Fr. André Vincelette always had a sympathetic ear for those in need.
ST. ALBERT – Whether from his fellow Oblates or the health care staff he worked alongside at the University of Alberta Hospital or the scuba diving community, Father André Vincelette will be remembered as an unselfish man with a gentle spirit and kind presence.
The beloved priest was diagnosed in 2010 with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, and died Jan. 14 at the Sturgeon Hospital in St. Albert. He was 56.
His friends remember him as a warm, caring priest who flourished in hospital chaplaincy, while also having a love for adventure.
Vincelette was born in Haileybury, Ont. on Nov. 30, 1957. His brother Jean-Paul is a Montreal police officer.
Pierre Dionne grew up with Vincelette in nearby Earlton, Ont. He remembers his friend as an adventurous sort, always seeking ways to expand his horizons.
"From cartographer to pilot to priesthood, there was always a new angle to discover about this wonderful person. Between chess games and plane rides, he brought joy and friendship to us all," said Dionne.
He recalled the two going on a canoe trip together. They left their cottage, and without any particular destination in mind, kept going farther and farther for the pure joy of canoeing.
"He always liked to go beyond the basics and, in so doing, improved many of our lives," said Dionne.
Oblate Father Jacques Joly met Vincelette while at Mass in Ste. Famille Parish in Calgary. Soon they started socializing in such activities as biking, skiing and horseback riding. Joly recognized that his friend had a good heart, empathy for others and genuinely cared about people.
"Making maps, not to downgrade that work, I don't think was his true calling. He was groping and looking for something else, something more. André was a prayerful guy and found his next adventure inside of his own heart," said Joly.
Becoming something of a mentor, Joly encouraged him to join the Oblates. Vincelette pronounced his first vows with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1988. He was ordained a priest, at age 38, on Jan. 27, 1996.
"It was good that he got ordained later. He had the experience of working and living on his own. He was a pretty adventurous guy," said Joly, noting that he heard tales of Vincelette scuba diving underneath ice, and that he enjoyed being in the mountains near Canmore.
He was held in high esteem by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, of which he was a member.
Vincelette served short stints in Grouard, St. Albert, Saskatoon and as dominical vicar at St. Joachim's Parish in Edmonton. From 2000 on, until his cancer diagnosis, he served as a chaplain at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.
"Being a hospital chaplain – that's what he was made for, as opposed to parish work. He was a better man one-on-one than he was preaching in a church," said Joly.
Oblate Father Brian Jayawardhana met Vincelette in the mid-'90s. He said that his friend, while serving as a hospital chaplain, meant a great deal to the families and patients in intensive care, always bringing them peace in their time of need.
"Serving as chaplain was his main ministry. He really liked his work there, and he was trained in pastoral care," said Jayawardhana.
Reminiscing about his friend, Jayawardhana said, "He liked his pets. He had a cockatoo and he later got a dog as a therapeutic pet. At the time of his death, he had this beautiful fish tank that we keep here at Foyer Lacombe."
Susan Belec-Nobbs worked with Vincelette at the hospital for many years, and often joined with him and his team for lunch.
"André was one of the warmest people I've ever known, and he always seemed to know what you needed – a laugh, a sympathetic ear, or someone to lean on. The world will be a poorer place without his infectious smile, and he will be missed very much," said Belec-Nobbs.
Presiding over his funeral at St. Albert Catholic Church was a fellow Oblate, Father Garry LaBoucane. Interment was at St. Albert Catholic Cemetery.