The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Will Pemberton, requiescat in pace

By CWR Staff

Will and Mary Pemberton and their six children. (Image: John Jalsevac/

We at Catholic World Report, along with the Ignatius Press family, are deeply saddened to learn of the death this morning of Will Pemberton.

Will, who is the son-in-law of author and artist Michael O’Brien, passed away after battling stage 4 lymphatic cancer for over a year-and-a-half. He was diagnosed in December 2019.

John Jalsevac, a friend of Will and the Pemberton family, has set up a GoFundMe page for Will’s wife, Mary, and their six young children.

The youngest child, Eleanor, writes Jalsevac, “was born in December 2019, just days before Will’s diagnosis.”

In Will’s last e-mail to me, two weeks before he died, he asked me to do what I could to help ease the way for Mary and the children, who face many difficult days and practical challenges ahead.

As those who know the Pembertons are no doubt aware, the family’s needs right now are very significant.

Four years ago the family took a big risk, leaving their home in Ontario, and moving to two hundred acres of rugged, uncleared land near the coast of Cape Breton, with the dream of starting up a market farm.

The first few years in Cape Breton were dedicated to putting basic infrastructure in place and acquiring a small herd of cattle. Will’s cancer diagnosis came right when the farm was just beginning to turn the corner, and to approach the point of being able to generate income. At that point, everything was put on hold.

Thanks to the generosity of so many friends and family, Will and Mary were able to spend the past year back in Ontario, while Will pursued various avenues to try to heal. However, most of what was raised has been used for living expenses and health care, and anything remaining will be used up by funeral costs.

My understanding is that Will only had a small life insurance policy, which can help pay for basic living expenses for a little while, but with no buffer for other necessary or unexpected expenses.

The Pembertons have always lived in extreme simplicity. The house in which the family is currently living is a small, three bedroom, one bathroom century farmhouse, which is in need of significant repairs.

With six children at home, including a toddler, it is impossible to imagine Mary being able to work right now, while keeping the household running. The difficulties are compounded by the fact that in the rural location where they are located, there is very little  available in the way of work.

In one of my last conversations with Will, he said that one of his constant prayers was simply a prayer of trust, placing the future wellbeing of his family in God’s hands.

In June, Michael O’Brien shared with Ignatius Press staff that Will was “very thin and grey with very little energy. He devotes what he has to home-schooling the children, gardening, doing projects with the children.”

The Pemberton and O’Brien families are in our prayers during this difficult time. May God grant Will peace and eternal memory!

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


  1. With prayers and sincere wishes to the family. It is stories like these that call forth charity in thanksgiving for all the blessings God gives. RIP, Mr. Pemberton.

  2. Will Pemberton spent some time as a guest at Madonna House as a young man. We would like to send condolences to the family. Do you have an address for them?

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit
  2. Former Protestant Missionary Shares Eucharistic Encounter, What Is the Mark of the Beast Actually, and More Great Links! - JP2 Catholic Radio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.