Last May, Fr. Trevor Plug was in all likelihood the first Catholic priest ever ordained who suffered from spina bifida. He died unexpectedly June 13 while on vacation. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of St. Catharines

Priest who had spina bifida dies while on holiday

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  • June 16, 2017

Just a year after his extraordinary ordination and while celebrating a friend’s ordination in British Columbia, Fr. Trevor Plug has died.

“The word shock is very appropriate. It was totally unexpected,” said St. Catharines Bishop Gerard Bergie.

Last May, Fr. Plug was in all likelihood the first Catholic priest ever ordained who lived from spina bifida, a condition that causes babies to be born with their spinal cord partially exposed. Fr. Plug, 32, lived his entire life in a wheelchair.

He used his disability to share his hope and joy in the Gospel, said Bergie.

“We have to bring people hope. I think Trevor was able to do that simply because they could see in him a man who was able to work through a lot of these struggles and difficulties and still maintain a sense of hope, a sense of joy,” Bergie said. “I don’t mean ha-ha-ha joy, but a sense of peace in the depths of his being. That was what he was able to offer people.”

Fr. Plug died suddenly June 13 of natural causes while on vacation. He had traveled to Victoria, B.C., to be part of the ordination and first Mass of Fr. Michael Tran, whom he had studied with at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont. Prior to the trip, Plug was full of enthusiasm and anticipation of his vacation, according to Fr. Hugh Gibson, pastor of St. Alfred’s Church, where Fr. Plug was associate pastor at St. Alfred’s.

While in Victoria, Fr. Plug mentioned to a few people he wasn’t feeling well.

“They were suggesting that he return home, but he was determined that he was there and he was going to enjoy his holiday,” said Bergie.

An autopsy has been was ordered.

St. Alfred’s has postponed its plans to celebrate the parish’s 50th anniversary on June 17-18.

“They’ve put that on hold because there was just no sense of joy,” said Bergie.

Fr. Plug was beloved in the parish where he had served in various capacities beginning two years before his ordination.

“He had the ability to listen and there was true authenticity in what he said. They (parishioners) knew he had faced struggles and that his words came from his own experience,” Bergie said.

Fr. Plug’s road to the priesthood began with his studies in linguistics, first at the University of Ottawa and then graduate studies at King’s College, Western University. The idea of the Word of God captured him.

“The first thing is the story of Jesus at the wedding at Cana,” Fr. Plug told The Catholic Register shortly after he was ordained. “Mary’s word to the servants, ‘Do whatever He says’ — that was really foundational to my vocation.”

A funeral Mass for Plug will be celebrated June 22, 11 a.m. at St. Alfred’s, 272 Vine St., St. Catharines. Visitation will be at the church Tuesday 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. and again Wednesday, 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. He is to be buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Thorold, Ont.

“I cannot for a moment try to understand God’s ways, but this is all part of that divine plan,” said Bergie. “Goodness has to come out of this, and that’s all I can say.”


Below is an audio slideshow from June 1, 2016 of St. Catharines' Bishop Gerard Bergie recalling Fr. Trevor Plug's ordination last May.

Comments (2)

I knew Fr. Trevor, and I know myself and what spina bifida is. We don't "suffer from" spina bifida, we live with it. We live with it, like everyone else lives with their own day-to-day struggles. He wouldn't want people to think he suffered from...

I knew Fr. Trevor, and I know myself and what spina bifida is. We don't "suffer from" spina bifida, we live with it. We live with it, like everyone else lives with their own day-to-day struggles. He wouldn't want people to think he suffered from spina bifida. He lived with it, made it part of his ministry and how he was a very good priest and person to everyone - was because of spina bifida. Not because he suffered from it, but because he lived with it. Please, honour his memory and what he would have actually wanted - please change it from "suffered from" to even something like "lived with". We (as people with disabilities) hate the term disabled, and "suffered from" is actually worse. His disability is even irrelevant and doesn't need to be mentioned at all, especially in the title. The world lost a great man. He just happened to use a wheelchair to get around (he was IN a wheelchair, or USED a wheelchair, he was not CONFINED to a wheelchair). Please for the love of whatever is good and holy, honour his memory and change this. It already hurts too much to see a young person die too soon. Please don't make it worse by dishonouring his life and circumstances.

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Have you no mercy? People with disabilities, like myself, do not "suffer from" disability. We live with it, our struggles are the same as anyone else's. To say we "suffered from" is mean, and Fr. Trevor deserves better. We had numerous...

Have you no mercy? People with disabilities, like myself, do not "suffer from" disability. We live with it, our struggles are the same as anyone else's. To say we "suffered from" is mean, and Fr. Trevor deserves better. We had numerous conversations on disability, and there is NO WAY he'd say he "suffered from" spina bifida, any more than he'd say he was "confined to" a wheelchair. Please change the headline. Father Trevor deserves to be remembered in a better way than this.

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