Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 15, 1999
Collins seeks transformation
St. Paul bishop out to find 50 priests, 50 sisters
By GLEN ARGAN
The bishop of St. Paul is out to find 50 new priests and 50 new sisters for his diocese in northeastern Alberta.
Bishop Thomas Collins is not sure when or where he'll find all those priests and sisters. But he believes if you don't have a goal, you won't achieve much.
Add the new recruits to the approximately 24 priests, three seminarians and 15 sisters now serving the diocese and he sees a future for St. Paul with 50 to 75 priests and the same number of sisters.
"For a diocese of 50 to 60,000 (Catholics), this is eminently reasonable and probably underestimated," Collins said in a recent interview with the WCR.
He hopes to be able to send a third of the priests and sisters to serve other areas with a greater need, especially the Canadian North. "The more you give away, the more the Lord will bless us."
But Collins' aspirations are not limited to getting more priests and nuns. "My goal is not just 50 priests and 50 sisters, but also 50,000 active lay people, fully involved in the mission of the Church, evangelizing the world."
"The whole Church will rise together," he says. "To the extent that the whole community is being transformed, we will have a response to the call to the life of a priest, a sister or a brother."
Collins has no plans to bring in those new priests from foreign lands. The expectation that priests should come "from down the road . . . is a sign of a Church that is still in a missionary state."
"I think there are plenty of vocations," says the former seminary rector who became bishop of St. Paul less than two years ago. "But I think there is a real need for people to respond to the call."
To that end, he encourages parishes in his diocese to set aside some special time for public adoration of the exposed Blessed Sacrament "to pray for the many needs of the Church."
Eucharistic Adoration, he says, "is a contemplative foundation for apostolic activity." It is a time for meditation on the full significance of the Mass which is the source of all our activity.
As a seminary professor, Collins found that through Eucharistic Adoration many young men "firmed up an awareness that they were called to the priesthood."
The call to a religious vocation is both frightening and wonderful, he says. The saints were well aware of the difficulties they faced. "But they were much more aware of the providence of God and that gave them the courage not to be frightened by the difficulties."
"If the 12 disciples in the Upper Room had only looked at the challenges ahead, they would have stayed in the room."
Collins says he doesn't have any special secrets for finding more priests and sisters. But prayer is the first and most important step.
Another is simply to ask young people to consider religious vocations. "I am so grateful that in my life a priest asked me to consider religious life."
Still another is to invite parishioners to suggest the names of young people they think may have a religious vocation.
The bishop says one should be aware of barriers which prevent people from making a religious commitment but not to let the problems set the Church's agenda. Rather, our inspiration should come from the Gospel and the history of the Church.
In that history, he sees lots of reasons for hope. "There are dozens and dozens of transformations which have been not slow, but rapid. The Church declines slowly and is transformed rapidly."