Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 10, 2000
Firth impossible to replace at college
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Basilian Father Francis Firth will be remembered as a "gentle soul" and a dedicated professor who has proven virtually impossible to replace.
Firth, who taught about the early Fathers of the Church at Edmonton's St. Joseph's University College for more than 25 years, died in his sleep at the Basilian Fathers' residence in Toronto Dec. 6. He was 85.
A memorial Mass in his name will be celebrated at the college's chapel Jan. 15 at 11:30 a.m.
Firth came to St. Joseph's College in 1968 and for 27 years taught courses in patristic and medieval history, philosophy and theology. He retired in 1995 and moved to Toronto last February due to his declining health.
"His was an ubiquitous presence in the college," says the fall issue of Update, the college's newsletter. "Ever anxious to be of service, he placed himself at our disposal, whether in the lounge, the chapel, the Newman Centre or even the parking lot.
"Year after year, his gentle presence inspired and touched hundreds, if not thousands, of people at the college."
Firth retired five years ago and the college still can't find anyone to fill his shoes. The reason? He was one of about a dozen people in the world to hold a doctorate in medieval studies.
"(In that sense) he is irreplaceable," said Father Tim Scott, the college's president.
The priest will be remembered for his devotion to the Eucharist and for his dedication to his field and his students, Scott said.
"Father Firth was a gentle soul who was extremely sensitive to the needs of his students here at the college," he recalled. "He would do anything possible to help his students."
Father Brian Inglis, a former philosophy professor at the college who is now pastor at Hinton, knew Firth for almost 50 years.
"He was a very unique character," he said. "He wasn't humorous but he was diligent, dedicated and much admired."
At age 79, the college virtually "made" Firth retire because he wouldn't, recalled Inglis.
"He wanted to go on and on and thought the work he was doing was important and felt that the college could not replace him. In a way he was right because the college still can't find a replacement for him."
Inglis spent a lot of time around his colleague and admired him. "I'll remember him as a dedicated priest, very, very conscientious and deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the people."