SPROULE, ROBERT JOHN
Died peacefully in his sleep at the Dwelling Place, in Nanaimo, B.C on February 18th 2016 after some years of declining health. Requiescat in pace.
Remembered most as a man who loved people and enjoyed their company, Fr. Jack put his sharp mind and warm heart at the service of friends, parishioners, colleagues, First Nations and those of no religious affiliation. Kind, generous and hospitable his company was always enjoyable and his infectious laugh fondly remembered. He embraced life and gave and received much love. He is also remembered for his love of dogs, especially golden retrievers.
Fr. Jack was a remarkable phenomenon. He had a unique view and practice of priesthood, and his sense of humour drew many to him. He had faith in community and treasured his many friends. He was a wise man, a passionate champion for the marginalized and loved to challenge those in authority. His fearless people-centred humanity was characteristic and unforgettable. Fr. Jack had a wonderful gift of bringing people together, creating new friendships, and igniting alive conversation.
Fr. Jack believed that there was a much bigger role for women in the Church, and worked to ensure that women were involved in as many aspects of parish ministry as possible. Never reticent to provoke discussion he displayed a bumper sticker in his home ‘Ordain Catholic women. Or stop baptizing them.’
His approach was pragmatic and human. He was a scholar, studying in a range of areas, especially in humanistic psychology, liberation theology, creation-centred spirituality, and social justice. He was available to share his own personal feelings, all the while maintaining the dignity and professionalism of his office as a parish priest. He was genuinely concerned with the lives and souls of those he knew. With this array of talents and interests, he was welcomed as a senior faculty member at the Haven Institute, Gabriola Island, B.C. working alongside the founders Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen to develop programs for lay people and clergy; with them, he co-developed the “Religion Revisited” program to investigate spirituality in contemporary life.
Robert John Sproule was born on January 14, 1934 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the only child to William Harold and Mary (Lessells) Sproule. He attended high school and college in Fort William, Ontario, and completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in Montreal (Loyola College, Concordia University) and Toronto (St. Augustine’s College, University of Toronto) completing a Master’s Degree in Theology in 1961 and in subsequent years finishing all the required course work for his doctorate. On June 1, 1961 at North Bay, Ontario Fr. Jack was ordained by Bishop Alexander Carter as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church and served at the pro-cathedral in North Bay as an assistant priest and member of the Marriage Tribunal from 1961 to 1963. His first parish was in Sudbury, Ontario, following which he taught in the seminary at Hearst, Ontario.
From 1963 to 1973 he had an illustrious career teaching in seminaries in Hearst, Seattle, Baltimore, Washington, DC, then at a college in Philadelphia. Following a teaching assignment at a seminary in San Francisco he returned to Canada, and served in a parish in Montreal from 1973 to 1980.
Inspired by the social justice philosophy of Bishop Remi De Roo, Fr. Jack came to the Diocese of Victoria in 1980. He served first as administrator at St. Peter’s parish in Nanaimo, BC., from 1980 to 1985. He had a sabbatical year of study. Upon his return in 1986, he was appointed pastor of the Saanich Peninsula parish which encompasses two churches, Our Lady of the Assumption, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary (Brentwood and Sidney, BC.), remaining in this role until his retirement in January of 2004.
From 1986 to 1991 Fr. Jack enthusiastically participated in the sessions of the People’s Synod in the Diocese of Victoria and implemented its Core Report and its Decisions for Action
He served on the Priest’s Council of the Diocese of Victoria, as well as its Administrative Board bringing his intelligence, common sense, and knowledge of theology to bear on its inner councils.
He found his work immensely pastoral. He was very much at the cutting edge of implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the parishes in which he served in the Diocese.
He carried on a lively correspondence with leading theologians of all Faiths. He was active in the inter-Faith endeavours of a variety of Faith communities on Vancouver Island.
After his retirement in 2004 he carried on an apostolate at Alexander’s coffee shop in the centre of Sidney, BC: a lively hangout where his gregariousness was welcomed by its varied clientele after his daily early morning walks.
Fr. Jack exemplified the Saanich Peninsula parish’s mission statement:
Let us be open accepting individuals, sensitive to change and willing to take courses untraditional, unknown to us. Let us live as examples of God’s love
Deep gratitude, profound thanks and appreciation to Aurel Muego and Ching Blas-Muego, and their staff, Pinky, Rita, Sabia, Richard, Lianne and Lavon at the Dwelling Place, Nanaimo where Fr. Jack made his home and was cared for so lovingly and competently for the past 5 years. Dwelling Place’s founding director was Fr. Kevin J. Wiseman, a missionary in Tanzania for more than 14 years, a beloved priest in the Diocese of Victoria for more than 30 years and a good friend of Fr. Jack.
A funeral liturgy will be held for Fr. Jack on Friday, April 8th, 2016 at 1 pm at St Elizabeth R.C. Church, 10030Third Street, Sidney, BC. V8L 3B3
And an inter-faith celebration of Fr. Jack’s life will be held on Saturday, April 23rd at noon at Bethlehem Retreat Centre, 2371, Arbot Road, Nanaimo, B.C.,V9R 659.
Receptions will follow at both locations.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Fr. Jack’s charity of choice, Our Lady’s Missionaries, 2 Leander Court,Toronto, Ontario,M4B 2W1 http://ourladysmissionaries.com/
Online condolences may be made at www.telfordsburialandcremationcentre.com
Telford’s Burial & Cremation Centre, 595, Townsite Road, Nanaimo, B.C. V95 1K9