Fr. Don Wilson
‘He loved the Lord more than life itself’
By RICHARD DUNSTAN
Fr. Don Wilson, the father of the Catholic charismatic renewal in B.C., died in Kelowna April 15, 2015 following a seven-month illness. He was 80.
Father Don’s baptism in the Holy Spirit in a Vancouver bookstore in 1968 was the key moment in the establishment of the renewal in Vancouver, throughout B.C., and especially in his home diocese of Nelson. In his nearly five decades as a charismatic, Fr. Don spent 11 years as chair of Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services of B.C., the provincial service committee, and many more years as a member of the committee, its spiritual adviser, and provincial bishops’ liaison to the renewal.
In the Nelson diocese, he was a long-time member of the diocesan service committee, founded or co-founded numerous prayer groups, and travelled widely conducting Life in the Spirit Seminars, days of renewal, healing Masses, and other events. He was a co-founder of the annual Our Lady of Pentecost Summer Institute in Kelowna.
He was also administrator-chaplain at St. Elizabeth Seton House of Prayer in Kelowna until his retirement last year, and for many years drove the length and breadth of the enormous Nelson diocese as weekend relief pastor in parishes from Kelowna to Princeton to Cranbrook to Golden, clocking as much as 1,200 km in a weekend.
“To know him was to love him and trust him,” said Gladys Miller, chair of Nelson Diocese Charismatic Renewal Services and one of his closest co-workers. “He loved the Lord more than life itself, and lived out that love in a charismatic enthusiasm. We depended on his guidance in life and we seek his intercession in death.”
Born Nov. 2, 1934 near Windsor, Ont., Father Don attended Notre Dame College in Nelson and St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont. He was ordained in London May 28, 1960, for the Nelson diocese, and spent his entire priesthood in B.C.
He was on loan from Nelson to the Vancouver archdiocese in 1968 when Mary Kelly, who led a Catholic prayer and study group at a downtown religious goods store, asked him to check a book on the then-new Catholic charismatic renewal for doctrinal orthodoxy. Father Don had hit a low point in his priesthood, frustrated by ritualism and the lack of power in his ministry; as he read the book—Catholic Pentecostals by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan—he was not only satisfied of the book’s orthodoxy but excited at the prospect of unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Catholics.
At the time there were a few interdenominational charismatic prayer groups meeting in Vancouver, with some Catholic participation, but no Catholic groups as such. After getting a good report from Father Don, Kelly called a meeting of eight or 10 people and invited a visiting charismatic nun, Sister Barbara Ann Chase of Seattle, to lead a prayer meeting. Father Don was the only priest present. The group was baptized in the Spirit, complete with the gift of tongues. He returned to his car after the meeting and collapsed over the steering wheel, weeping with joy and relief.
“It was an answer to the question that so many of us had: ‘is that all there is?’” he remembered later. Clearly, the Lord had more to offer.
On his return to the Nelson diocese, Father Don, with Sister Benedicta Stangl, Sister Grace Salmon, and other helpers, founded prayer groups in Kelowna, Penticton, Oliver, and other communities. These in turn established still more groups, and today the diocese has a long list of prayer groups, an active service committee, and numerous charismatic events and activities.
“My experience of Father Don has been and always wiĺl be a profound example of God’s unlimited love for his people,” Flo Reid, chair of CCRS of B.C. and a long-time Nelson diocesan committee member, said in a statement. “Father Don wore with such graciousness the mantle of the love of God. He knew he was the beloved of God, and he spoke with such fervor calling us each to be more aware that we, too, are the beloved of God. As our spiritual director in the CCRS of BC, he was our father in faith. His wisdom, understanding and integrity guided us in our decisions. He always sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit and placed the needs of the community at the forefront.
“Father Don’s delight in promoting the growth of charismatic renewal is a gift to all of us. He has left us a rich legacy for which we are profoundly grateful.”
