Cornwall ON – Family, friends, former students, fellow humanitarians, clergy from various denominations and others from the region and beyond filled St. Columban Church this morning to give thanks for the life of service of Msgr Rudy Villeneuve. Since Villeneuve served at St. Columban at four different points in his life, including his last official time of public ministry, it was fitting that his farewell and commendation take place amid his many friends there.
He was ordained a priest at the age of 23, one year before the minimum age of 24. He received a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Montreal, a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Montreal, a Doctorate of Sociology from Fordhams University as well as all the undergraduate degrees.
Behind his ever-ready kind, warm smile, Fr. Rudy was a shy, humble man who served the Lord and His people through priestly ministry for more than 30 years. Recently, Fr. Rudy accepted the invitation to reflect upon various aspects of his life and priestly ministry. Here are excerpts from an interview:
You have worn many hats during your vocation. What was your favourite role in the community other than that of a parish priest or pastor? Teaching sociology at the University of Ottawa provided me with many enriching opportunities.
What advice would you give to new high school graduates? That they have one life to live and should make it the most productive that one possibly can. To do the most good with their given talents.
What is your favourite book? The Acts of the Apostles in the Bible. I love history and biology, especially about St. Paul, his travels and where he preached.
What is the best place you ever visited on holiday? The Holy Lands. It was a thrill to say Mass in different places, and preach about the loaves and fishes where it actually took place. We were on the Sea of Galilee where people were still fishing.
What do you think has been the most influential decade of your life? In the fifties as my first year as pastor of Precious Blood Church. During the building of the Seaway, the parish changed from rural to suburban and we built a new church and school. The new church opened in 1956. We had no money but raised it. Our CWL went into the catering business to help pay for the church.
What particular challenge do you pride yourself on overcoming? I always was and still am a shy person and am reluctant to express myself in public.
Do you have a bucket list? If so, what is one thing on it yet to achieve? There are some places I would like to visit: Newfoundland, Australia and New Zealand. I would love to go on an African Safari.
What is something, on your list, that you already did accomplish? When I was first ordained, I wished that I had higher education. Opportunity knocked often beginning with Bishop Brodeur asking me to study social work. That beginning led me on to receive PhD’s in both sociology and theology. As a result, I have had the pleasure of teaching over 2000 students and publishing several books on pertinent issues in our community. I did not set out to do this; I was simply led by good opportunities.
Is there any person that has influenced your life? I mentored Fr. Gary Ostler when he was first ordained. I admired him as he was dedicated to so many causes and people. When I grew older, the roles reversed and Fr. Gary was extremely good to me. He was a very talented man.
On the occasion of Villeneuve’s 30th anniversary of priestly ministry, Ostler said of the man, “I value him as a mentor and a friend.”
These next two responses perhaps best exemplify the man so many have come to know and love.
What is your pet peeve? I do not like to hear people running down others. There is some good in everyone.
What do you think has been your greatest achievement? Through the grace of God, I have been faithful all these years as a priest. I love being a priest and glad that I chose to be one.