Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 9, 2002
Cancer claims Fr. Walter Laliberty
Tireless priest served as diocesan administrator
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Dedication-incarnate is what they called Father Walter Laliberty, who at the age of 55 died Aug. 22 after more than a year-long battle with extensive cancer.
A priest of St. Paul Diocese for 29 years, Laliberty served in many parishes as pastor-administrator and when the seat of the diocese was vacant, served as the diocesan administrator for almost two years (1999-2001).
He did not only serve in many parishes, he was considered a top-notch, dedicated and well-loved priest.
Edmonton shares the loss with St. Paul, because Laliberty served the Alberta Regional Tribunal for more than 13 years and helped in some city parishes during the weekdays.
"He was one of the real work dogs in the tribunal.
"He just simply did so much work and had a great concern for people, who are in need of help with regard to their marriage situation," Msgr. Frank Patsula told the WCR.
With Laliberty, who was originally from Newport, Vt., there was no prolonging of cases.
"We used to tell people that cases will take a year to finish, but with Father Walter, cases were expedited. The tribunal would not have done the volume of work if not for fellows like him."
Laliberty was still diocesan administrator when he learned he had cancer. He resigned from the post, but continued serving in the tribunal.
Despite his suffering, he never failed to offer his time, energy and compassion to people. He would still come to the tribunal even if that meant carrying his oxygen tank to work.
St. Paul's Bishop Luc Bouchard said he was an excellent priest.
"He picked up a lot of responsibilities when there was a vacancy of the seat in the Diocese of St. Paul. He managed quite well and did everything with a lot of zeal, professionalism, dedication and humility."
"Even during his sickness he was always interested in the diocese. He never complained and always accepted his condition in faith, hope and love."
Although saddened by the loss of a fairly young priest, Bouchard thanks God for his life and prays that Laliberty's life will bear fruit in vocations for the diocese.
Rosalie Rosenberger, parishioner at St. Anne, Thorhild, remembers Laliberty would come to their house every weekend (in his signature jeans, shirt and suit).
Always very comical, Laliberty loved to joke with them.
"It was devastating when he got ill. We cried and prayed. He was given 30 days.
"When 30 days was up, I had a feeling he was going to make it."
The things Phyllis Hickle remembers very well about Laliberty were his ecumenical spirit and his down-to-earth attitude.
"He could talk to anybody whether they are Catholic or non-Catholic," said Hickle, another parishioner from St. Anne.
Although Hickle often pictured Laliberty as possibly becoming their bishop, she also always felt he was one of them.
She first met him in Westlock and was already impressed by his ecclesial aura.
Hickle had always thought Laliberty was a big shot so that when he was assigned in Thorhild, she was excited and thankful.
"We knew for a long time that he was dying, but when the time came, when we heard that he had passed on, it was still a shock.
"It's still hard for me to think that he is not with us anymore. He certainly leaves a big hole in our life."
At his request, Laliberty's funeral was held in Troy, Vt., on Aug. 28.
A memorial Mass will also be celebrated in St. Paul Cathedral, St. Paul, on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m.