Fr. Colleton would do it all again

  • August 13, 2007

{mosimage}TORONTO - Some call him Ireland’s Missionary to Canada. Others have dubbed him the “Lion.” He is known for his missionary work, sense of justice and relentless advocacy for the rights of the unborn, and now, Fr. Edward (Ted) Colleton, CSSp, has announced his plans to retire and return to Ireland after 67 years in the priesthood.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1913, the second-youngest of four children, Colleton jokingly credits his siblings with his vocation.

“I was one boy with three sisters, so I decided to become a priest,” he said.

In reality, Colleton decided to enter the priesthood while attending Blackrock College in Dublin, a boys’ school run by the Spiritan Fathers. After studying at the Spiritan Seminary in Dublin, he was ordained a Holy Ghost Father in 1940. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to Kenya to work as a missionary.

During the 30 years that Colleton spent in Kenya, he became fluent in Swahili and was assigned as chaplain at a Mau Mau internment camp when the Mau Mau rebel movement was defeated in the early 1960s.

{sidebar id=1} Colleton became well known and liked by those he served in Kenya, including members of the ruling family and several Mau Mau leaders. In spite of this, he was eventually thrown out of the country for speaking out against the ruling family.

“I really enjoyed the missionary work, but after 30 years I challenged the new African president Jomo Kenyatta of the Kikuyu tribe on his attitude toward missionaries. As a result, I was ordered to leave the country,” said Colleton.

He returned to Ireland for a short time before being sent to Canada, where the Spiritan Fathers mistakenly expected that he would serve as a chaplain in a convent or as a parish priest. Undaunted by age and largely alarmed by the Canadian government’s liberal attitude toward abortion, Colleton embraced the pro-life cause and made advocacy his principal interest, writing a column for The Interim pro-life newspaper, volunteering with Birthright and speaking at schools on behalf of Toronto Right to Life before joining the Campaign Life Coalition in the 1970s.

“I became an active member of the pro-life movement with (Campaign Life president) Jim Hughes. While I have been engaged in other ecclesiastical works, pro-life has been my principal occupation,” said Colleton, who firmly intends to advocate for the rights of the unborn for as long as abortions continue to happen.

Never one to shy away from his beliefs, Colleton has been imprisoned on two occasions for his pro-life work. Both times, he said, “I have considered it an honour.”

In the last 30 years, Colleton has spoken at countless retreats, banquets, conferences and schools across Canada advocating the pro-life cause.

But now, he says, it is time to go home.

“I turned 94 years of age a few weeks ago, and shall soon be returning to Ireland, my homeland,” said Colleton.

A farewell dinner celebration for Colleton was to be held on Aug. 9 at Spirale Restaurant in Toronto.

In summarizing his career as a priest, Colleton quoted from his 1990 book Yes, I’d Do It Again.

“It has been a great life full of action and excitement, triumphs and failures, laughter and tears, sunshine and shadows. But I cannot think of any aspect of it I would change.... For half a century I have daily stood at the altar of God and offered the holy sacrifice of Mass, raised my hand in absolution over more repentant sinners than I could ever count, poured the waters of Baptism over the heads of babies without number, preached the Gospel in Ireland, England, Africa, the U.S. and Canada, and anointed the foreheads of those who were within minutes of meeting God face to face... (and) I want to affirm this fact: if I had another life to live — I’d do it again.”

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