Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 20, 2006
Roebuck was big man with a big heart
Priest called CWL to spirituality
Fr. Gordon Roebuck
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Father Gordon Roebuck will be remembered as a big man with a big heart who loved God, people, children and animals. His little dog, Bonnie, is still around with friends.
Roebuck, a former archdioc-esan CWL spiritual advisor and the priest who oversaw the building of Holy Trinity Church in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, died of heart problems after a long wait for surgery. He was 62.
"He was a wonderful person; he loved the animals," said his close friend Muff-Anne Haley of Stony Plain, who has been caring for Roebuck's dog for the past five years.
The priest had been suffering from diabetes and stress-related problems and felt he couldn't take proper care of Bonnie. But he visited the dog at Haley's home regularly.
"We spent probably every holiday with Father Gordon for the last five years because his family was in Grande Cache and Tumbler Ridge and it was too far for him to drive so we would make sure he was never alone on those days," Haley recalled.
"He was my best friend. We took him for lunch at Joey Tomatoes on Ash Wednesday and he had a hamburger and fries and he just enjoyed himself so much; it was a lovely day."
He died March 10.
Haley said Roebuck died of "heart failure" while waiting to have heart surgery.
"(The long wait) was very, very hard on him and he would get tired because his heart wasn't working properly."
A native of England, Roebuck came to Canada in 1980. He served the Church in England and Canada for over 30 years. He was curate, school chaplain and pastor in Edmonton, Jasper, Camrose, Evansburg, Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.
He was a fourth degree member of the Knights of Columbus and served as spiritual director of the archdiocesan CWL from 1990 to 1995.
He retired from active ministry in 2002.
"He was a good spiritual advisor; he wrote lengthy letters for our convention book and he attended our events with faithfulness," said Mabel Solomon, archdiocesan CWL president.
Connie McBride, president of the CWL during Roebuck's tenure, said the biggest gift he gave the CWL was his promotion of spirituality.
"When he was our spiritual advisor he promoted 20 minutes to half an hour of spiritual reflection at every meeting," McBride recalled. "He visited all of the councils that asked him to come. He always, always promoted increased spirituality."
McBride thinks the priest enjoyed serving the CWL. "I think he enjoyed being with us as much as we enjoyed having him.
"If I phoned him for advice he was always available for me and would talk at great length. He was so true to what he promised. If he said you should have more spirituality, he did that himself."
When diagnosed with diabetes, he told the CWL first. "He treated us like his family; to him we were his family and so when something like that happened to him he would come to us."
Haley said during one period of Roebuck's ministry in Spruce Grove, which began in 1994, there were about 18 suicides in the parish, most of them involving young people.
Gave people hope
"He gave people hope and gave the community hope because a lot of them were younger people and it was hard on the whole community," Haley said. "So many people would say that they could have never gone through that without Father Gordon."
Roebuck also loved doing baptisms and carrying the babies around during the baptisms, recalled Haley.
"He enjoyed children. He would dress up as St. Nicholas for Jesus' birthday party every year at the parish and then have the little kids come and sit on his knee. He loved children, he loved people and he loved animals."
Building the church in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain was hard on Roebuck; so much so he had a breakdown before its completion. "It was really hard on him because he was building the new church and he was also trying to merge the two parishes of Stony Plain and Spruce Grove and a lot of people didn't want that change," recalled Haley.