Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 14, 1999
Pope accepts MacNeil's resignation, Collins new leader
By GLEN ARGAN
The Edmonton Archdiocese's 295,000 Roman Catholics have a new shepherd.
Archbishop Thomas Collins automatically became archbishop of Edmonton June 7 when Pope John Paul accepted the resignation of Archbishop Joseph MacNeil.
Collins will be installed as the seventh bishop of the diocese with a Mass Sept. 13 at St. Joseph's Basilica. However, the installation Mass is a formal recognition of the transition which occurred June 7.
That Mass, Collins said, will be the first time he celebrates the Eucharist in the cathedral as archbishop of Edmonton.
Collins, 52, take over a 128-year-old archdiocese which is about to implement a major restructuring of parishes. But it is also making headway at overcoming the main cause of that restructuring - a shortage of priests.
Four men are expected to be ordained to the priesthood in the next year, the largest number in decades.
Collins told the WCR parish restructuring will proceed as planned as will the search for more religious vocations.
The new archbishop served 19 months as bishop of St. Paul before being named coadjutor archbishop of Edmonton Feb. 18. He moved to the city in mid-March.
His brief time as coadjutor - archbishop in waiting - was "very busy, but very good," he said. "I've tried to visit as many parishes as I could."
"It's been a real help being coadjutor archbishop for two months," he said, adding that MacNeil has gradually introduced him to the archdiocese. "I'm glad to begin as archbishop."
The new archbishop will soon leave for Rome to receive the pallium, a vestment worn by archbishops, from Pope John Paul. The pope presents the pallium to new archbishops every year on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
On his way back, he will stop in Milan to visit the tomb of St. Charles Borremeo, one of his favourite saints, and to learn about pastoral programs in that diocese, headed by Cardinal Carlo Martini.
Collins said he is interested in Martini's meetings with young people in the Milan cathedral to discuss the Bible.
He will spend the remainder of July visiting with family and friends in his hometown of Guelph, Ont.
MacNeil and Collins traded offices June 7 with the retired archbishop saying he will tidy up some administrative tasks and take part in some celebrations until the end of the month.
MacNeil will take his usual summer vacation in Nova Scotia, return to Edmonton for a month and then go on vacations to Scotland and Israel.
After spending Christmas in Edmonton, he will take another holiday with his friend Calgary's retired Bishop Paul O'Byrne.
Being away most of the next eight months "is good for me and it's good perhaps for everybody else," he told the WCR.
MacNeil, 75, plans to spend his retirement in Edmonton, helping out in parishes and visiting schools.
He admitted to "a bit of confusion" as he enters retirement.
"I've known what to do for the last 30 years as a bishop," he said. "I'm not sure what I'm to do and what the Lord wants me to do as bishop emeritus."
He will be the third retired bishop living in the city, joining Bishop Emmett Doyle, an Edmonton native who served three decades as bishop of Nelson, B.C., and Bishop Noel Delaquis, the retired bishop of Gravelbourg, Sask., who is now on the formation team at St. Joseph's Seminary.
A native of Sydney, N.S., MacNeil was a priest of the Antigonish. N.S., Diocese before being named bishop of Saint John, N.B., in 1969. He became archbishop of Edmonton in September 1973.
He served as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1979-81 and welcomed Pope John Paul to Edmonton in 1984.