Alex Lim, chair of Vancouver Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and a member of the provincial committee, said “all of us in the renewal in the Archdiocese of Vancouver mourn your passing, but rejoice in the realization that you are in a far, far better place where there are no tears, no pain but only everlasting joy in Jesus’ presence. For some of us who have the opportunity to meet you and work with you, we thank our God. The fruits of your leadership can be seen all around us in Vancouver renewal circles and I am sure in B.C. as well. God sends many people in our life’s path and now and then, one person who would offer us lasting impressions, and you are such a person. Rest now in the arms of Jesus. We are sure He welcomes you with His Words, “well done, my good and faithful friend.” One day, we will meet again and will sing joyful praises right in the presence of the One whom we all serve.”
Obituary from the Diocese of Nelson
Father Donald Eugene Wilson, priest of the Diocese of Nelson, died on April 15, 2015 in Kelowna BC. He was born November 2, 1934 in Pike Creek, ON to George and Bernadette Wilson. He was baptized in St. Ann Parish, Pike Creek, ON, on August 4, 1935, and later attended elementary school in LaSalle, ON, and Assumption High School in Windsor, ON. He also attended and graduated from Notre Dame University in Nelson, BC, before undertaking seminary studies.
He is predeceased by his parents and three brothers (Allen, Joseph and Michael) and one sister (Theresa). He is survived by four sisters (Rita Lucier, Anna Marie MacDonald, Janet Laliberte, and Jean Davis) and four brothers (Robert, David, James, and Gerald) as well as numerous nieces and nephews, and countless friends in both Ontario and BC.
Between 1954 and 1960, Fr. Don attended St. Peter’s Seminary in London, ON. He was ordained on May 28, 1960, at St. Peter’s Basilica, London, ON and assigned as Assistant Pastor at St. Mary's in Cranbrook. In 1961 he was appointed Pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Keremeos. In 1965, he was named Pastor in St. Joseph, Warfield and in 1967, as Pastor of the Slocan Missions. From 1967 to January 1970, he offered pastoral service in London Diocese and Vancouver Archdiocese.
In February 1970, he became the Acting Chancellor of the Diocese and Assistant Rector at Cathedral of Mary Immaculate in Nelson BC. In 1971, he became Associate Pastor of St. Anne Parish, Osoyoos, and the following year Pastor at St. John Vianney Parish, Penticton.
In 1978, Fr. Don became Rector of the Cathedral of Mary Immaculate in Nelson, remaining until September 1985 when he became Pastor of St. Anthony and St. Francis Xavier Parishes in Trail BC, moving the following year to St. Edward, Winfield as Pastor. From November 1988 to August 1990, he was on Sabbatical, followed by a period of service in the Archdiocese of Toronto.
In August 1992, he became Co-Director (and later Director) at Seton House of Prayer, Kelowna BC where he served until he retired in 2013. During that time, he served for a number of months as Pastor of St. Edward Parish, Winfield.
Fr. Don, despite ongoing health concerns, carried on extensive pastoral ministry, serving as Chair of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, member of the Senate, and Council of Administration, and as Consultor, Vicar for Schools, member of the Synod Committee, Bishop’s Liaison for Charismatic Renewal, Judge for the Marriage Tribunal, and confessor and spiritual director to countless individuals within and beyond the Diocese of Nelson.
Prayers and Mass at Immaculate Conception Church, Kelowna, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, with interment at Immaculate Conception Cemetery, Kelowna, BC.
Article By Father Don Wilson
Don’t let the fire die out
God has given us fire, and we had better offer Him more than ashes.
Fire, in the Bible, represents both God’s love and His wrath, Father Don Wilson told Our Lady of Pentecost Summer Institute this summer in Kelowna. It expresses the intensity of God’s love for us, and at the same time His judgement on unrighteousness. “I have come to cast fire on the earth,” Jesus said in Luke chapter 12, “and how I wish it were already blazing!”
