TORONTO, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The pro-life movement in Canada and beyond is mourning the loss of pro-life giant Fr. Ted Colleton, who passed away peacefully Tuesday evening at the age of 97.
“Fr. Ted was a giant of a man, a giant of a pro-lifer, who was one of the great heroes of the Canadian pro-life movement,” said Campaign Life Coalition National President Jim Hughes, who was a close friend for three decades. “He was a wonderful example, giving everything he had for the unborn and vulnerable.”
Hughes said that well into his 90s, Fr. Ted led a more active life than most people 30 years his junior. “He never rested. He set the standard for us,” he said. “There’s very few who have done more than he. He joins the list of Linda Gibbons, and Rev. Ken Campbell, and Joanne Dieleman, and Joe Borowski, and all sorts of people of that caliber.”
Born and raised in Ireland, Fr. Ted was ordained a Catholic priest in the Spiritan (Holy Ghost) order in 1940, after which he spent 30 years in Kenya as a missionary before being personally expelled from the country by dictator Jomo Kenyatta in 1971. He came to Canada where he began a second career as a pro-life missionary and he spent more than 35 active years preaching the Good News without compromise.
He was a tireless defender of the unborn and fierce opponent of the Culture of Death and its symptoms: abortion, contraception, and euthanasia. He wrote hundreds of pro-life columns for The Interim newspaper for which he was a columnist for a quarter century and published three best-selling books: two collections of his columns and one autobiography.
In the 1980s he was arrested for chaining closed the gates behind Henry Morgentaler’s then illegal abortion facility in Toronto, and people called him a “radical.” He embraced the term, entitling his collection of columns, “Yes, I’m a Radical,” and “I’m Still a Radical.”
He gave thousands of homilies that preached the Culture of Life. He appeared on television and radio to give interviews and spoke to pro-life and church groups from coast to coast. Fr. Ted said he spoke personally with 100,000 Canadians during his travels. It is estimated that he raised more than $1 million for the pro-life cause over 30 years.
All the long-time friends and fellow activists LifeSiteNews interviewed Wednesday praised the devoted priest’s grand sense of humor.
Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition, who knew the priest since he first arrived in Canada, said he would use card tricks with youth to open the door for preaching the Gospel.
“After he warmed them up with his Irish humor and his card tricks, then he’d tell them the pro-life message,” she explained. “Everybody would say ‘Oh, this cute little Irish priest’ and then of course the message would come at them right between the eyes and they wouldn’t know what to say or what to do about that.”
Douglas said he was “an exceptional, fiery speaker” who “left a lasting impression” on everyone he met. “He’s a true hero. He gave us all leadership, spiritual leadership, courage,” she explained. “Watching him go to jail for all that time and all he suffered there, trying to stop what was going in Morgentaler’s abortuary.”
Toronto pro-life advocate Dan McCash, who knew him also for 30 years, said Fr. Colleton was “a big, big inspiration to many people.” “He had a quiet, peaceful way of showing his love for his fellow man at all stages – be it the unborn, the elderly – very compassionate, always very compassionate.”
“It’s hard to think of him having gone and left us, but I’m sure he’s doing a lot of work for us up there in heaven,” said McCash.
Hughes said that even though he had not necessarily intended to embark on a second missionary career when he arrived in Canada, Fr. Colleton was “probably even more effective” in his missionary work here “because of the nature of Canada and what it has become in regard to abortion.”
The priest claimed he never knew the word for abortion in Swahili because it was unheard of while he was in Africa, where pregnant woman were revered. “He had this very great respect for women, and pregnant women especially,” said Hughes. “He just couldn’t believe that all these things were happening in Canada.”
Fr. Colleton retired from pro-life work in 2007, and Hughes says he was pleased to devote himself in his last days to a quiet life of prayer. “He was always contended that the greatest thing we can do was pray,” said Hughes. “In his latter years the good Lord gave him the opportunity to switch all his focus from the things that he was doing onto prayer only.”
Funeral arrangements are still pending.