Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 18, 2010
Fr. Jack was there in a time of tragedy
In the spring of 1958, when my brother Dave came home from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., several young fellows from down east arrived in Edmonton about the same time. They were entering St. Joseph Seminary to study for the priesthood.
One of them was Jack Hamilton. He was a university friend of Dave and he quickly became one of our family. Because his family lived down east, he spent many Christmases and Sunday meals with us.
My mother always said that once a guest had been in our kitchen, they were no longer a guest and Jack Hamilton washed and dried his fair share of dishes at our house.
My husband Ted and I were married in 1959 and for the next seven years, Father Jack supported us through five babies. He watched them grow along with us and he became a fixture at the many parties we hosted over the years.
On Saturday, Oct. 1, 1994, shortly after 10 a.m., we received a phone call from our daughter-in-law. She told us that our 33-year-old son Tim and a co-worker had been electrocuted while they attempted to repair a piece of machinery at their place of employment in Sherwood Park.
NOWHERE TO TURN
I recall the wave of shock and terror that washed over us that night, and the feeling of panic and not knowing where to turn. The only thing clear to me, in my shattered thoughts, was that we would not be able to get through the next few days without Father Jack Hamilton.
At the time, Father Jack was the pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Red Deer. When I called the parish office that night, I was told that Father Jack was away on a well-deserved holiday up north. I clearly recall a feeling of despair, but the secretary promised me she would try to locate Father Jack and deliver our devastating news.
On Sunday night, 24 hours later, our doorbell rang and there he was, standing on the threshold of our home. He promised to be there for us, conducting Tim's funeral and allowing us to choose the readings and songs that reflected Tim's life so beautifully.
At that point, none of knew that our son and his colleague had not been electrocuted at all. Thirty-six hours after the boys' bodies had been found and three days before Tim's funeral, a call from the coroner confirmed that both men had been murdered, each shot in the head three times, execution style.
Having known Tim all his life and marrying him and his wife Stephanie six years earlier, Father Jack was now officiating at our son's funeral and his emotions clearly equalled our own. He delivered a powerful eulogy about Tim's life, but he also expressed his own anger at the senseless death our son endured.
NO RHYME OR REASON
There was no rhyme, no reason, why this wonderful son, husband, brother, uncle and father should have been snatched out of our lives in such a violent way.
Every one of us was angry. However, over the years following Tim's death, Father Jack helped me to stay focused and to understand that the anger would eventually destroy me and that I had to move beyond it.
When Father Jack celebrated the 40th anniversary of his priesthood, I was asked to speak at the celebrations and I felt very proud giving a testimony to this wonderful and honourable man. I was able to meet his beautiful parents who had come from down east for the occasion and thank them for the gift of their son. He was instrumental in saving my sanity during the darkest hours of my life.
When Father Jack was named a monsignor, I once again felt honoured to have this special man in our lives, a man who has shown me the way back to a fulfilling and balanced life once again.
Each year on Christmas Eve, my reward for driving out to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park is attending Father Jack's Mass and leaving with a serene sense of peace in my heart.
This dear man came through for my family once again when my husband died suddenly on Christmas Eve in 2003. The calmness I experienced during the days following his death, knowing that Father Jack was once again in control, was very comforting.
This wonderful priest has made a huge difference in our lives.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.