WCR FILE PHOTO
Fr. Jack Spicer with an armful of the videos available to the faithful from the Adult Learning Commission's library.
EDMONTON – Redemptorist Father John (Jack) Spicer wore many hats but likely will be remembered as a great educator of the Catholic faithful.
As director of the archdiocesan Adult Learning Commission for more than 30 years, Spicer quietly educated thousands of Catholics on the Scriptures and on the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council.
Dozens of top-notch Scripture scholars came to Edmonton to speak at the annual Scripturefest series organized by Spicer and his commission.
At the same time, Spicer wrote discussion booklets on the Scriptures as well as newspaper articles on the topic. His weekly column on the Sunday readings ran in the WCR for 20 years. He also produced a video series on the Bible that was distributed across Canada and the United States.
Spicer died peacefully in Edmonton Jan. 31. He was 94. He had Alzheimer's and had been in poor health for at least five years.
"He was very quiet and easy to look after, but he lost his memory completely," lamented Redemptorist Father Ed Kennedy. "That was a big sadness for us because he was a very bright man and he was a great worker."
Kennedy first met Spicer when he was a seminarian and knew him for about 65 years. "I'm going remember him because of his great love for the Scriptures," he said. "He spent his whole life studying and teaching the Scriptures."
Spicer ran the office of religious education with two assistants for 32 years. The office lent books and videos to the faithful.
"He was a beautiful man and he was very good with people," Kennedy said. "He was gentle and happy and he had a lot of initiatives to help the people of God."
As a young priest at St. Alphonsus Parish in the 1960s, Spicer set up a group called The Monicas Society to help spiritually and socially women with children who were separated or divorced. Assisted by volunteers, he organized many events for them and their children, including taking them to a summer camp. Eventually, the organization was absorbed by Catholic Social Services.
"Father Spicer was a pioneer in adult education and was very open to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which he tried his best to put them into practice," Kennedy said. "He never made enemies; he was a peaceful man and a cheerful man who loved his family and loved people."
Spicer retired in 2003 and went to live at the Redemptorist Community Residence in Ville Marguerite in west Edmonton.
Born the second of seven children in Edmonton in 1919, Spicer grew up in Grande Prairie. He attended both public and Catholic schools there.
He once credited a native catechist for leading him to the priesthood. While studying for a year at St. Augustine Mission in Peace River, the catechist, a young woman, discussed the priesthood with young Jack, who was only 10 at the time.
"She gave me my first understanding of the importance of the priesthood," Spicer recalled in a June 1993 WCR interview. "She implanted the idea of the priesthood in me and from that time on I always wanted to be a priest, since Grade 4 on."
He met the Redemptorist Fathers in his parish - St. Joseph's - and became increasingly impressed with priests. He joined the order immediately after high school.
Over the next 60 years, Spicer served the Church in many positions, including as parish pastor, provincial superior of his order, WCR columnist and adult educator. He served at St. Alphonsus Parish from 1959 to 1964. In 1968 Archbishop Anthony Jordan asked him to assume responsibility for adult education in the archdiocese.
In addition to his regular duties, Spicer created small Christian communities across the archdiocese and organized tours of the Holy Land.
Sister Madeleine Geiger, a member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, served as assistant to Spicer at the religious education office for more than 20 years.
"It was really a privilege and an experience to serve with him," she said. "Father Jack made us feel like we were part of the team and encouraged us in our talents."
Geiger described Spicer as a man who "was always helpful and caring for others and had a good sense of humour."
Retired Senator Douglas Roche met Spicer when he was editor of the WCR and Spicer was in charge of adult education. Together they travelled through the archdiocese giving talks in the parishes, where Roche would speak about the WCR and Spicer about the Second Vatican Council.
"He was extremely knowledgeable but the memory that I have of him is that he was such a delightful travelling companion; he was always good-humoured, he always had jokes and he made it pleasant to do these things," Roche recalled.
Describing him as uplifting and joyful, Roche added, "Jack Spicer was one of the great assets of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. He was a figure who truly reflected the best of the Church. You could not but be a better person after being with Jack Spicer."