At Pentecost, Father Wilson said, Christians were given that fire. And if the Holy Spirit burns brightly in God’s people, it will kindle God’s flame in the whole world.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always burn brightly. The Church is often weak and feeble, Father Wilson said, clinging to “the ashes of a bygone enthusiasm. The fire that Jesus cast on the earth has grown sadly low.” Even in the Catholic charismatic renewal, he told an audience of more than 50 charismatic leaders, “every leader longs to be on fire, but today we are more likely to be burnt out.”
God wants our fire fanned into flame, he said, and it’s our job to do that.
. The dying out of the fire can lead to a lot of busy work that gets the kingdom of God nowhere, Father Wilson said. We can find ourselves ending in outward observance what we began in the Spirit, as St. Paul warns in Galatians chapter 3. Worse yet, “a lot of us can’t be burnt out because we were never on fire.”
The only solution, he said, is to turn back to the One who gave us the fire: God Himself. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). “If we want to be on fire with the Spirit, we must take care of our relationship with the Lord.”
First of all, this means prayer time, and lots of it. “Sometimes it seems to be wasting time, but it’s important to waste time with the Lord,” Father Wilson said.
We must also be fully submitted to God in scripture reading, prayer, reception of the sacraments, and obedience to authority. All of this is more important than conferences, techniques or programs.
We need to let God be in charge of our schedule, and that takes more than good intentions. A lot of people are burned out doing things God isn’t asking them to do, Father Wilson said, but “there is always enough time to do the things the Lord is asking us to do.
“There is a small amount of time in the day available to us, and we are accountable to the Lord for how we use it,” he said. “We must be led by God’s priorities, not by demand or pressure from others.”
That means prayer time, time for our families, and appropriate time for relaxation and refreshment, as well as time devoted to the tasks God gives us. And it means cutting out time-wasters that don’t fit into any of those categories.
It also means delegating. Many leaders find that difficult—nobody else can be trusted to do things right. But the Bible says “better two than one by himself” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) , and in addition to lightening the burden, delegation gives other people a chance to grow.
“Never forget that we are not the saviours of the world,” Father Wilson said. “There’s only one Saviour, Jesus, and He invites us to work with Him, using the gifts and powers He has given us.”
We must meet Jesus as a living person, not just as a historical figure; renew our baptism every day, and seek the Spirit again for every new task. “A Christian is above all a convert, converted from the ideas of the world.”
We should ask ourselves, ”am I really converted? Is my whole soul truly turned toward the Lord? Am I calling lack of overt sin ‘conversion’? Is Jesus Lord of all my life, so that I can say ‘not I live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20) ‘? Have I agreed to be Christianized by Christ, spiritualized by His Spirit? Am I expectant that His gifts will be manifested in me today?”
Father Wilson said the current sufferings of the Church—the revelations of its infidelity and sin within the Church, and ridicule from outside—are actually signs of hope.
“Suffering is the seed of life,” he said. “The Church never has greater cause to hope than when its sufferings are greatest. God is the master of the impossible—He writes straight with crooked lines.”
Father Wilson, director of St. Elizabeth Seton House of Prayer in Kelowna, is a pioneer of the Catholic charismatic renewal in B.C. and spiritual adviser and past chair of the provincial charismatic service committee, as well as bishops’ liaison to the renewal.
Father Don Wilson Memorial Dedication
On Sat. Oct. 1, 2016 approximately 50 people gathered at Seton House of Prayer, Kelowna, for a Mass and Memorial Dedication to Father Don Wilson. Several family members, Seton House Staff , personal friends, and persons involved in Charismatic Renewal in the Diocese of Nelson were in attendance. The outdoor memorial plaque was unveiled by Fr, Don’s sister, Anne Marie MacDonald. A short dedication service and blessing were conducted by Fr. Obi Ibekwe and Gladys Miller. The dedication was followed by a delicious banquet prepared by Evelyn Pucker. Following dinner, many people shared memories of Fr. Don and his contributions to Charismatic Renewal and his love of people and friends. He will be sincerely missed.