When the history of the restoration of the traditional Mass in Canada is written, Father Gavigan's name will be there with the greats who persevered and suffered. He is a hero and one of a "trinity" of priests, the late Father Mole in Ottawa who began the community that is now the FSSP parish and Father Normandin in Montreal, again where the FSSP now reside and serve. The same, for a short-time, was the case in Toronto. There was at time when these were the only priests in Canada offering the traditional Mass. They even pre-dated the Society of St. Pius X.
Father Gavigan began offering the traditional rite in possession of a celebret from Rome which outranked the Ordinary's indult authority. He began on Friday nights at Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Toronto and eventually on Sundays at St. Edward's parish. Later, the Mass moved to St. Theresa Shrine where the FSSP's short-lived Toronto apostolate took over the Sunday Mass. Father Gavigan, who also started the community at St. Patrick's in Schomberg continued there and then a new one, now sadly purged by its Provincial, at the Carmel of the Infant Jesus in Zephyr. After the Fraternity left Toronto, Father Gavigan at the age of 77 offered three Masses on Sunday between 9AM and 1PM beginning in Schomberg, 40 miles to Zephyr and another 30 to St. Theresa in Scarborough. A true missionary. A crazy driver!
Whilst the norm was the Irish Low Mass, we coaxed out of him (as I was Schola Master at the FSSP) the Sung Mass. What an amazing voice he had, so hidden for so many years. The last Mass that I had the pleasure of assisting at with him, was a Requiem for Father Kenneth Walker, the murdered FSSP priest in Arizona. He sung a beautiful Requiem and we worked before Mass to find the right Latin for Kenneth for Collect and prayers.
When we organised the Pontifical Mass for the occasion of the late Msgr. Vincent Foy's 75th anniversary of priestly ordination with the Cardinal present, I said, "Father, did you ever think you would see this?" and he responded, "No, David, not in a million years." I then thanked him for "keeping the candle burning," to which he replied, "No David, I kept the pot boiling." It was as if one had entered the set of Going My Way to hear Barry Fitzgerald's Irish lilt, all that was missing was Too-Ra-Loo.
Father Gavigan was a great confessor, He spoke often of Hell and it even got a few complaints directed to the Chancery.
The only time I ever went to him, he said to me, "Do you know you can go to Hell for that?" to which I replied, "Yes Father, that is why I'm here," to which he retorted, "I want a decat of the rosary, now, and one every morning on your knees when your feet hit the floor until your next confession!" Well, that was the last time I went to him, but his penance seemed to be efficacious.
Father Liam Gavigan had one purpose in life. To offer the Holy Sacrifice in the "better way" as he called it and to save his soul and everyones with whom he came into contact.
God rest you Father, and may the LORD have already said to you:
"Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."Requiescat in pace