Fr Daniel Chui , 55, was laid to rest on Dec. 28 following a three year battle with cancer. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Fr. Daniel Chui's smile will be sorely missed

  • January 8, 2015

Fr. Daniel Chui lost his battle with cancer on Dec. 21. The Basilian priest passed away suddenly inside his room at Anglin House, the Basilian retirement home in Toronto, after a three-year battle with esophageal cancer.

Fr. Chui’s “prolonged suffering,” as colleague and friend Fr. Thomas Rosica described the final years of his life, culminated with the funeral Mass held at St. Basil’s Church on Dec. 28. “The death of every Christian is always a time of sadness and loss,” said Rosica.

“The death of a priest impacts the Christian community at its core, since a priest is such an important agent and instrument of God’s tenderness and mercy of the entire community. But the death of a young priest, like Daniel Chui, touches us very deeply.”

Fr. Chui, 55, was born in Hong Kong on Sept. 19, 1959 to the late Pui Chui and Ying Tang.

In the mid-1990s while at the University of Saskatchewan, Fr. Chui became acquainted with the Basilians and on Jan. 2, 1996 professed to the order. Four years later Fr. Chui was ordained a Basilian priest.

The young priest’s first appointment was to Assumption Church in Windsor, Ont., where he served for three years before being assigned as a teacher to the Basilians’ St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, a duty that proved taxing on Fr. Chui.

“Dan would return home almost each night wiped out,” said Rosica, who lived with Fr. Chui during those years at Frassati House, the Basilians’ scholasticate. “His pastoral heart wasn’t up to the daunting challenge of teaching math to adolescent rambunctious boys in a school that excelled not only in stellar education but in sports.”

In 2007, after spending four years teaching at St. Michael’s while also assisting the Congregation of St. Basil with seminarian formation, Fr. Chui was sent to Holy Rosary parish to the delight of parishioners and himself.

“It was like the sun came out and shone upon us,” said parishioner Virginia Edman, adding that the parish will not be the same without Fr. Chui’s welcoming smile.

“Whenever I saw him he made me feel like I was the most important person that he had seen that day. He just seemed to be waiting to meet up with you and nobody else.”

Fellow parishioner Jo-Ann Davis, former chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, seconded the sentiment about Fr. Chui’s smile.

“Fr. Chui was a really wonderful pastor, and a genuine person, who really cared about his parish community,” said Davis, who praised Fr. Chui’s attention to the local students. “He approached everyone with the same welcoming smile.”

And if Fr. Chui’s smile didn’t bring some extra brightness to your day, the man’s words surely could.

“Dan brought us the flavour of the Gospel and the light of Christ, especially when our own lives and situations were tasteless and dark,” said Rosica. “(He was) a priest who warmed congregations with stirring, simple words in his homilies and gentle words in the secret of the confessional. Nothing made Dan waver, (not) even the debilitating sickness hidden under a feeding tube and diminished voice.”

And those who heard Fr. Chui preach, like Sharon Corcoran, who reached out to The Register despite being in Mexico at the time, know that they truly heard the word of God.

“God did speak through him,” she said. “Most of us have recognized that we have had the experience of walking in the footsteps of a saint. We have been blessed with his presence, short as it has been.”

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