Priest empowered women and girls

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A beloved priest passed away on Sunday in London.

Fr. John Devine was our parish priest at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Sarnia when I was young.

The school my brother and I attended was next door to the church and Fr. Devine was a constant presence as we walked to and from school past the church and when he came into classrooms frequently to talk to the children.

Many of my classmates became altar servers at the request of Fr. Devine and many of the servers were girls.

It was at a time when there were no female altar servers. We didn’t know it but we were breaking new ground.

We loved working with Fr. Devine and he made us feel appreciated and respected. He joked and laughed with us frequently. He answered all our questions, including, “Do animals go to heaven?” and taught us to love and respect every human being.

He worked with a nun named Sister Mary and they were a formidable team. She was his equal always and we knew that as children.

Moving is tough when you’re a kid and you leave the familiar. When our family was leaving the city for Lambton County, Fr. Devine gave me a gift before I left. It was a beautiful lantern that I still have to this day. It was to light my way. It always has.

His kindness has never been forgotten by me and countless others.