Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 21, 2005
Fitzgerald remembered for his love of people
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Redemptorist Father Leonard Fitzgerald, a former pastor at St. Alphonsus Parish, will be remembered as a true Christian gentleman known for his kindness and his genuine love for God and his people.
"In the last couple of years Father Leonard lost his ability to speak and to swallow but not his ability to inspire others by his gentleness, patient endurance and good humour," said Father Stan Liska, the superior of the Edmonton Redemptorist Fathers. "He was a true Christian gentleman, loved by all who knew him."
Fitzgerald, a Redemptorist priest for almost 66 years, died peacefully Nov. 3 at St. Albert's Foyer Lacombe, the Oblate Fathers retirement home. He was 93.
Born in Quebec
Fitzgerald was born to Michael Fitzgerald and Annie O'Connor on April 12, 1912 on a farm near St. Odilon, Que. He had three bothers and sisters.
At the age of 21 he decided to join the Redemptorists and was ordained a priest on June 18, 1939. His brother Raymond also became a Redemptorist priest.
As a young man, Fitzgerald played various sports including hockey, baseball and golf but it was as a missionary priest that he made the most impact.
Over the years, Fitzgerald preached missions and served in parishes all across Canada, including St. Alphonsus Parish in Edmonton and St. Joseph's Parish in Grande Prairie. An expert in catechetics, he also served as director of the office of religious education for the Diocese of Calgary.
Fitzgerald retired in Kelowna in 1990 and in 1999 he joined the Redemptorist retirement community at the Edmonton's Grey Nuns Centre. He moved into Foyer Lacombe in 2003 after he had lost his ability to speak and to swallow, Liska noted.
He continued to communicate in writing for awhile and when he lost that ability, he began using a "speaking machine" to communicate, Liska said. In the last few months, after he lost all movement in his fingers, "there was no communication with him at all."
One thing Fitzgerald never lost was the ability to inspire others by his gentleness. "He was a really nice guy," Liska said. "I'll remember him fondly because he was such a fine man. He always had that famous smile on him; even when he couldn't speak, he would welcome you with that smile of his."
Father Joseph Murphy, a friend of Fitzgerald since their seminary days in Woodstock, Ont., described the late priest as "a remarkable person" who had a way with people.
"He was a very warm-hearted and happy person and he affected everybody that way because he was very approachable," he said. "I'll remember him for his kindness and his interest in people. He was an outstanding Redemptorist missionary."
Fitzgerald had a "wonderful" impact on people, recalled Murphy, who spent many years with the late priest at the Redemptorists' retirement home in the Grey Nuns Centre.
"In the last couple of years he couldn't talk and it was very difficult to communicate with him but everybody loved him. He just had a gentle smile and never complained."
Fitzgerald was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery Nov. 8.