Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 6, 2004
Raab was a joy-filled priest
Long-time pastor was an example to brother priests
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Father Karl Raab was everybody's favourite priest: generous, kind, always joyful and attentive. A priest for 47 years, Raab was known for his dedication to the Church and unwavering commitment to his faith.
"To me he was a model priest," says Father Greg Bittman, chancellor of the archdiocese and one of the many priests Raab mentored over the years. "He was generous, compassionate, had a great sense of humour; he was prayerful and he was always happy and joyful."
Raab, who retired in May 2001 after he was diagnosed with a massive brain tumour, died peacefully at his St. Albert home Nov. 30. He was 72.
Bittman, who did his pastoral training under Raab at Holy Family Parish in 1991, said Raab was always generous with his time and person.
"I don't remember him ever saying 'no' to people," he recalled. "He was always available for funerals, or baptisms or weddings or people wanting to see him. He would give people any of the time they needed and he would listen attentively to them. He didn't put himself first; he always thought of others."
Raab "touched many, many, many people," Bittman said. "I don't think he's going to ever be forgotten."
In his priestly career, Raab served in many different capacities, including pastor, prison chaplain, rector of St. Joseph Seminary, business administrator at Newman Theological College, diocesan consultor, spiritual director of the Catholic Women's League and chair of the liturgy commission.
He also served on the archdiocesan vocations' team with vice-chancellor Margot Bilodeau for years. "He was always very concerned about vocations and never missed an opportunity to talk to young people about the priesthood," Bilodeau recalled.
"We are going to miss him a lot," Bilodeau said. "He was a very, very dedicated priest, very prayerful and gentle and friendly. He was very much loved by his parishioners."
Recently Raab had become a member of the archdiocesan Mission Council. He was also taking Spanish classes in preparation for his third visit to Nicaragua, where his friend Father Denis Hebert does mission work. He was discovered dead after he failed to show up for his Spanish class on Tuesday evening.
"I spoke to him Monday night; we were very good friends and we had made arrangements to have lunch sometime this week," said retired Archbishop Joseph MacNeil. "He was in very good spirits, full of life and ready to go to Nicaragua."
MacNeil described Raab as a marvellous person who loved life and a marvellous priest dedicated to his craft. "He was someone that I considered as a model priest, someone after whom our young seminarians could pattern their lives."
Over the years, MacNeil sent many seminarians to do their pastoral year at the parishes where Raab served so they could watch and learn from him. "He was so obvious as the person who would lead by example," he recalled. "In a way all he had to do would be to say to the seminarian, 'Just watch me.'"
Over the years, Raab served in at least eight parishes, including parishes in Olds, Red Deer, Fort Saskatchewan, Lloydminster, Edmonton and St. Albert. He retired in May 2001 after 13 years as pastor of Holy Family Parish in St. Albert.
Raab loved the outdoors and often went on camping expeditions into the mountains on horseback with his friends, MacNeil recalled. "He was physically a strong man and he had to be because he survived a number of very, very serious health problems and he was always anxious to recover to help out in parishes."
Rose Marie Fowler, associate director of the archdiocesan liturgy office, had been friends with Raab for 45 years and served in several parishes and commissions with him.
She saw him frequently in the last few months. The priest often went to her home for supper and both loved to play canasta together. "He was a very good card player," she recalled. But last summer he lost a game and would not let Fowler forget it. "He sent me a little note saying that my mother was a better host than I was because she would let the priest win."
"Father Karl was a wonderful priest and wonderful friend," Fowler said. "He was generous with his time and with his person."
Born in Provost in 1932, Raab was ordained a priest by Archbishop Anthony Jordan in 1957.
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