Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 20, 1999
Collins takes his chair
New archbishop formally installed in packed basilica
By GLEN ARGAN
Catholics from across the Edmonton Archdiocese and beyond jammed St. Joseph's Basilica Sept. 13 to formally welcome Archbishop Thomas Collins as the seventh bishop of the diocese.
Local leaders of other Christian traditions also had prominent seats as more than 1,500 people in the congregation sat and stood in the aisles and around the perimeter of the church.
But the seat of honour was saved for Collins as he sat in the cathedra - the archbishop's chair - for the first time.
During the Mass, the congregation heard the new leader of the archdiocese's 300,000 Catholics proclaim the role of the laity "to be transforming instruments of God's grace."
And they also heard him urge them to pray for religious vocations and to call forth those they believe may have such a vocation.
"We need a couple hundred more priests and sisters," Collins said in his homily. "Not 300,000. Three hundred will do for starters."
And as for himself, Collins said, "I am simply, clearly, coolly working on the assumption that in the years ahead those 300 priests, 300 sisters will be there."
The archdiocese is currently undergoing major parish restructuring to accommodate population shifts and a sharp decline in the number of priests.
In his homily, Collins emphasized the responsibility of all Christians to pay attention not only to the observable world, but also to "revealed reality, the deeper purpose that comes to us from Christ."
In the Book of Revelation, John is dazzled by the vision he has seen and wants to worship the angel who has given him the vision. But the angel says, "Worship God, worship God, worship God."
"That is the goal, the star that we steer from," said Collins.
He urged the congregation to take Sabbath time for meditative prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
"The busier we are, the more we need jubilee and Sabbath. The faster the wheel is spinning, the more the hub must be secure."
Twenty bishops and nearly 150 priests, including several from Collins' former diocese of St. Paul, were part of the two hour and 20 minute liturgy highlighted when retired Archbishop Joseph MacNeil handed the crosier, symbolic of the bishop's authority, to Collins.
That moment closed the process of transition from one archbishop to another which began Feb. 18 when Collins' appointment as coadjutor archbishop of Edmonton was announced by Pope John Paul.
Collins then left St. Paul - where he had served for the previous 19 months - and moved to Edmonton to be archbishop in waiting.
On June 7, MacNeil's retirement letter was accepted by the pope and Collins became archbishop. On June 29, Collins received the pallium - a liturgical vestment worn only by metropolitan archbishops - from Pope John Paul in Rome.
The Sept. 13 installation Mass was a public celebration of an event that had already occurred.
Archbishop Paolo Romeo, the papal nuncio, noted that fact, but added that at the installation Mass, "We are solemnly engaged in an act of faith."
Romeo said the archdiocese was "lovingly and wisely governed for a quarter of a century" by MacNeil.
And he urged Collins to "embrace the missionary spirit" for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
Bringing greetings to Collins were:
. Bishop Gerald Wiesner of Prince George, vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
. Msgr. Jack Hamilton, chair of the archdiocesan Council of Priests.
. Grey Nun Sister Rose-Anne Gauvin, chair of the Council of Women Religious.
. Joe Staszko, vice-chair of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.
As well, three youth representatives gave the new archbishop baskets filled with hundreds of messages written by Catholics from across the archdiocese.
Collins thanked them all and said, "I pledge to serve you as your bishop in the years that lie ahead. . . . I ask you to keep me in your prayers as each day you are in mine."
The 52-year-old archbishop is a Scripture scholar, born and raised in Guelph, Ont., who was rector of St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont., before he became bishop of St. Paul in June 1997.