Dolphin made his mark in Church and in journalism

Frank Dolphin (1987)

Frank Dolphin (1987)

February 18, 2013

Frank Dolphin will be remembered as a great journalist, family man and member of the Catholic community.

Dolphin, a former associate-editor and editor of the Western Catholic Reporter, died peacefully at the University Hospital Feb. 5. He was 84.

"Frank was a great member of the Catholic community. He and his wife Margaret were members of the basilica and they contributed a lot to the Church," recalls Father Mike McCaffery, who presided at Dolphin's funeral Mass. "He was strongly influenced by the Second Vatican Council."

Dolphin was a "quiet guy in many ways" but he never failed to voice his support for the poor, the marginalized and the role of lay people in the Church, noted McCaffery. "He was a very patient and gentle guy. I don't think I ever heard him say a bad word."

McCaffery also described Dolphin as a family man who "loved his family and loved to go to Banff and swim in the hot pool."

"He was an excellent family man," said Dolphin's youngest son, John. "He was generally a low-key person, very gentle. He could get angry at us kids but generally speaking I found that he was always very accepting and loving.

"He was the kind of guy who would discipline you and then would feel terrible about it afterwards."

As a young man, Dolphin entered the seminary with the intention of becoming a priest. He ended up as a journalist. He worked in radio at CHED, CKUA and CBC. Many will remember him as the legislative reporter for CBC Television.

Dolphin, a father of six and grandfather of 21, also authored several works of popular history. One of his greatest achievements was winning the F.P. Galbraith Award in journalism in 1975.

Douglas Roche, the WCR's founding editor, has known Dolphin since before the paper started almost 50 years ago.

"I brought him to the paper," he recalled proudly. "The first edition was in September 1965 and I hired Frank in July of that year to help me to start the preparations for the paper, so he was very much a part of the first edition."


During his time as associate editor, Dolphin travelled to several places, including the Middle East and Latin America, doing articles about the situation of the Church in those places. He also wrote a history of the Church in Western Canada for the WCR.

"Frank wrote a lot of pieces that were very perceptive of the situation of the Church, particularly in the post-Vatican II years," Roche said in an interview.

"He was very knowledgeable and a good writer. Every day, I realized how lucky we were to have Frank's counsel and sound news judgment, and all of us on the staff had our hearts lightened by his wry sense of humour."

Dolphin eventually left the WCR to work at the CBC but returned in the mid-1980s to take over as editor. Under his tenure, "the paper's coverage of what it means to be Catholic in the modern world caught the attention of our whole community," recalled Roche.

"In the annals of the Catholic press in Canada, Frank Dolphin's name will rank at the top. I was honoured to have his friendship and I will miss him very much."


Dolphin left the WCR for the last time in the late 1980s and together with two of his sons set up a communications/publishing house that did writing projects on contract for several organizations. Among other things, they wrote and published the history of the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Ontario.

"It was almost a hobby for my dad, who was retired at the time," recalled his son John.

In the mid-1990s, with his son Paul, Dolphin did communications work for the Edmonton Archdiocese.

Last September Dolphin fell ill and ended up undergoing a "very tricky operation" to repair a perforation of his bowel. Even though he did improve and was able to come home a couple of weeks before Christmas, he never fully recovered. He was surrounded with family in his final moments.

"I'll remember my dad as a gentleman," John said. "He did a lot of things that people respected but he never came across as somebody who demanded respect; he engendered or inspired respect just by who he was."