March 16, 2003
Richard Laplante, a married former Franciscan priest, will be remembered as a man who tried to bring Christ's healing message of love through every aspect of his life. "I think he tried to keep a real vision of the faith," said his friend and colleague Father Kevin Lynch, a Franciscan from Lumsden, Sask. "He was an evangelizer in the sense that (Pope) Paul VI said, bringing the faith to today's culture through his celebrations, his rituals, his questions and his work."
Laplante, coordinator of the doctor of ministry program at St. Stephen College of the University of Alberta and a former teacher and administrator with Edmonton Catholic Schools, died of heart failure while on a holiday in Scottsdale, Ariz., March 16. He was 61.
Laplante was born into a large French Canadian family in Vimy, Alta., in 1941. While studying at St. Anthony's College in Edmonton, he joined the Franciscans and was ordained a priest in 1965. While pursuing religious studies at Loyola University in Chicago, he met Marjorie, the woman who was to become his wife and married her in 1971. The couple had one son, Riall, now 29.
In 1968, Laplante began a 29-year career with Edmonton Catholic Schools, beginning as a teacher at O'Leary High. From 1971 to 1997, he served at Edmonton Catholic's central office, developing curriculum and facilitating workshops and running the district's employee and family assistance program.
Laplante also taught courses at Newman Theological College and St. Joseph's University College, both Catholic institutions. In 1997 he became director of the doctor of ministry program at St. Stephen's College. He had received a doctorate in ministry from St. Stephen's in 1986.
"I would say he was a Vatican II Catholic," said Lynch, a former director of religious education with Edmonton Catholic Schools. "He had a sense of reading of the signs of the times."
According to the priest, Laplante promoted lay participation in the Church before it was fashionable to do so. "He was a good guy. He dedicated his life to trying to put the faith and the culture together and trying to live it accordingly."
Oblate Father Fachet, a professor at Newman College and a friend of Laplante for 15 years, described Laplante as a "very fine and very positive person" who "was critical of the Church but very positive as well."
"I just remember him as a very fun-loving fellow and good conversationalist," Fachet said. "He always liked a good discussion in almost any topic, especially the faith, theology, religion. He loved a good debate."
Laplante's brother Joseph, a retired superintendent with St. Albert Catholic, described his brother as a key member of his family, the one everyone depended on for counselling and advice. He was also the leader at family celebrations.
Because of his background as a priest and his depth of knowledge in various fields, Laplante was asked by his many nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters to help them through difficult times.
"He counselled many of us," Joseph Laplante recalled. "I'll remember him as my very best friend and my mentor. I learned so much from him."
Fachet and Lynch celebrated a Mass of Resurrection in Laplante's honour at Holy Family Church in St. Albert March 22. MAY HE REST IN PEACE.