Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 6, 2006
Fr. Crough - a priest with grace
Calgary-born, this man of God served with compassion
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Hearing that Father Emmett Crough declined to be paid for his missionary work in the harsh Canadian Arctic came as little surprise to Josephine Pallard. Spreading the word of God was a vital part of his life as a priest wherever he was.
"Father Crough is a very special person to me for all the work and co-operation he gave when we were working on the refugee settlement program," said Pallard, a member of St. Anthony's Parish council in Edmonton.
"Through him, we were able to reach the heights of the numbers of people we brought in through our church - and all of Edmonton. He was not afraid to take a risk. He had a strong faith and he was always hopeful anything could be done."
Died at 78
Crough died suddenly Jan. 25 in his home in Norman Wells, N.W.T., of a heart attack. He was 78.
Crough was pastor of St. Anthony's and a guiding light during the famous Filipina nanny case in 1999 involving Leticia Cables, who found refuge in the church as immigration officers tried to deport her.
Pallard described Crough as a man of integrity and strong character devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
"Father Crough was a leader who commanded respect," Pallard said. "He was a man of few words and he usually looked serious, but he had quite a sense of humour."
Crough was born Dec. 23, 1927 in Calgary. He grew up in southern Alberta communities during the Great Depression. But the Christian example his parents set with their neighbours had Crough thinking of becoming a missionary at a young age.
"I spent six years in a rural community school where there were no Catholics," he once said. "We were a minority, but because my parents were very faithful Catholics, we continued to practise our Christian beliefs and values."
After graduating from high school in Rockyford, near Calgary, Crough moved to Edmonton in 1947 and began working in construction. He had told his parents that the priesthood was always part of his prayers and, in 1949, he entered St. Joseph's Seminary to study philosophy and theology.
He was ordained a priest June 8, 1956 at Sacred Heart Church, by Archbishop Anthony Jordan. Crough would return to the inner-city parish as its pastor from 1980 until 1986.
Following his ordination, Crough's career could be described as diverse. He held many positions, all in an attempt to comfort people and bring them closer to God. He served in the Edmonton Archdiocese's chancery office, was assistant pastor at St. Agnes Parish and, for almost 16 years, was director of Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries. He sat on the Edmonton Council of Churches and was a member of the WCR's founding board of advisors.
For two years, Crough was pastor of St. Peter's Church in Villeneuve and later studied pastoral duties and marriage counselling in Ottawa.
He was pastor of the Mundare/Lamont area, coordinated marriage preparation courses in Edmonton and served as hospital chaplain at three hospitals. He also spent two days a week as chaplain at the Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Institution.
"There are many opportunities to work with people in significant events and the bad news events of their lives - if you're perceptive to people," Crough said. "I believe the most exciting choice one can make is to experience the priesthood."
Peggy MacInnis has been an active member of Edmonton's Sacred Heart Parish for more than 40 years.
"Father was always a gentle, caring man," said MacInnis, 79. "He was a little shy, but he always welcomed street people who came into the church."
Crough may have spoken little, but his mind was always connected to God to better serve his parish.
"Father used to go on a holiday for a week and come back completely energized," Pallard said. "I think he drove out to the mountains to be closer to God. He very much enjoyed his quiet time with the Lord."
Crough slowly made his way north, with pastoral appointments in Manning in 2001 and Slave Lake in 2002.
He moved to Norman Wells in 2003 to minister in the Sahtu community, a region steeped in the missionary work of Oblate priests.
Prayer leader Monica Loomis said Crough's death is a tremendous loss for the community.
"I will always remember that Father Crough honoured the work and history of the Oblate priests, like Father Jean Denis, who served this community for more than 100 years," said Loomis.
"He was a hard working, dedicated priest. He served five communities that in the past were served by five priests. He did it in some harsh weather by airplane, or whatever means of transportation was available."
Crough loved celebrating the liturgy and his method of teaching was precise and exact, Loomis said. He left behind a legacy of prayer.
"Father loved to watch football games. It was his great interest. And he enjoyed following politics."
Crough was preparing to head out on a 10-day evangelical mission across the Sahtu region with Mackenzie-Fort Smith Bishop Denis Croteau when he died.
A dream come true
"He came to us at age 75, saying he had always contemplated becoming a missionary," said Croteau. "He asked if I would accept him working in our diocese. I said, 'Certainly.' We were very pleased to have him."
Croteau sent Crough to work in far-reaching missions including Tulita (Fort Norman) and Deline (Fort Franklin).
"He told me he did not want to be paid. He said he had his pension so he would work for nothing," Croteau said.
"He donated his time, his talents and his person to the missions."
Crough was kind-hearted and well organized, Croteau said.
"He gave his best to us during his time here. It was important to him to offer his services in family and marriage counselling, especially to couples living in common-law unions. He wanted things done in a dignified manner."
Crough lived out his boyhood dream to become a missionary, after all.