Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 29, 2010
Fr. Michael Troy: Exuberant Irishman brought life to many
Spiritan who spent decades at St. Joe's High School dies on the feast of St. Joseph
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
The Edmonton community mourns the passing of 92-year-old Father Michael Troy March 19. A powerful spiritual presence in Edmonton for 46 years, Troy died early in the morning of the feast of St. Joseph.
"We thought he might go on St. Patrick's Day, then Easter or Good Friday, but no one thought St. Joseph - but of course that is the perfect day for him to go home," says Father Bob Colburn, superior of the Spiritans.
Troy had a decades-long association with St. Joseph High School that continued until his death.
It's 12 hours after Troy's peaceful dying in his sleep at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, following a several month battle with an aggressive cancer and Colburn and Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil are reminiscing about their religious colleague and friend.
"He was an exuberant Irishman who enveloped you with his enthusiasm and joie de vive," says MacNeil. "He was tea-total but it seemed he always had a drink because he was so happy and full of life. He was a character in many ways, a big man, a strong man."
STUDENTS FELT AT HOME
Chaplain, teacher and coach at St. Joseph High School - a school with many students from immigrant families - Troy would "seek out the Italians, the Polish guys and make then feel very much at home," says MacNeil.
"He haunted halls - there all the time. If they were in trouble, they'd go see Father Troy. They knew he liked them and they trusted him."
Troy was a hands-on coach.
"His body was as hard as wood," says MacNeil. If he thought his players were not being tough enough, he'd doff his clerical garb, head out to the field and show them how to play.
"They never got tackled like that before," says MacNeil with a grin. "He told them that is the way it was going to be and they had better get used to it. But he never asked anything from someone that he would not do himself. He saw the potential in each person."
A junior high school was named in Troy's honour and principal of the Father Michael Troy School, Debbie Rolley, asks how many people could "capture the presence of students in a gym to pin-drop silence?"
Interwoven with his stories on sports and faith was always the urging "that they strive to do their best, work towards your personal best, be the best you can be," says Rolley.
A father once called Rolley asking about Troy, telling her Troy inspired his son so much, he had gone on in his studies and was in university in Eastern Canada.
Troy's compassion and caring spilled over to the First Nations community, and he founded the Edmonton archdiocesan Native Ministry. This was before Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples was established, says MacNeil.
The author of two books - Riches to Rags and From Tiny Acorn to Mighty Oak about the history of Spiritan founders Claude Poullart des Places and Francis Libermann - Troy "never kept a penny for himself. It all went to the homeless, native and Metis people, those in need," says MacNeil.
Troy was born Oct. 1, 1917 in Dublin, Ireland. He entered the Spiritan novitiate in 1936 and made his first profession as a Spiritan in 1937. Perpetual vows followed in 1940 and his ordination to the priesthood followed in Fribourg, Switzerland, in 1947.
He obtained his doctorate in moral theology from the University of Fribourg and in 1949 began teaching theology in Ireland, and was promoted to director of the house of philosophy.
In September 1957 Troy was named superior and principal of Neil McNeil High School in Toronto and is considered the school's founding father. In 1964 he left Toronto for Edmonton where he became assistant principal of Archbishop McDonald High School and also where he opened the Spiritan residence on McQueen Road.
Troy's impact on the Toronto school was so profound, Colburn says they called and asked that Troy be buried there. Colburn's response came swiftly and straight from the heart and he told them Troy was being laid to rest in Edmonton.
"This is his home, this is where he loved life and where he loved people."
For several years, Troy was also editor of the Spiritan Missionary News, which received many awards. He travelled the world, usually taking people with him, bringing back stories with the human aspect, like one about fishermen who needed a new wharf. Once Troy and his travelling companions were back home, the $900 was found to build the wharf.
Troy's community involvement included the Knights of Columbus where he served more than 16 years as state chaplain of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, chaplain of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves and St. Luke's College and director of the Edmonton archdiocesan Holy Childhood Association and Propagation of the Faith Society.
Troy was a director of the Legion of Mary and founder and member of various academic and sports organizations.
SENSE OF HUMOUR
So many accomplishments and there remains a book he crafted on education that just had a chapter to complete.
Tenacious about life, Troy kept his sense of humour during his illness.
One day, three priests came separately and each anointed him with the oil of the sick. "I think that's enough oil for one day," he declared to the next visitor.
His legacy lives on in the thousands of lives he touched and will always regard Troy as their best friend. Colburn says when he visited Troy in the hospital, he remarked to him, "All these people. They love you so much."
Troy retorted, "No, no, no. I am just an ordinary guy who did the best I could."
The funeral service for Troy was to be held March 26 at St. Joseph's Basilica with the Mass for Christian Burial presided over by Archbishop Richard Smith and concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil, Troy's brother Spiritans, and the priests of the archdiocese. Burial was to follow at Holy Cross Cemetery.
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