Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 16, 2005
A community of priests thrive
The Companions of the Cross celebrate their 20 year anniversary
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Twenty years ago, a group of seminarians meeting as a "share group" in the living room of Father Bob Bedard, the new pastor of St. Mary's Church in Ottawa, came to believe God was calling them to become a community of priests.
They called themselves Companions of the Cross.
On May 6, the Companions celebrated their 20th anniversary with a special Mass at St. Mary's where the movement began in 1985.
Bedard, who will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination in August, had become pastor of St. Mary's in 1984.
The Companions of the Cross, officially instituted as a Society of Apostolic Life by the Vatican in 2003, has 32 priests and 24 seminarians.
Three more priests will be ordained May 14.
Because the Ottawa Archdiocese did not have room for all the new priests, the Companions have branched out into Toronto, Halifax and Houston, Texas.
"I thought the thing would top out at 12 men," Bedard said in an interview following the Mass.
He said the experience has been "quite a ride," both exhausting and a blessing.
Bedard recalled the criticism bordering at times on "vilification" that he and the movement faced.
"I was called a cult master," he said, smiling.
He said that sometimes the Companions are described as "too progressive," and others think the priests are "rigid and medieval."
In 1994, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais approved the Companions moving towards full recognition of the Church.
Bedard said it is far more work than he expected to come up with a constitution, the many meetings with the archbishop to "straighten us out," and the efforts to gain final approval from Rome.
Father Roger Vandenakker, moderator of the Companions of the Cross, gave a homily on the need for witnesses to Jesus Christ "who incarnate in their lives the very values they profess."
He reminded the packed church that God is calling all men and women to be living witness, not only priests and nuns.
"Nothing else is going to change the tide except the witnesses of holy lives," Vandenakker said.
He said that holiness begins "when you acknowledge how sinful you are."
He said he used to think that acknowledgement of sin was a form of "false humility," but said he now realizes that the closer we get to God, we realize "more subtly and deeply how we offend God."
Vandenakker stressed it is through "praying, reaching out and yearning, and contemplating the face of Christ that we're changed."
"How dark and disintegrated our culture is," he said, noting that we are "lulled to sleep, sedated and anesthetized by wealth, and the mass media bombarding us with entertainment.
"As the days get darker, more and more women and men will respond radically to the call."
- Fr. Bob Bedard
He noted however, that the darkness of the times makes it harder to be a "lukewarm Christian" and to "straddle the fence," making more opportunities for "the Lord to make us saints."
"As the days get darker, more and more women and men will respond radically to the call," he said.
Vandenakker said the newness of the community helps them recognize the nature of the times, and informs their desire to be part of the renewal and evangelization.
"Doing God's will is the only thing worth doing," he said.
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