Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 19, 2006
Msgr. Reynolds' 70 years
His priesthood dedicated to comforting the afflicted
- WCR photo by Bill Glen
Msgr. Allen Reynolds was ordained a priest in the midst of the Depression.
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The morning newspaper lay on a table outside his small apartment as Msgr. Allen Reynolds gazed at the front page photograph.
After a moment, he carefully pressed his frail right hand along the centre fold to smoothen it. But it looked as though he was passing it over the grieving family as if touching them might ease their pain.
"Isn't this a tragedy? War is always a terrible thing," he said.
At 94 years of age, Reynolds is still deeply concerned about those who suffer. He has dedicated his life to bringing delight to disadvantaged children, hope to the inner city poor and his priestly ministry to parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
Ordained in Halifax June 24, 1936, in the midst of the Great Depression, Reynolds will celebrate the 70th anniversary of his ordination June 26 at St. Joseph's Basilica beginning with the 5:30 p.m. Mass.
Reynolds moves about using a wheeled walker, but still plays the piano. He is committed to spending the majority of his day in prayer, attending daily Mass at Foyer Lacombe and praying the Liturgy of the Hours.
He began his priesthood in an era when some priests lived in very difficult circumstances, sleeping in church basements or the sacristy, or going deeply into debt to support their work.
Reynolds focused his attention on helping the poor and the young. It was said that his willingness to help the poor was such that the unemployed had written his name on every boxcar across Canada.
He spent 20 years promoting the Scouting movement and then helped start the Boys' and Girls' Clubs of Edmonton. He worked another 40 years at helping young people through that organization.
For his efforts, Reynolds was recently awarded the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award. Typically, he deflected any praise.
"A chap from B.C. did the organizing and the legwork to get the teams going. I was pastor of Sacred Heart Parish," Reynolds said.
Groups like the Scouts and the Boys' and Girls' Clubs are important because they can influence children to become responsible adults, he said. "They are programs of formation for young people. They are very well organized."
Reynolds' philosophy of life is simple: "People must have respect for each other. That's the key."
Born in Toronto, Reynolds was the son of a banker who moved the family around Canada until settling in Antigonish, N.S. After ordination, he headed West to help meet the need for priests in mission territory.
He remembers Edmonton in 1936, when rattling streetcars bustled along Jasper Avenue. They used to shake the foundation of St. Joseph's Cathedral enough to disturb Mass when the cathedral was still a lower level crypt church.
"They were noisy because of the metal tracks, I suppose," he said. "Buses finally replaced them and I remember thinking it was strangely quiet. It took a few days to get used to it."
Altogether, Reynolds spent 19 years of active ministry at the cathedral. He also served in Trochu, Camrose, Sacred Heart Parish in Red Deer and St. Edmund's, Sacred Heart and St. Anthony's parishes in Edmonton.
He has been interim vice-chancellor of the archdiocese and a part-time teacher at St. Joseph's High School.
Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil recalls meeting Reynolds in Edmonton in 1947, discovering the two men had travelled similar paths. Both were from Nova Scotia and graduates of St. Francis Xavier University and Holy Heart Seminary in Halifax.
"Msgr. Reynolds is someone we have always looked to as a model," MacNeil said. "He has given his life to his people and his brother priests, cementing a solidarity among them."
Retired Court of Queen's Bench justice John MacKenzie recalls Reynolds from his time in Red Deer in the 1970s. "He was deeply spiritual yet very approachable and kind," MacKenzie said. "He was everyone's friend."
Father Don Stein has known Reynolds since he was a child and says the now-elderly priest helped him catch his first fish.
"We used to have altar boy camps at Lac Ste. Anne during the Second World War. Our dads were all overseas," Stein said. "I was a kid at St. Edmund's and we used to join up with Msgr. Reynolds and the group from the cathedral. He taught us leather and wood crafts."
A shared path
Stein sees Reynolds as a mentor who has made his priesthood something special. After his own ordination, Stein was briefly assigned to St. Edmund's Parish under Reynolds and then much later invited Reynolds to serve his early retirement years with him in Camrose.
"I have always associated with him in my ministry. He could never say no because of his love for the poor and needy."
Margot Bilodeau, former vice chancellor and executive secretary to three archbishops, said Reynolds' homilies were always inspiring.
"He was a much sought after confessor and counsellor," Bilodeau said.
An important change Reynolds has observed during his ministry is the growth of ecumenism.
This touches close to his heart because his mother was Presbyterian, becoming Catholic after meeting his father.
"If you look back at the results of the Second Vatican Council, that made a big difference concerning ecumenism," said Reynolds.
"It's when we began to realize there were good people everywhere - not just official members of the Catholic Church. There are wonderful men and woman in many ministerial associations.
"It was a great experience working with people from other denominations."
What advice does he have for young priests today?
"Oh, I don't know because they are a group of fine, young men," Reynolds said.
He added: "Obey the Lord's words. Pray always."