People in Sheshatshiu and Natuashish were saddened to learn of the death of a Catholic priest who served, intermittently, in Labrador for over three decades.
Father Christopher (Chris) Rushton died at Emmanuel Hospice in Hamilton, Ont., July 30.
Former Labrador MP Peter Penashue of Sheshatshiu said he was shocked and saddened to hear of Father Chris’s passing.
Penashue visited Father Chris at the hospice centre less than two months ago.
“We had some good conversation. We talked about the old days,” Penashue said.
Father Chris loved the people of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish, Penashue said.
It’s where he felt at home, he said.
“He was very good to the elders in the elders (Our Lady of the Snows) church."
Father Chris also had very good relationships with people in the community, he said, especially the elders.
He was good friends with a lot of people, Penashue said, himself included.
“I always found that he was in tune with what was happening in the community. I’ve always felt that he could feel the emotions and the trials of the community,” Penashue said.
“He baptised our granddaughter in 2013 and he left (the province) shortly thereafter."
Over the years
Father Chris joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OBI) in 1966 and was ordained a priest on Sept. 29, 1973.
In 1974 he completed his education degree in London, Ont., and taught at Labrador City Collegiate from 1975-82.
The OBI congregation’s provincial house is in Ontario.
During the last two years of his life, Father Chris was cared for at the Juravinski Cancer Centre and the Good Shepherd Ministry’s Emmanuel Hospice, both in Hamilton, Ont.
Father Joe Pichai of Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Happy Valley-Goose Bay said Father Chris was the longest-serving and the last Oblate to work in Labrador.
According to Father Chris’s obituary, he served the Oblate community in many capacities over the years, being appointed Provincial Superior from 1996-2002. More recently, he was Chaplain to the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Pembroke, Ont., and finally Chaplain in Vancouver College until his illness in 2016.
Father Chris’s obituary noted how he loved to tell stories and “see the brighter side of life, full of boundless energy and joyous enthusiasm.”
“His life was one filled with gentleness, grace and blessing,” the obituary read.
Sheshatshiu Innu First Nations also posted about Father Chris’s death on its Facebook page. The post was on behalf of the chief, council and staff.
“Father Chris, during his time as the priest for our church, became an important member of the community. This is a great loss for the community and Father Chris will be greatly missed,” the message read.
Bart Jack of Sheshatshiu said he was saddened to hear about Father Chris’s death.
“Father Chris got along excellent with the people in Sheshatshiu and also in Natuashish (and Davis Inlet before the community’s move to Natuashish) ... He was involved in the community and the parish. He was very motivational as a teacher ... and an exceptional priest. The people of Sheshatshiu were very sad when he returned home,” Jack said.