Montreal Catholic priest Father John Walsh has died

One of Montreal's best-known -- and beloved -- Catholic priests has died.

Father John Walsh suffered a heart attack Monday morning, according to an announcement issued by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal. He was 78 years old.

Walsh served for decades as a priest, including at St. John Brebeuf Parish in LaSalle, before he retired in 2010.

Those in need have lost a friend. The passing of John Walsh is an immense loss. Rest In Peace, Father. #cdnpoli

Ceux dans le besoin ont perdu un ami. Le décès de John Walsh est une perte immense. Repose en paix, père. #polcan

— Marc Miller (@MarcMillerVM) November 9, 2020

Walsh was especially well known for his work with Montreal's homeless at Nazareth House, an organization that just last Thursday celebrated the opening of a new shelter with room for 12 men named John's House in his honour. 

At a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of his ordination in 2016, Walsh’s influence was clear: former prime minister Paul Martin, the mayor of Montreal at the time, Denis Coderre, and hundreds of the faithful gathered to celebrate his lengthy career. Religious leaders of all faiths also celebrated Walsh, who had worked for decades with various communities.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, who knew and collaborated with Walsh for years on a variety of projects, said the priest was able to unite communities in a way that no other Montrealer could. 

"The passing of Father John Walsh represents a profound loss for our community. It's a cliche that no one is indispensable, but Father John Walsh was indispensable," he said. "He was so effective because it so obviously came from the depths of his spirit. He will be missed."

Very sad day. Father John Walsh, was a good man and a friend. Always gave me great advice. He did so much for people. I will miss him a lot. Huge loss. Rest In Peace my friend.

— Tony Marinaro (@TonyMarinaro) November 9, 2020

In Dec., 2017, Walsh's induction into the Order of Canada was announced, an honour that was made official at a ceremony in February of 2019. 

Father John, as he was affectionately known, was also the long-time host of an eponymous Sunday radio show on CJAD 800. Friends remembered a side of him that was not always seen by the public. CTV Montreal anchor Mutsumi Takahashi recalled Walsh as an avid painter who was proud of his artistic work.

Walsh published his autobiography, ‘God is Calling, Don’t Leave him on Hold’ in 2016.

He is survived by his sister, Marlene Robitaille, her children and their families.

No funeral arrangements have yet been announced. 

Former prime minister Paul Martin remembers his friend, the late Father John Walsh, on CJAD 800 radio:


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