By Michelle Dinter-Lipinski, member from Saskatchewan
I had known Walter for 40 years, having first met him in youth work. We were also in retreat ministry together, living in the same community for a year. I served with him on our local Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada diocesan council for a time and attended many annual general meetings with him (carpooling, of course!). Later, we remained in regular contact while I served on the national council.
Walter grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and always thought he would follow his family tradition and become a farmer himself. However, he heeded the call to religious life via the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He chose to become a brother rather than a priest because he knew he was more suited for practical, hands-on work. This hands-on work once led to an almost deadly encounter!
On December 1, 1958, Walter got too close to a bull on an Oblate farm in Battleford, Sask. The beast gored him and pinned him against a fence. “When they got him to the North Battleford hospital, he already had a gallon of blood loose in his abdomen, with major injuries to his liver,” recalled Watler’s brother, Fr. Lawrence DeMong. The WWII surgeon who sewed his liver back together was not hopeful. But Walter survived and spent the rest of his life marvelling at the gift of life and the power of prayer.
Walter’s entire life was ministry. He made such an impact on many, not only in the Oblate community but in the wider Church. He was a progressive thinker and had a huge heart, finding it hard to say no to anything or anyone. He admitted that he struggled with the balance between his work and his prayer life, all of which were very important to him. He cared deeply for the environment and for social justice.
This led Walter to become an active member of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada. Former deputy director of public engagement Armella Sonntag and veteran member Kim Paisley recalled, “We knew Walter through his work in Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada, where he maintained a strong sense of social justice. We remember him being involved as a diocesan chair for the Saskatoon diocese and in other roles and responsibilities. He was so faithful to our campaigns and messages. In regional assemblies, core meetings and campaign workshops, which he faithfully attended for many years, his comments and questions were always to the point. We delighted in his candour. It made us feel comfortable as newer activist members in the early 1990s.”
Fellow member Russ and Yvonne Powell reminisced, “We got to know Walter quite well because of his commitment to carpooling. For every out-of-town Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada meeting, he phoned around to set up a ride share, often with us.”
Walter was always the faithful stamp collector for our region. For many years, he gathered stamps from everyone, everywhere and faithfully bundled them up once a year, sending them to the national office.
Walter’s outlook was summed up in an interview he gave to an Oblate elder history project last February. He said, “Work hard, be honest, try to have a good prayer life, use your common sense, be generous with your time and energy, and say YES!”
We, the Saskatchewan members of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada are thankful for Brother Walter’s “yes” and the inspiration of dedicated service that he provided for many of us.
Well done, good and faithful servant!