Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 21, 1999
Ready to take on new challenges
New archbishop does not come with pre-set agenda
By GLEN ARGAN
Two years ago, Father Thomas Collins was plucked from his job of running an Ontario seminary and made the bishop of St. Paul, Alta.
In 19 months, he put 60,000 km on his car, traversing the diocese almost non-stop to reach out to its 50,000 Catholics.
Collins won a reputation as a vibrant, energetic bishop who promoted youth programs and religious vocations, straightened out the diocese's finances, and built a strong relationship with John Paul II Bible School.
Then on Feb. 18, he was named coadjutor archbishop of Edmonton with the right of succession to retiring Archbishop Joseph MacNeil. On June 7, Pope John Paul accepted MacNeil's retirement and Collins officially took over.
A Mass of installation will be celebrated at St. Joseph's Basilica at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 13.
The new archbishop calls himself a teacher - his former students have told the WCR he was an outstanding classroom teacher and spiritual guide.
So how does he feel about the much more multi-faceted job of being a bishop?
"It's exciting and I love it," he said in a recent interview. "There are so many wonderful things in the Church and the world."
Collins calls himself "a fundamentally introverted person. I need to get away from time to time" for exercise, prayer and reflection.
But he also loves teaching and doing things in public.
It's too early, he says, to say what actions he might take as archbishop of Edmonton. "I can't say how to develop the great work of Archbishop MacNeil and the bishops before him."
But he has pledged to continue the major restructuring of parishes begun under MacNeil and he wants to be open to God's grace.
"There's challenges, but I don't know what they are," he told reporters in February. "I'll just take it one day at a time and try to serve the Lord."
He wants to fully develop lay participation in the Church and to draw forth vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
The Church needs to reach out in many ways, especially to those who are no longer practising their faith.
"The central theme is we need to expand because there are great needs for our archdiocese and for the whole community."
In February, Collins told the media, "The greatest need of the Church is just to be faithful to the Lord and move outward. In our society, there's a great need for the light of Christ."