News of the death of Monsignor Justinus Bertasius was met with sadness throughout the Winnipeg Archdiocese. Regarded as a kind and holy priest, he was remembered as the parish priest of St. Casimir’s Church and as the shepherd of Winnipeg’s Lithuanian community. Less known was his ministry to the medical students who frequented his Masses. Within walking distance of the University of Manitoba Medical School, his parish became a hub for numerous students during the 1980s.

When I met Monsignor during my first year of medical school, I was inspired by his immense charity, his devotion to Our Lady, and his love for the Eucharist. He warmly welcomed me to his fold, and several of my Catholic classmates joined me. Later, students of other denominations would follow, and even “agnostics” became regular attendees during university examinations.

Monsignor was a friend, teacher and confidant. He offered Holy Mass for success in our studies, he reminded us to say our prayers, carry our rosaries, and make good confessions. Often he invited a group of students for lunch in his rectory, and there he discussed medical ethics. The Church’s teachings on marriage, human sexuality, contraception, abortion, and euthanasia were clearly articulated. Monsignor never compromised truth. Elegant and dignified, he was a true ambassador of Christ. He loved Christ, and instilled that love in us.

When we graduated from medical school and accepted jobs across Canada and the United States, Monsignor gave us his final blessing and challenged us to be faithful to the sacred truths he valiantly defended. Today, I realize he knew we were about to enter a world of spiritual and moral darkness. He had tried to prepare us. For this, I am grateful.

May the light of truth burn in our hearts and in our medical practices, and may the soul of this noble priest, who so lovingly ministered to medical students, rest in peace.