EDMONTON – When Father Mike Mireau was sick with cancer, it created "a lot of sadness" at St. Francis Xavier High School, says the school's principal.
"He's done a great job in evangelizing to the students in a way that they can relate. He brings the Gospel, and puts it in their language," said Dan Donnelly.
"He has done a great job because he's embraced the kids at the school, not only with our liturgies and celebrations, but he also goes out on religion retreats and grad retreats with the kids," said Donnelly.
"He's really been an inspiration to the school."
When the priest was diagnosed with cancer, the students were devastated. They prayed for him every day and made him get-well cards.
Now, Mireau is back in the saddle at St. FX and the students are glad to have him again.
"It was important for everyone at the school to let him know how much we missed him while he was away," said Jaime Gladwin.
"He is the central man of the school. He holds us all together. He is our father," said Haylee Jones.
"He makes learning about God and being strong in your faith a lot of fun," said Gladwin.
Donnelly said Mireau has a strong rapport with the students.
The priest has a knack for keeping the students' attention by using pop culture references that they can understand, the principal said.
Student Alicia Oleschuk said Mireau does well at relating to the students. "We will tell him our problems, and he'll take what we're going through and relate it to Jesus and what Jesus went through."
The students said the priest's door is always open for them to have a casual tête-à-tête or if they are seeking advice. A door in his office leads onto the roof where the students can have a private talk with him atop the school. His office also includes a bed for his dog, Nemo, who visits the school from time to time.
Eugenia Chisotti, head of religious education at the school, has known Mireau since he was a seminarian.
"The students look at him as just another person in the school, not a parent figure, not an authority figure."
Although he is the district chaplain for Edmonton Catholic Schools, Mireau is at St. FX at least once a week.