The death of Walter Raymond, 72, has brought forth so many emotions. For me, Larry Wallenstein made a comment on Facebook that best expressed Father Walter’s impact on our lives: “You believed in us and we believe in you.”
Walter Raymond was born and raised in Sacramento, California. “As a boy I never thought I’d leave,” he told the Riviera Reporter in January 2009. “I loved the weather, I loved the lifestyle. After college I moved to Canada and later realised I was eligible for the draft. Like a lot of my contemporaries, I didn’t agree with the war so I stayed on in Canada. I’d had a great welcome. I liked the people and the country so it became my home.”
Father Walter was raised a Roman Catholic and attended mass most days until he was about 18. “Then for some years I drifted away from the Church almost entirely. These were the Sixties, remember, and I got quite heavily into what they liked to call the alternative culture.”
It was during his time in Canada (he first moved to Toronto) that he came to realise he had spiritual needs and gradually became active within the Anglican Church. “To cut a long story short I was ordained in 1992, served in a parish and as a school chaplain; ten years ago I was made Dean of Quebec. But I wasn’t surrounded by canons and assistant clergy. It was just me.”
A bilingual Father Walter “loved Quebec City” and his congregation reflected a community that had become much more diverse with French-speaking incomers from Africa and Asia. As a priest in Canada Walter Raymond became a member of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd. “It’s what we call a dispersed community and was founded in Cambridge in 1913. Put simply, it’s a worldwide group of Anglican men, mainly priests, who follow a simple rule and pray for each other daily as well as meeting regularly, usually on a regional basis. It’s a source of spiritual support and a great help.”
He took over at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Monaco in January 2009. “When I saw the job in Monaco advertised on the internet I decided the time might be right to make a move. I applied, was interviewed and eventually selected. I was attracted by a new challenge, the idea of working in another bilingual environment … and by the weather. After a certain age those Quebec winters begin to wear you down.”
When he arrived in Monaco, he made it clear he was in for “the long haul” and wanted the church “to develop as an active social centre for local residents and that includes the younger people. Growing up in this kind of wealthy environment can be a difficult, even a perilous, experience. I’d like to help them come to terms with that. Again, wealth and worldly success are in no way bad in themselves but there is another dimension in life which can’t be neglected. A lot of rich men do get through the eye of the needle, you know, even if some of them need a little help to do so.”
He touched so many of our lives and became such a special part of the community. For many years, I only knew Walter by email through the Riviera Reporter as he would communicate Christmas and Easter events to the magazine. When we finally met, I was so impressed by his presence and quickly understood why he had a loyal fanbase at St Paul’s. Outside of the church, you never knew where you would run into his smiling face – American Thanksgiving at the Hotel Hermitage, the Amber Lounge Formula One Fashion Show or at an AS Monaco football match. With his beloved Sparky, Father Walter returned in to Quebec in 2017.
The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec announced Father Walter’s passing yesterday, after his battle with cancer. A funeral mass will be held at the Cathedral, followed by burial at St. Paul’s Church in Saint-Malachie, at a later date.