Fr. Gilbert Dasna Photo courtesy of Western Catholic Reporter.

Slain Alberta priest remembered as a faithful minister

By  Chris Miller, Canadian Catholic News
  • May 13, 2014

ST. PAUL, ALTA. - Fr. Gilbert Dasna is being remembered for being strong and faithful to his ministry as a priest.

The Cameroon-born Fr. Dasna, 32, was shot dead on May 9, the third anniversary of his arrival in Canada.

The St. Paul Diocese in northeastern Alberta is in mourning following the tragic death of Fr. Dasna.

"He liked to wear a white cassock to show that he belongs to God completely. He loved people, especially native people,” said Fr. Peter Tran.

At about 5:50 p.m. on May 9, the St. Paul RCMP received an emergency call about shots fired at the rectory of St. Paul's Cathedral, where Fr. Dasna was associate pastor. Three police officers arrived around 6:15 p.m. and saw Fr. Dasna laying on his right side at the rectory entrance. He had been shot, and blood was coming from his wounds. An ambulance brought him to the local hospital around 6:30 p.m. Tran, diocesan chancellor, arrived at 7:10 p.m., and was informed that Fr. Dasna had died just a minute before.

Speaking both French and English fluently, Fr. Dasna made friends easily with others, both young and old, said Tran.

“I think he is the kind of priest that people like to be: holy, humble, generous and charitable,” said Tran.

Denise Paquette, religion teacher at Ecole du Sommet in St. Paul, knew Fr. Dasna from working with him on the school’s graduation Masses the past two years.

“People in the community here are just heartbroken, not just at the cathedral but everywhere in the community. I feel that our community is broken,” said Paquette.

"You go to the grocery store and people just kind of look at each other with sad eyes. No one knows how to start a conversation with one another. It’s tough.”

In preparation for the graduation Masses, she found that Fr. Dasna listened carefully to the needs of the graduating students. He genuinely cared about their problems and their specific interests.

“I found him to be so attentive to our grads when we would meet with him. We’d have a lunch meeting with him, so he could get to know them a little better, so that he could preach a little more closely to who they were. He was generous in his ministry and generous with his time,” said Paquette.

Fr. Casmir Muobike, pastor at St. Isidore parish in Plamondon, belongs to the same religious order as Fr. Dasna, the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy, an African-based religious order.

“He was very down to earth, lived his life with simplicity, and I’d say he lived a life of poverty. He was a joyful person, and peaceful. Wherever he was, he brought joy to the people around him,” said Muobike.

The charism of the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy is to bear witness to the mercy of God, by following the footsteps of Christ. Muobike said Fr. Dasna, whether working in the parish or in the school, lived up to this charism, and the mercy of God was expressed in compassion, forgiveness and kindness.

Fr. Ambrose Umeohanna, pastor at St. Mary of Assumption parish in Westlock, met Fr. Dasna in Nigeria.

"He was a very dedicated priest, and a funny guy. Whenever you were in his presence, he made everybody laugh. He was a humble guy, a very smart man and a good fellow. He was obedient to his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience,” said Umeohanna.

While the tragedy is confusing and hard for people to understand, Umeohanna offered one possible explanation.

“Maybe God allowed him to share in the martyrdom by allowing this type of dirt. Since this happened, I’ve been trying think about the mystery of Christ’s death, and trying to compare it to his death.”

Around the world, Canada is regarded as a peaceful country, and he cannot explain to people back home in Africa how such a violent incident could occur here.

As of May 13, police had not confirmed whether Fr. Dasna’s homicide was related to a gunfight in St. Paul the same evening. Gunshots rang out near the St. Paul RCMP detachment, and police began hunting for a black Dodge pickup that was seen leaving the area. The truck later rammed a police cruiser in downtown St. Paul, leaving a police officer with extensive injuries to both legs. Two other Mounties were injured in a shootout, one of them shot in the hand, and another hit in the face by flying glass.

The shootout resulted with the suspect in the truck dead. The suspect was identified as John Carlos Quadros, 55.

A community prayer vigil is set for St. Paul’s Cathedral on May 16 at 7 p.m. A prayer vigil will also be held at Sacred Heart Church in Saddle Lake on May 17 at 7:30 p.m. with Tran presiding. Funeral prayers will be held at the cathedral on May 18 at 7:30 p.m. The funeral Mass shall be held at the cathedral on May 19 at 2 p.m.

The remains of Fr. Dasna will be transported for burial in the cemetery of his order in Nigeria.

(Western Catholic Reporter)

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