Deacon Bert Cambre headed Toronto’s diaconate for a decade. Photo by Michael Swan

Deacon Bert Cambre launched ministries to marginalized

By 
  • April 4, 2012

TORONTO - The deacon other Toronto deacons relied on for years has passed away. Deacon Bert Cambre died peacefully, surrounded by his family at Burlington's Joseph Brant Hospital March 29.

"He was an icon of Christ the servant, especially when it came to reaching out to try to gather the marginalized," said Stephen Pitre, Toronto's co-ordinator of diaconal ministry.

Deacon Cambre grew the office for deacons at the archdiocese of Toronto in 2000 and ran it for 10 years. He was a careful steward of the community of deacons and always attentive to the deacons' wives and widows.

An immigrant from Argentina, an engineer and a successful businessman, Deacon Cambre was most proud of his 30 years as a deacon in St. Gabriel's parish in Toronto, St. Francis Xavier in Mississauga and St. Christopher's in Mississauga.

David Zuber of Mississauga remembered the day Cambre presided at his marriage.

"He wished for us that we have the great marriage that he and (his wife) Terry had," wrote Zuber in a Toronto newspaper's online obituary column. "I think of those words often. He made our special day that much more special."

 Deacon Bert Cambre (photo by Michael Swan)Deacon Cambre helped establish new ministries to some of the most marginalized people in the archdiocese. He was there at the beginning of the Friends of Dismas, an ecumenical ministry to ex-convicts. He pioneered El Sembrador, which ministers to about 700 Hispanic migrant workers who come every year to work on farms in the Holland Marsh north of Toronto. He encouraged deacons to work with addicts, prostitutes and the mentally ill on the streets in downtown Toronto.

The diaconate program in Toronto was so successful other dioceses sought advice from Deacon Cambre when they decided to establish the diaconate for themselves.

"Bert was a very passionate and vigourous promoter of the diaconate," said Pitre. "He was a great support and advocate for deacons, especially when they were having trouble."

He may have ruffled a few feathers along the way, but nobody will recall him as anything but kind, said Pitre.

Deacon Cambre was ordained June 18, 1983 and his wife Maria Teresa was along for the ride the whole way. He was 70 when he died. He leaves five children, five grandchildren and a brother. A Mass of Christian burial was to be held at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Burlington April 4. He will be buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Burlington.

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