‘Great missionary’ Father Guilbaud passes away at 95

Father Joseph Guilbaud always said that, when he goes to heaven, the first thing he wants to see is his father's face. After a stroke and a month-long hospital stay, Father Jim Bleackley asked him, "Joseph, is it time to go and see your father?

Father Joseph Guilbaud always said that, when he goes to heaven, the first thing he wants to see is his father’s face.

After a stroke and a month-long hospital stay, Father Jim Bleackley asked him, “Joseph, is it time to go and see your father?

“And he just smiled, he didn’t really say too much,” said Bleackley. “There was a sense of peace and a sense of, yeah, it will be good.”

Shortly after, Guilbaud passed away.

He was born in France in 1915 and lived in the Yukon for 62 years. He’d never met his father.

He had one picture of his dad holding him when he was six months old, but just after that his father died in the First World War.

So when Guilbaud died in the Whitehorse hospital on June 21, he was on his way to see the face he only knew from a photo taken 95 years ago.

He served the Catholic Church for 52 years and retired in Whitehorse in 1999, moving into the oblate.

“He was forced to retire. He always said, ‘I could have done more,’” said Bleackley.

The directory above the doorbells at the front of the building points his visitors to apartment No. 4.

Priests don’t have many personal belongings, Bleackley explained, but Guilbaud asked the photos displayed in his room be returned to his family.

Bleackley and Father Pierre Rigaud sat in the oblate’s common room, sharing stories of the “great missionary.”

“He was a special one,” joked Rigaud who knew Guilbaud for 62 years. “He had his own ideas.”

One of these “ideas” was creating his own directions while on his mission.

“He was leaving Ross River, he was going to Pelly Lake. In his mind, the shortest distance was a straight line. He got lost the whole time,” said Bleackley.

“He had stories about getting lost in the bush … he came around a corner and there was a bear. I said, ‘What did you do?’ and he said, ‘I shot my gun and ran and I guess the bear ran the other way.’”

When he finally made it across the river he had been crossing, Guilbaud was so relieved that he sang every song he knew.

Although he may not have had the best sense of direction, Guilbaud had a strong sense of purpose.

He was very spiritual and always learning.

During his mission in Upper Liard, he often heard the people speak about losing their language.

“Well then I’ll give back,” said Guilbaud.

He carried around a tape recorder and asked elders to teach him their Kaska language.

Guilbaud studied the voice recordings.

“That was one of his big projects,” said Bleackley. “He got quite proficient at speaking Kaska.”

He also set up two speakers in the church tower and played his recordings to the people sitting on the church steps.

“Maybe they’ll pick it up,” Bleackley said with a laugh.

Up until he got sick on May 29, he was continually doing his routine of praying, reading and studying.

“He had been very alert,” said Bleackley.

Guilbaud also worked on his book and hoped it would one day be published.

In the hospital, Guilbaud asked, “What about that Catechism?”

“It’s in God’s hands now,” Bleackley replied.

Bleackley had been in the hospital all day on June 21, but took a break in the afternoon for exercise.

When he came back, Guilbaud had passed away.

“Guilbaud always liked to be free. Like when he crossed to Ross River, on the other side he said, ‘No more superior! I’m on my own.’ So he probably said, ‘Yeah, the superior’s gone. I’m free to go.’”

A prayer vigil will be held on Sunday at Sacred Heart Cathedral at 7 p.m. and the funeral mass is Monday at 10:30 a.m.

Father Guilbaud will be buried in the oblate plot on Grey Mountain.

Contact Larissa Robyn Johnston

at larissaj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, pictured at a press conference in October, announced three new cases of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 as well as a new public exposure notice. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New COVID-19 cases, public exposure notice announced

The new cases have all been linked to previous cases

Chief Superintendent Scott Sheppard of the Yukon RCMP speaks to media in Whitehorse on Nov. 19, about Project MUSKRAT which has been ongoing since December 2017. Yukon RCMP have charged five Whitehorse individuals and seized $450,000 in cash along with drugs, prohibited weapons and stolen goods after acting Nov. 4 on search warrants obtained during the three-year-long investigation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Yukon RCMP seize $450,000 and stolen goods in Whitehorse drug bust

Five individuals have been arrested and released on conditions.

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read