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Edmonton priest Father Michael ‘Catfish’ Mireau passes away

WATCH ABOVE: The Catholic community is in mourning after the loss of a prominent figure. Erin Chalmers tells us how Father Mike Mireau – or Father Catfish – is being remembered.

EDMONTON – The district chaplain of Edmonton Catholic Schools, who candidly shared his battle with cancer in a series of web videos, passed away late Monday night.

Mike Mireau, often referred to by his students as Father Catfish, was 42.

“He leaves a legacy of complete dedication to the priestly ministry, especially as it touches the lives of young people,” said Archbishop Richard Smith.

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“He always wanted to reach out,” added Father Paul Kavanagh. “He always had a lot of patience with people.”

“Even in the last year when he was quite ill, he wanted to be with our young people, be with our students. I think it’ll be a great loss for us.”

Father Mike started posting video blogs about everything from terrorism to whether dogs go to heaven, but after he was diagnosed with cancer in Februrary 2013, his posts became even more personal.

“As a priest, my job is to take my own journey, whatever journey that is, and to kind of live it publicly, so that other people can listen to it and relate to it,” he told Global News in May of that year.

“This is where I’m at right now. I’m called to be a priest dealing with cancer.”

“So my job is to deal with that publicly and to show others how to suffer as well with it and continue to maintain their faith.”

(Watch above: Father Mike speaks to Gord on the Early News on May 8, 2013)

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Students at St. Francis Xavier filled the area around Father Mike’s office with notes and mementos on Tuesday morning.

Father Mike’s office door at St. Francis Xavier School, Tuesday, September 23, 2014. Erin Chalmers, Global News

“It was just awesome to know that there was somebody like that at our school,” said Grade 12 student Sarah Oskoboiny, “someone that you could always talk to and trust.”

“Whenever he was around it was impossible to not smile and not be happy. He had such a spirit about him.”

“It’s awful that he’s gone,” she added. “It doesn’t seem real.”

“I hope that we don’t remember that he was the one who died of cancer,” added Rebecca Lundy.

“I just hope that we remember that he inspired all of us, and I hope we remember how much love he spread to everyone throughout his life.”

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Father Mike was born in Edmonton and graduated from the University of Alberta with a Master’s Degree in Mathematical Physics. After attending the Newman Theological College and St. Joseph Seminary, he was ordained to the priesthood in 2002.

He was appointed district chaplain of Edmonton Catholic Schools in 2010.

On Tuesday afternoon, Edmonton Catholic Schools announced one of the three new schools scheduled to open in 2016 will be named after Father Mike.

Father Michael Mireau Catholic Elementary/Junior High School will be in Summerside, Bishop David Motiuk Catholic Elementary/Junior High School will be in Lewis Farms, and St. John XXIII Catholic Elementary/Junior High School will be in Windermere.

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(Watch above: Father Mike Mireau is Edmonton Catholic Schools’ district chaplain. As Emily Mertz reports, he’s also battling cancer and sharing his journey.)

His nickname came from his childhood hobby of drawing cartoon catfish. When he was asked to pick a nature name at the start of his decades-long work at Camp Encounter, he chose Catfish.

“Our hearts are saddened by the passing of our beloved spiritual leader, our district chaplain, our friend and colleague,” said Joan Carr, superintendent of Edmonton Catholic Schools.

“Affectionately known to students and staff as Father Catfish, Father Michael Mireau was known and loved in our district as a person with a deep understanding and passion for youth. Through his encounters with our young people and staff and through creative social media, he committed his life to show us all the beauty, importance and understanding of faith in our lives. ‘God is love’ will be etched in our minds forever.”

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Vigil prayers for Father Michael Mireau will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 25, at St. Joseph’s Basilica.

The Mass of Christian Burial, presided by Archbishop Smith, will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Friday, September, 26, at the Basilica.

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