REGINA — Rev. Art Vandendriessche (Father Van), priest of the Regina archdiocese, passaed away May 26 at Santa Maria Senior Care Home. He was 89. A mass of resurrection was held May 29 at Holy Child Church, concelebrated by Archbishop Donald Bolen and fellow priests.
Vandendriessche was born in Weyburn, Sask., into a large family. He attended St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont., and was ordained priest May 30, 1953. His entire vocation was served at various parishes throughout the Regina archdiocese. He once told an interviewer that he always considered himself a parishioner, and tried to serve in that way.
Bolen in his homily quoted comments from several priests who remarked on his humour, his precise and sharp memory, and how, regardless of how busy he was, he always managed to spend time with his family, especially his many nieces and nephews.
“His ministry had a single focus,” said the archbishop, “and centred on a single proclamation: God’s love.”
Following Vatican II, Vandendriessche wasted no time incorporating changes into the mass. He was one of the first in the archdiocese to use the vernacular language at mass, and the first who turned around the altar so he faced the congregation. He organized the first parish council and a folk group for mass at St. Peter’s Parish.
He helped organize a priest support group before it was encouraged by the archdiocese.
He was also a builder, and saw both St. Peter’s and Holy Trinity churches built while he served there.
Rev. Ken Koep, a retired priest of the Regina archdiocese, said he wouldn’t mind going to heaven with Van’s portfolio. “He was a fantastic parish priest all his life.”
Archdiocesan director of Pastoral Services, Bob Kowalchuk, remembered Vandendriessche as a man who loved people: “Even though he was retired he continued serving as priest and preaching on weekends.”
Vandendriessche received the pro ecclesia et pontifice, a papal honour, for being a good and faithful parish priest. Bolen noted that he was a man of prayer, a fine spiritual director and confessor, and a mentor to many. “His faith has profoundly shaped many of us who have gathered to lift him into God’s merciful hands.”