in prayer, and they both concelebrated her Funeral Mass at Mom's parish in Toronto. Fr. Joe celebrated the Rite of Burial at Mount Hope, and invited my sisters and brother to call him anytime.

It has been almost nine months since Mom left us, and I am still leaning on Fr. Joe for "boosts of faith" and a compassionate ear. He continues to help me through the most difficult time in my life since my Dad died, and continues to give unselfishly of himself.

Fr. Joe takes very seriously the words of Christ at the Last Supper when He told His Apostles, as He washed their feet, to serve others. Fr. Joe is truly God's shepherd! And I know that my family and I will never forget what he did for our Mom, and for us.

Mary-Jo D'Agostino, Mississauga, Ontario