Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 27, 1999
Thank you Archbishop MacNeil
By GLEN ARGAN
There were priests, politicians, judges and the police chief. There were people of different faiths, immigrants and refugees. There were the rich and famous and those known to few outside their communities.
Well over 1,000 people came to Edmonton City Hall Sept. 19 to say "thank you" and "have a happy retirement" to Archbishop Joseph MacNeil.
"For so many years, he's been our archbishop and we just had to say 'thank you,'" said Matilda Bella, one of the hundreds of people who patiently waited in the long line to express their thanks to MacNeil who retired June 7 after nearly 26 years as archbishop of Edmonton.
They all got their moment with the archbishop who had a smile and a friendly comment for everyone.
There was Debby Chiovelli of St. Paul's Parish who said, "We're excited about the new archbishop, but we'll miss (Archbishop MacNeil)."
There was Karen Cooper who sang in the choir at MacNeil's 1973 installation in St. Joseph's Cathedral.
There was Al and Betty Wachowich who wished the archbishop a good time as he holidays in Scotland and the Holy Land the next few months.
"I don't think he'll retire, he'll just move on," said Betty.
And there was Maurcio Amador who lived in El Salvador until 1988. Amador thanked the archbishop for his support in enabling Amador's parish - Our Lady of Guadalupe Spanish-speaking community - to get its own church.
There was also Art Bergevin, food sciences teacher at St. Joseph's Composite High School, who invited the archbishop down to the school for an informal lunch once or twice a year for the past 15 years.
"The archbishop is not fussy, He'll eat anything," Bergevin said of those luncheon gatherings. "And he always kept room for his desserts."
But Art and his wife Carol had another reason for thanking MacNeil. During the illness and recent death of their son Jason, the archbishop provided support and sent them a personal letter of condolence when Jason died.
"He's a great man," said Bergevin.
In his brief remarks to the crowd, MacNeil thanked them for welcoming him into their midst, especially during his first months in the archdiocese. "Each week I had indications that I was becoming part of you."
"I've been very proud to be part of you these 26 years, prouder still to continue to be part of this community. This is where I live and this is where I'll continue to live."
The event was sponsored by The Foundation of Newman Theological College and St. Joseph Seminary which has established the Archbishop MacNeil Endowment Fund.
Jean Forest, former senator and long-time friend of the archbishop, said the interest from the fund will be used in perpetuity to provide operating funds for the college and to be "a lasting tribute to a wonderful, well-loved pastor and friend."