Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 22, 2000
Purcell remembered as devoted pastor
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Father Edward Purcell, pastor, author and military chaplain, died May 10 at the age of 83.
But Rose Fornal remembers Purcell best as a hummer.
Recalling her wedding day more than 40 years ago in Bruce, when her organist didn't show up, Fornal was comforted by Purcell who offered to hum the wedding march.
"He said to me, 'Don't worry, I'll hum it as you walk up.' So he hummed it. It was so kind of him to do something like that."
Many years later when Fornal met with Purcell in Viking she asked if he remembered that day.
"He asked me if he did good," said Fornal, who lives in Viking. "I told him he did good.
"He was a good man and a good person for doing that. I'll always remember that about him."
Born in Antigonish, N.S., Purcell attended St. Francis Xavier University where he received his bachelor of arts. He completed his theological studies at St. Joseph's Seminary in Edmonton and was ordained in 1948 at St. Ninian's Cathedral in his hometown.
Soon after his ordination, he was assigned to Tofield where he served as pastor for 13 years. Following Tofield, he worked in Clandonald, Innisfail, Vermilion, Viking and Edmonton.
He served in the Second World War and later as a chaplain with the Royal Canadian Navy on both coasts in Canada. He was awarded the Efficiency Medal and Canadian Armed Forces Decoration.
While serving in parishes, Purcell suffered two heart attacks, the last one forcing him to retire in 1985. But he didn't stay retired long. He was back behind the pulpit in 1989 as pastor in Viking until his final retirement from parish duties two years later.
Through the years, he had kept active as an author. His last book Unsung Heroes of War: Our Catholic Chaplains was published in 1998.
In the introduction of the book, Father Michael Troy, chaplain at St. Joseph's High School, described Purcell as a devoted priest and patriot.
"Few priests of the Edmonton Archdiocese are more popular than Father Ed," wrote Troy. "His mischievous sense of humour and his genuine interest in people, old and young, has endeared him not only to parishioners in rural and city parishes, but won him respect of his colleagues in the ministerial associations, the Lions Club, the Knights of Columbus and, above all, in the Royal Canadian Legion."
Olga Mielimaka and her family respected Purcell because he "was a very holy man."
"He was very religious," said Mielimaka, who lives in Holden. "He always kept the holy days. If Ascension falls on a weekday, some priests would celebrate it on the following Sunday. But (Purcell) always celebrated it on the day it fell on. He believed strongly in celebrating it on the right day."
Purcell was also a strong believer in missions, said Mielimaka.
"We used to have missions a couple times a year, every year," she said. "They used to be a week long."
"(Purcell) was a good man, a very religious man."