When Spiritan Father Michael Troy died March 19, the feast day of his beloved St. Joseph’s High School, it was only fitting that some of the local media sent their sports reporters to the ensuing press conference. For Troy, you couldn’t separate sports and faith. In fact, for Troy, you couldn’t separate anything. Catholic missions, soccer, education, writing, philosophy, the Knights of Columbus, mountain climbing and on and on were all entwined in the whirling conglomeration of energy that was Father Michael Troy. He was catholic in the fullest sense of the word.
One of my first meetings with the man was in 1984 to do a story that I thought was to be about him retiring from St. Joe’s High. Turned out that at 65 he was just getting started. As we walked the halls of the massive school, Troy, who seemingly knew every student by name, had to cajole, encourage or backslap every one we encountered. They all loved it, loved their encounters with the extroverted priest in their midst.
Troy was a cagey guy. He knew better than anyone that faith is caught not taught, more likely to be passed on in the gymnasium than in the classroom.
But if the priest was cagey, he was not calculating. He just really, really loved people. He was always talking, laughing and joking. People loved being in his presence and every encounter with Troy was a cherished moment.
Although the room lit up when Father Troy walked in, he was the last one to draw attention to himself. Getting him to talk about his many exploits was next to impossible. He was too busy working on his current project and relishing the moment to want to talk about his own life.
When WCR news editor Lasha Morningstar somehow managed to get him to reflect on his childhood for her award-winning story, “Fr. Michael Troy at 90,” his Spiritan brothers said they learned things about the man that they had never known during 60 years of living with him. Troy was too busy doing things with and for others to waste time talking about himself.
When CBC News went to St. Joe’s to interview students after Troy’s death, Grade 12 student Andrea Travas got it right: “I didn’t see him as 92; he was really a teenager.”
Father Michael Troy, the eternal teenager. The man who climbed Kilamanjaro, started a high school in Toronto, enlivened another one in Edmonton for decades and had a basketball tournament and a school named after him always remained a teenager. He had joie de vivre and intense interest in others right until the end.
It’s hard to imagine he won’t be coming around again. Father Troy’s great spirit passed through our midst and the encounter made thousands of people a little bit more whole.