Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 1, 2004
Companions of the Cross
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Father Bob Bedard admits that not everyone admires the rapidly growing religious order he founded - the Companions of the Cross.
"Some people do not like our style with our outward expression of devotion," said Bedard, who founded the order in 1984. "They don't like the loud singing and clapping, the upbeat music in church and the raising of hands."
"To me, that's very normal. Most of the men who come to the seminary have a background in the charismatic renewal," Bedard said in an interview while in Edmonton for a conference on discipleship. "They are inducted into the whole style and pick it up naturally."
The Ottawa-based group of priests is linked to the Catholic charismatic renewal movement. It is one of the fastest growing religious communities in Canada, with members now working in Toronto, Halifax and Houston, Texas. The community continues to receive about 100 applications a year from men wishing to become members.
"We have a lot of requests from Canadian bishops and if we have enough men ordained, we will entertain all invitations," Bedard said. "There are still some bishops who would rather not have us, for various reasons. Some bishops think we are too literal, hung up on verses. We don't think we are. The holy father encourages the Bible all the time. The Catholic catechism references everything to the Bible."
Bedard likened the order's penchant for vigorous celebration to his days as a high school basketball coach. His team was the decisive underdog in the playoffs but they defeated their stronger foe with a final second basket.
"The place went mad. Everybody milled about, waving arms and cheering and hugging total strangers. They clapped their hands with great enthusiasm and emotion," he said.
"The next day I thought, 'That's funny, that's the same thing people did at a prayer meeting I went to.' At first I thought they were nuts. They were just doing something natural. They were celebrating something wonderful. They were celebrating a victory over a heavily-favoured opponent - sin and death. Jesus rising from the dead. The most logical response to that is great joy and enthusiasm and emotion."
The Companions of the Cross currently has about 40 seminarians, with four ordinations expected next year. Bedard said they have more seminarians from Alberta than any place.
"Archbishop Marcel Gervais, the archbishop of Ottawa, has fathered this whole thing," Bedard said. "He has done everything possible. One of his main motives was to protect us from making mistakes, from hanging ourselves and protecting us from others who might like to throw us out. It's been marvellous."
"The dynamic we see is that everywhere we go, we have friends of the Companions of the Cross," Bedard said. "Certainly we recruit, but they read what we do and they like what we say. One thing they invariably do is go to their bishops and say, 'Look, what we need here are Companions of the Cross in our diocese.' The bishops are backed up, in a way.
"Some of (the bishops) react by saying they don't want them here because 'They are too fundamentalist.' But we have invitations across Canada from at least 16 bishops."
Bedard has been dealing with young men in the priesthood for some time and the thing that most of the men who might be inclined to pursue a call to the priesthood say is that they are scared of the isolation they see. They tell Bedard they need to live with other men.
"We don't want to change the face of the Church. We just want to serve and bring it along past renewal. We want people to return to church and come alive in the Lord," he said.