Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 27, 1999
Bible school founder dies
By GORDON LEGGE
Special to the WCR
For Louie Stoeckle, Christmas was an everyday occasion.
Stoeckle, a Madonna House pioneer and the first director of the Canadian Catholic Bible College in Canmore, died Nov. 3 in Calgary after a six-month illness. He was 67.
He died the same day as his friend and another Madonna House pioneer, Dorothy Phillips, founder of the Marian Centre for the homeless in Edmonton.
"Louis really tried to make God present in his person," says his wife, Suzanne. "That was his vocation."
Born in Toronto in 1932, Stoeckle was raised a Roman Catholic. As a way of bringing up his religious studies grades during his final year of high school, Stoeckle memorized every word of Quadragesimo Anno, Pope Pius XI's social teaching on the Reconstruction of the Social Order.
About the same time, he became involved with the Young Christian Workers movement.
One day, Catherine de Hueck Doherty, who founded the Madonna House Apostolate in 1947 in Combermere in eastern Ontario, came to Toronto to speak to the young people.
Soon Stoeckle was living at Combermere, becoming one of the first people to join Doherty's community, called to incarnate the teachings of Jesus Christ by forming a community of love.
At his funeral in Combermere, Father Bob Pelton described Stoeckle as Doherty's "spiritual son."
In 1954, Stoeckle, along with two other staff, were assigned to go to Whitehorse and open their first field house. They set up Mary House, ministering to the native people while providing shelter for transient men. Putting in place the northern territory's first social services, they relied on divine providence to meet their needs.
About five years later, he was forced to leave the Yukon because of an eye problem - acute double vision. The condition was later healed after what Stoeckle regarded as a surgical miracle.
When he talked about doing the will of God, it was not a question of practising obedience. Rather it was about realizing how God loves every person moment by moment.
"If you wait on God and do what you need to do with integrity, he will take care of it," Stoeckle would often say.
He became the Combermere's first director of laymen. Later he also managed St. Benedict's Farm.
He identified with anyone who was in pain, be it physical or emotional. "He never stooped or reached down," says Suzanne. "He made them feel rich in the interaction."
"You know, Suzanne, life is never, ever too short to be present to people," he told his impatient wife one day.
Forever giving to the poor, he always gave in person and from his own needs. "We're given things to pass them on; not hang onto them," Louie would tell his wife.
When the Stoeckles married, he left Madonna House, moving to Vancouver where he worked with alcoholics and drug addicts.
In 1979, he joined the staff at Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Sask., where he assumed a variety of roles with the students.
Five years later, he established the Canadian Catholic Bible College in Canmore, creating a community where young people's souls could be formed by Scripture before returning to the world to follow their calling.
The college never took hold. In the early 1990s, the couple opened a bed and breakfast in Canmore. Then Suzanne became ill with cancer.
They decided on an aggressive alternative treatment. For two years, Stoeckle took care of his wife from dawn till dusk, without hesitation or complaint.
After her recovery, he became actively involved with the Moral Rearmament movement.
Earlier this year, he was diagnosed with cancer of the lining of the lungs. He died at home. A two-day wake was held to celebrate his life. At his request, mourners were encouraged to make a donation to Servants Anonymous, a Calgary organization that helps prostitutes get off the streets.
Says Suzanne: "He hoped he would be remembered as someone who created beautiful memories for people."