St. Patrick Catholic Church is mourning the passing this week of beloved priest Father John Waldron, who served the Canby parish from 2004 until his retirement in 2014, and who died Thursday evening after a long bout with cancer. He was 78.
In a letter to the church, Father Arturo Romero, the current pastor at St. Pat’s, said he arrived at Waldron’s home in Canby shortly after he passed, “to pray for him and to commend his soul to Our Heavenly Father.”
“We will miss him dearly, and we entrust him in confidence to God’s loving embrace,” Father Romero said.
Waldron, a native of Castlebar, Ireland, moved to Oregon three months after being ordained in 1966. He remarked that the scenery in the Willamette Valley and, in particular, the Oregon weather reminded him of his home country.
His assignments included St. Luke in Woodburn, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Salem, St. Alice in Springfield, St. Patrick Parish in Toledo, Queen of Peace Parish in North Portland and Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton, before settling in Canby.
Local parishioners remembered him for his compassion, steadfastness, wisdom, kindness, sense of humor and love of all things University of Oregon sports (which he’d developed during the seven-year stint in Springfield).
“I was so very saddened to hear about his passing,” said St. Patrick member Michelle Davis. “He was such a kind and special person. We will greatly miss him.”
According to an article in the Catholic Sentinel, Waldron was known for his genuine compassion for those in mourning, his support for younger and new clergy members, his dedication toward students and married couples (he led many workshops and retreats on marriage throughout his career) and his “fresh, vibrant and inspirational” preaching.
“Beyond bricks and mortar, Father Waldron sought to build up faith,” the Sentinel noted. “He was a regular in the classroom, aware of the impact his visits could have on the faith life and vocations of youngsters. He blessed whatever children brought to him, whether pets or pumpkins.”
At Canby, he helped unite English and Spanish speakers. He led Mass in both languages, with the help of more fluent Spanish speakers who assisted in the service — and with some patience on the part of the congregation.
“Have you heard an Irishman trying to speak Spanish?” the priest told the Sentinel in 2006. “It’s not pretty.”
Retired Canby School District teacher Tony Crawford, who has been a member of the parish since he and his wife, Betty, moved here 40 years ago, said he was “thankful for having Father John in my life.”
“He was a positive influence to all who knew him,” he said. “We both knew Father John as our priest, but we also felt he was so much more. He was our friend. Few people I know were as kind and gentle as Father John.”
Crawford, whom generations of Canby students remember for the guest speakers he brought to his classroom over the years (including the likes of Nancy Reagan and the Dalai Lama), said he also invited Father John to speak in his student advocacy peace class.
“He was always very relaxed and encouraging with my students,” he said. “They frequently would ask me to invite him back. He was a huge football fan, especially for the Oregon Ducks. And, you didn’t hear this from me, but he was a source of jokes you never expected to hear from a priest.”
We asked for an example of the father’s jokes, and Crawford told us one — which he prefaced by saying it was one we would not be able to share in print.
… He was right. Sorry.
Funeral arrangements are pending. Condolences to his family may be sent to the parish office at P.O. Box 730, Canby, OR 97013, or dropped through the slot next to the front door.