OBITUARY – Funeral for Deacon Paul Wheeler will be held Wednesday, June 5

Bishop Mark Hagemoen hands the Gospel to Permanent Deacon Paul Wheeler during his ordination celebration May 26 at St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon. Deacon Wheeler died two days later, the day before his 67th birthday. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

First Permanent Deacon to be ordained in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

On May 28, 2024, two days after he was ordained a Permanent Deacon, Paul Wheeler died at St. Paul’s Hospital at the age of 66 years, after a short battle with cancer.

The Funeral Mass for Deacon Paul Wheeler  will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, 2024, at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, 123 Nelson Road, Saskatoon.

Livestream of funeral June 5: LINK

For the past several years, Paul Wheeler has been one of the men discerning the call to the Permanent Diaconate in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and was scheduled to be ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons at the end of June with fellow candidate Nicholas Blom. However, as Wheeler’s health worsened and he entered palliative care at St. Paul’s Hospital, the decision was made to instead celebrate his ordination to the Sacred Order of Deacons at the hospital chapel on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, May 26, 2024.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen ordained Deacon Wheeler in the presence of a small group of family and friends, which included those from both the Saskatoon and Regina diaconate discernment programs who have been journeying together through formation as candidates, leaders, mentors, or retreat leaders.

Participants in the ordination celebration included Brett Salkeld of the Archdiocese of Regina and Diocesan Vicar-General Fr. Kevin McGee, who is also pastor at St. Mary Parish – both of whom were part of Wheeler’s diaconate discernment and formation — and Deacon Tran Luke Van Tam who was ordained to the transitional diaconate last month in the diocese of Saskatoon (a step on the journey toward priestly ordination).

Deacon Barry Wood of Regina and Nicholas Blom, who will be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon at the end of June, were among those who assisted in vesting Deacon Wheeler as part of the ordination rite.

Background

Paul Wheeler was born May 29, 1957, and was baptized as an infant into the Anglican Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He said that his faith in God’s love was invigorated after an encounter with a Catholic nun at a rummage sale in Vancouver in the 1990s.

Deacon Paul Wheeler 1957-2024

He was welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church by Fr. Kevin McGee on May 23, 2015, and his marriage to Ely was blessed on the same day.

Together the couple regularly made trips to Ely’s former home in Mexico to provide outreach to low-income people there, intentionally offering various kinds of outreach and assistance, with support from the Knights of Columbus council in Viscount, SK, and other Canadian donors, with the most recent trip in December 2023. It was an outreach that was near and dear to their hearts, as Wheeler described in various articles published in the diocese of Saskatoon in recent years.

As he wrote in 2019: “In past years, the projects have included scholarships for Colony teens at the local technical training college to continue with their education, the purchase of school supplies for the parents and their children at the elementary school, or the purchase of medicines for seniors. Some years (like this year) it is a simple distribution of food and household good items to the families in most need. We also try to raise awareness, both in Canada and in Mexico, of each other and our common bond of all being children of God and our shared Catholicism.”

He added: “It is easy to look at those outside our borders in an ‘us versus them’ context, such as is often the case with refugees and migrants. Indeed, many of our politicians promote this view. However, Jesus taught us that we are all brothers and sisters and that to ‘love your neighbour’ is of absolute importance. Whether it is the poor person in Mexico, or the poor person in Saskatoon, poverty is one of those areas of Catholic social justice where each of us can make a difference.”

As a chef, Paul Wheeler taught in the Culinary Arts Program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic (SIAST) in Saskatoon for a number of years. His outreach to others there included initiating a program to provide basic food preparation training to men released from prison. He was also a volunteer hospital visitor through the diocesan Office of Hospital Chaplaincy.

Shortly after he became Catholic, Paul Wheeler became part of the first cohort of men in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon discerning ordination to the Permanent Diaconate. (Permanent Deacons who have served in the diocese before this were all ordained elsewhere). He also drew a lot of strength and direction as an oblate of the Benedictine community at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster.

He is survived by his wife Ely and her three children.

Paul and Ely Wheeler at a Volunteer Appreciation Event in the Roman Catholic Dicoese of Saskatoon. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Photo gallery – Ordination of Paul Wheeler to the Sacred Order of Deacons May 26, 2024:

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Kiply Lukan Yaworski is the communications coordinator in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon: rcdos.ca