Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 12, 2006
God's gift to a parish dies at 81
Fr. Joseph Ayling served as the Lord's Shepherd for 44 years
Fr. Joseph Ayling
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Father Joseph Ayling, the former pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish here, will be remembered as humble servant of God. He loved people, animals, gardening, collecting stamps and sports.
But more than anything, he loved the Lord, says one of his best friends, Kathy Caron, the parish secretary for Innisfail and Olds.
"He was a truly spiritual and humble servant of God," she said. "He was so close to our Lord and so genuine in his devotion to Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus that he truly touched my life with his belief and love of the Trinity."
Ayling died of cancer in hospital June 4. He was 81. Prayers for the repose of his soul were held at the church June 7. A Mass of Resurrection was celebrated the following day.
A native of Vegreville, Ayling studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph's Seminary and was ordained a priest in Camrose June 10, 1956 by Archbishop Anthony Jordan.
For the next 44 years, until his retirement in 2000, Ayling served as pastor in Stettler, Vegreville, Evansburg, Bashaw, Olds, Sylvan Lake and Innisfail.
"He was God's gift to our parish," said Caron. "He kept our parish together. The church would have closed and the people would have dispersed if he hadn't come."
In the early 1990s, Our Lady of Peace had been scheduled for closure due to the lack of priests and because of its relatively small size.
Parishioners wanted to keep it open so badly they organized a daylong procession to a little church 40 km away. There they celebrated Mass and prayed that a priest be found for their parish.
Prayers are answered
"Our prayers were answered," Caron said. "Father Joe came from Sylvan Lake in 1992 (and remained as pastor of Our Lady of Peace for the next eight years)." There were 190 families in the parish when he took over and there are 240 families now.
"He was a very gentle man and a very humble priest," recalled Caron, who was appointed parish secretary by Ayling in 1992.
"His health was already failing, but he continued to serve."
Ayling was devoted to Mary and Jesus, to the point he wanted to be free of all material things in order to be free to love the Lord.
"He had this very humble, child-like prayer style," recalled Caron, who accompanied the priest in his dying moments.
He was also known to be frugal, never wanting to buy new clothes or to waste food. His most extravagant possession was his huge stamp collection.
People are generally nasty towards crows but Ayling would look at the big black birds and exclaim, "Aren't these crows marvellous?"
"On a cloudy day he would say, "Isn't it a wonderful day?"
Ayling would take care of Caron's little puppy, Tyrone, when she was at work and the two, the priest and the dog, came to form a great little partnership.
"He used to feed him cookies and take him out for walks in the backyard. He loved my little puppy and my puppy is missing him right now."