Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 25, 2006
A bitter-sweet farewell to Thomas Collins
After only seven and a half years, it's too soon to let Archbishop Thomas Collins go. This is no doubt exactly the sentiment of the people of the St. Paul Diocese when Collins was transferred to Edmonton after only 18 months in northeastern Alberta.
Eight years ago, we were wondering how anyone could take the place of the great Archbishop Joseph MacNeil. Collins did not make us forget MacNeil, but he led our Church toward new vistas and deeper faith. We knew he was doing great things here and, oh, we did love to listen to him speak.
He is a fine teacher, one of the very best. He has such exuberance, passion and humour when he teaches us about his favourite subject - the love of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and the sacraments - that some of it could not help but rub off on us. To the extent that was true, he is leaving us a better people.
Archbishop Collins protected and raised the quality of faith in the archdiocese in other ways too. He brought us perpetual adoration of the Eucharist - a practice he learned at his father's knee in childhood - and now hundreds of people make it a weekly practice to spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament in the small chapel by St. Andrew's Church.
He spoke so tirelessly about the need for vocations, especially priestly vocations, that there are now more seminarians for the Edmonton Archdiocese than there have been for decades. He ordained quite a few young men too. We will not soon forget the opt-repeated closing line of his pitch: "If you think you might have a vocation, phone me. 469-1010."
He encouraged the development of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the archdiocese to assist the poor and to help Catholics see the face of Christ in the poor. That was only five years ago and already there are 17 parish conferences and more than 300 dedicated Vincentians in the archdiocese.
Collins decided there was a need for Catholic presence in the midst of downtown Edmonton. So this fall he put a chapel in a downtown shopping mall which is already drawing a packed house to weekday Mass, three times a day.
That was his most recent project and we are left to wonder what else he might have had in the back of his fertile, evangelizing mind. The Edmonton Journal called him cerebral. Well, he was certainly an intellectual but far from a disengaged one. Our archbishop was always calling us to reach out - to have a strong personal relationship with Jesus and then take the Gospel to the world.
Yes, we wonder what else he might have done in our midst - or inspired others to do. But now we will have to be confident that he completed his God-given mission here. Someone else - someone with a different outlook and approach - will take up the torch. It may be a long wait until a new archbishop is named. We should use that time of waiting to pray for God to send us yet another great bishop, one who will continue to lead us in his paths.
I first met Collins in June 1997 in St. Paul before he was installed as bishop of that diocese. I felt an immediate bond with the man and was impressed by his penetrating intellect. He verbalized my own thoughts far better than I could. As I got to know him, it became clear that he would someday be called to serve a larger diocese. I was overjoyed when Edmonton was chosen to be that diocese.
But as the years went by, it became clear to many that his abilities and passion for the Lord would draw him to an even larger mission field. The clock was ticking. It was no surprise that he was named archbishop of Toronto.
So, now we say a fond farewell. We pray that he will continue to be himself in Toronto and that Toronto will be open to the great graces God pours out on his flock via the work of its new brilliant and enterprising archbishop.
- Glen Argan
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