Fr. Ray Guimond is a champion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Fr. Ray Guimond is a champion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

July 21, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, seminarians, priests and religious left their ministries in droves. "It wasn't easy for anybody," recalls Father Ray Guimond. Five of his classmates at the seminary simply left.

Guimond, however, stayed the course and has lived a productive and rewarding life as a priest for 50 years. He thanks the Virgin Mary for helping him to stay focused.

"I never let go of Our Lady; I never let go of the rosary," he says. "I really never stopped praying because that's deadly."

Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil, who has known Guimond for about 40 years, says the Edmonton Archdiocese is "very blessed and fortunate to have such a wonderful man and priest in our midst all these years."

Guimond was ordained by Archbishop Anthony Jordan in Hinton in 1964 and since then he has been teaching the Scriptures, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of the Church to lay people.

He is also a champion of devotion to Our Lady, to whom he prays daily.

Furthermore, Guimond has served the archdiocese as parish pastor, founder of the retreat and prayer centre Ephphatha House and health care chaplain.

He served in parishes in Edmonton, Red Deer, Mayerthorpe, Hobbema and Wainwright and, for the last five years, he was chaplain at four health care facilities, including the Grey Nuns Hospital and St. Joseph's Auxiliary Hospital.

"I have been very happy as a priest," he says. "I've never looked back."

REVIVING EPHPHATHA

A few weeks ago, the beloved priest retired at Ephphatha House, which he established with a group of lay people 25 years ago in the countryside north of Stony Plain. His plans are to revive the waning community.

"So (my retirement) is not the end of work," he clarifies. "It's maybe more work than I had before."

A couple from North Carolina and their five children will come to live at Ephphatha along with Guimond. Currently, only two people live there.

In June friends and peers marked Guimond's 50 years of priesthood with a Mass and a banquet attended by 250.

Born in Quebec the 11th of 13 children, Guimond learned to pray at home. His parents prayed the rosary every night and their children joined them.

In 1950 the family moved to the Peace River Country and two years later they settled in Hinton. Guimond attended St. Boniface College in Winnipeg and College St. Jean in Edmonton, where he completed his university studies.

The priesthood still on his mind, Guimond did his first year of seminary studies at St. Boniface Seminary and then completed his priestly education at St. Joseph's Seminary in Edmonton.

Fr. Ray Guimond enlivened many a party with his musical talents.

WCR FILE PHOTO, 1991

Fr. Ray Guimond enlivened many a party with his musical talents.

His decision to become a priest surprised no one as his mother expected to have priests in the family, although she never tried to influence them.

LOVE OF TEACHING

His late brother Arthé Guimond was the first to be ordained and served as archbishop of Grouard-McLennan from 2000 to 2005.

What attracted Ray Guimond to the priesthood was teaching. At the age of eight, he already saw himself as a teaching priest.

"The priesthood was there all the time but at some point I tested it and said, 'Maybe I should become a psychologist,' but it didn't work."

The years after Vatican II were tumultuous. "People were confused. They thought because we turned the altar around that everything had been turned around," he recalled. "Priests were leaving. In my class, five out of seven of us left."

Guimond calls that era "the time of the drugs" and says families stopped praying. "Our Lady was not important anymore," he recalled. "So we had to kind of recover from all this."

Guimond didn't abandon the priesthood as his classmates did because he devoted himself to the Virgin Mary and never stopped praying the rosary. "As simple a prayer as it appears, I think the rosary is a very powerful prayer," he said.

OUTSTANDING PRIEST

Christine Foisy-Erickson, a close friend of Guimond for about 25 years, said those who know Guimond see him as the epitome of a good priest. "He's been to our weddings; he's been there to bury our parents; he's often shown up in moments of crisis in our families and so through Father Ray we have felt the closeness and the love of Christ."

Foisy-Erickson said through Guimond she and many others have been introduced to the catechism and Church documents. "Because of Father Ray I read papal documents before I go to bed at night, which I had never done prior to meeting him."

Over the years, Foisy-Erickson organized pilgrimages to Catholic shrines all over the world and took Guimond along.

MUSIC AND JOKES

"He is a priest who is very much in love with the Church and with Christ and with Our Blessed Mother," she said. "He is also a priest who's given us a lot of joy through his music. If you give Father Ray a piano or an accordion, he would play for hours for the people."

Guimond is also a great joke-teller, Foisy-Erickson said. "We can go from moments of profound teaching and deep prayer to absolute silliness and laughing ourselves to death."

Archbishop MacNeil called Guimond "an example to the rest of the priests."

"He is a very prayerful man and a very devout man who has a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints," MacNeil said.

"He is a great teacher, in both English and French, and a wonderful director of retreats and parish missions – someone who brings Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother close to people. He's been a wonderful guide to many people in the archdiocese and beyond."