Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 6, 2000
MacNeil is archbishop without portfolio
Happy in retirement, MacNeil, maintains hectic pace
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
For Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, retirement does not mean staying home and doing nothing.
A year and a half after he retired as archbishop of Edmonton after 26 years in the post, he keeps going and going with no sign of slowing down.
Unlike others who fade from public view soon after their retirement, MacNeil is as present with the faithful as ever, always charming and energetic.
When the 76-year-old MacNeil is not home or in his Catholic Pastoral Centre basement office, he is out visiting parishes, presiding at Masses, leading retreats, visiting Catholic schools or speaking at public events.
Why he keeps himself so busy is not a mystery.
"This is a busy diocese," he points out. "And I am a priest and I am still an archbishop. So while I am in good health, I'll continue to serve."
Heavy as it might seem, MacNeil's workload is considerably lighter than when he was in office. Now, for example, he doesn't have to deal with the administration of the archdiocese and doesn't have to attend meetings, for which he is thankful.
"Since I retired, I have not attended one meeting," the archbishop says with visible delight. "I'm very, very happy I don't have to attend any more meetings."
MacNeil sets his own schedule and has the last word on what he attends. "If asked, I don't have to go," he says with a smile.
"I can always say no. For example, I didn't have to come here this afternoon (for this interview). I could have said 'no.'"
The problem is the word "no" is not part of the archbishop's vocabulary. One of MacNeil's roles is to fill in for Archbishop Thomas Collins when he is not available. He also receives many invitations to speak to groups in the archdiocese and across the country.
A few weeks ago, MacNeil flew to Prince Edward Island to speak to priests of that diocese. Following the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 in Edmonton in mid-September, he travelled to Prince George, B.C., for a similar celebration.
During reading week, MacNeil visited several Edmonton schools, reading and speaking to young kids. He spent the weekend of Oct. 20-22 with a group of married couples who are struggling with their marriages.
The following weekend, while Collins was in Rome, MacNeil went to Jasper to address an education conference organized by Edmonton Catholic Schools.
On Sunday, Oct. 29, he was guest speaker at a brunch presented by the Social Justice Commission. The same day, he attended a gathering of the St. Luke's Physicians Guild. The next day he travelled to Castor for a ceremony.
Then, on Nov. 3, he spoke to Oblate seminarians in St. Albert and the following day to address the annual convocation of Newman Theological College.
MacNeil has also been saying Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica some evenings and has made himself available to priests who need a weekend replacement.
"I am grateful to God that my health is good and that I'm able to be of service to the archbishop and the diocese," he says.
Clearly MacNeil has a lot on his plate but he doesn't see it that way. While speaking to social justice advocates the other day, he said since he has so much time on his hands he had done enough research on the subject to speak for days.
MacNeil says he doesn't work all day or everyday and that he always leaves enough time for prayer and relaxation when he schedules his activities.
In addition to taking daily walks in the river valley, MacNeil enjoys reading Scripture and watching baseball and hockey on television. And when time allows, he also watches shows like the West Wing and reruns of All in the Family.
The good thing about being retired is that he can pray and attend Mass on his own time, usually early in the morning, and that he doesn't have to come to his office. He visits his office twice a week to pick up his mail, answer calls and prepare talks.
During his summer holidays and at Christmas, the archbishop goes back to his family home in Sydney, N.S., to visit family and friends. The MacNeils have a cottage by the lake in Big Pond, where the archbishop spends a lot of time swimming, walking, hiking and reading.