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Former Sault priest writes about his 'crooked, straight journey to heaven’s doors'

'Father Rick, Roamin’ Catholic' looks at the faith journey of former journalist, legislative assistant to Tony Martin and priest, Rick Prashaw

A former Sault Ste. Marie priest has published a memoir that chronicles his faith journey – from journalist to priest to husband and father. 

In his new book, Father Rick, Roamin’ Catholic, Rick Prashaw, 70, writes about how his faith in God has always endured but became disappointed in a church he says didn’t deliver on its promises under the Second Vatican Council to radically change and “thrust us” into the modern world.

“This is the tale of my crooked, straight journey to heaven’s doors, of a faith remarkably intact yet so radically changed, a Roamin’ more than Roman Catholic, a God and the heavens bigger than any catechism taught me,” Prashaw writes in the book’s preface.

He says there is much to treasure about the church but doesn’t hold back in providing sobering commentary on clergy abuse, residential schools, the church’s judgment of members of the LGBTQ community, and women’s place in the church, or lack thereof.

“The whole book is an embracing of that combination of absolutely the troubles that have to be addressed and named, but I also can’t help but remember so many good people and good names. It’s there, side by side, the good and the bad,” he said, on the phone from his home in Ottawa.

Prashaw served in the diocese of Sault Ste. Marie from 1980 to 1991. He also ran for the NDP in the 2004 federal election in the Ottawa riding of Carleton Mississippi Mills. He has had three legislative assistant jobs for members of parliament, including one with Sault Ste. Marie MP Tony Martin, from 2004 to 2011.

Prashaw enjoyed the Algoma area, especially his time spent in Garden River, Goulais River and Batchewana Bay.

A few chapters in the book are dedicated to this period as it was “such a gift” to be among the First Nations.

“I have fond memories of the First Nations people, the elders, and especially the mothers and grandmothers, the lessons they taught, the story telling, the respect for the earth,” he said.

Prahsaw didn’t set out to become a Catholic priest.

He wanted to be a journalist and did just that after graduating from Carleton University’s journalism program.

He was “living the life” as a budding young news reporter at The Vancouver Sun.

“It was the ‘70s, rock and roll and long hair, music, and some really good times,” he recalled.

That was until God spoke to him at a rectory on a chance trip to Seattle to visit a cousin, who was a priest.

“God just used that time in that rectory to make it very clear to me that I would be a priest.”

He left journalism for the seminary in London, Ontario.

In 1991, Prashaw left the priesthood, after struggling with the fact that he could never have a family. 

He fell in love, married, and had a child.

Prashaw says the memoir is a story that millions of Canadians will recognize as either having lived as Catholics or as having known Catholics.

“I lay it down and try and not preach. There’s no doubt when someone reads my book they know where I stand, they know what I believe, and what I don’t believe but I don’t judge anyone or damn anyone or tell people this is right or that’s wrong. I just want people to take away what they choose to take away.”

Father rick, Roamin’ Catholic is Prashaw’s second memoir. His first, Soar, Adam, Soar, is based on the life of his transgender son, Adam, who drowned in 2016, at the age of 22, after an epileptic seizure while in a hot tub.

Published in February by Friesen Press, it is available in paperback, hard cover, and e-book editions at www.friesenpress.com or Amazon online, and by order at local bookstores. 

Prashaw will be holding book signings at Average Joe’s Restaurant in North Bay on April 23 and at Twiggs Coffee in Sudbury on April 24. Stops are also planned in Sault Ste. Marie, Elliot Lake and Espanola in May or June, dates and locations still to be determined.