Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 25, 2006
MacNeil foresees great things for Collins in Toronto
Archbishop's transfer leaves local Catholics with sense of loss
By BILL GLEN
- WCR file photo
Marguerite Bilodeau served as executive assistant to three archbishops, including Archbishop Collins.
MacNeil was archbishop of Edmonton for nearly 26 years before retiring in 1999. Collins succeeded him on June 7 of that year.
MacNeil expects the 350,000 Catholics in the Edmonton Archdiocese will experience a sense of loss.
"You have to think he was sent to us by Pope John Paul II to be our spiritual father. Like Jesus, he went about doing good. He was teaching and preaching. He was a fantastic teacher. It was part of his whole life," MacNeil said.
In many ways, people understand the notion of Collins being transferred. Wherever the powers that be want us to be, we accept, MacNeil said.
He complimented Collins for his knowledge of Scripture. The responsibility of priests and bishops, MacNeil said, is to break open and bring the Word of God to people in a contemporary language in ways they will understand that it is the message of a loving God.
Collins did so in a beautiful way with the Lectio Divina and in his homilies and addresses, MacNeil said.
It was him sharing his talents with others through his devotion to Jesus Christ.
"Archbishop Collins said he loves it here, but the pope wants him to serve elsewhere. And that's it," he said.
"It's a wonderful experience for the Church of Edmonton that has been involved in the formation and preparation of so many people who have become leaders in the Church throughout Canada."
- WCR file photo
Archbishop Collins is a skilled communicator. Here, thousands listen to him during a homily at the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage.
When Collins was ordained a bishop, he chose the motto Deum Adora (Worship God). Those words remain at the centre of his heart guiding his ministry, says Julien Hammond.
"He is a tremendous communicator. His motto gave him a perspective of putting prayer and worship in a dimension that sets his priorities," said Hammond, director of pastoral services for the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"I think the perpetual adoration chapel (at St. Andrew's Parish) grew out of that, as well as St. Benedict's Chapel downtown," Hammond added.
"It's where World Youth Day and an emphasis on leading young people to prayer and worship activities flow from."
His outreach to the interfaith world, whether through the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society or involvement with the Interfaith Centre, are attributable to Collins' unwavering devotion to God, Hammond suggested.
"Maybe it was three years ago, he welcomed the board of the Interfaith Centre to the basilica, where he pointed out various features and facets of Catholic life. I think it grew out of the idea of worshipping God, which is a pretty universal notion."
Hammond was registrar of Newman Theological College when Collins brought him to the Catholic Pastoral Centre.
- WCR file photo
Archbishop Collins ordains Father Marc Cramer in June 2006. Promoting priestly vocations was one of Collins' top priorities.
"All of us here came here at his call. He put great faith in us and I'm truly appreciative of that," he said. "He allowed quite a bit of diversity to grow up around him in terms of the staff. I think that was a healthy thing."
Collins once wrote, "Stewardship affects everyone, but is particularly intended to encourage all of the lay people of the archdiocese to become engaged in the vibrant life of discipleship within each parish community."
Mary Ann Yusep is grateful to Collins for the opportunity to use her gifts in service to the local Church.
"He has given me his unconditional support in promoting stewardship as an orientation for the archdiocese," said Yusep, archdi-ocesan director of stewardship.
"His teachings personally inspire me to become more fully engaged in the active life of the Church and mission of Christ."
During his seven and a half year tenure in Edmonton, Collins created the stewardship office. Yusep was hired in 2004.
"Archbishop Collins believes that by fostering a spirit of stewardship, all members of the archdiocese are invited to become more actively engaged in the Gospel mission received at Baptism."
Father Greg Bittman is delighted for the Church in Toronto, yet saddened to lose his mentor.
- WCR file photo
Archbishop Collins was a strong proponent of eucharistic adoration. Here, he leads the archdiocese's first Corpus Christi procession in 2005.
"I'm both happy for him because the Church in Toronto will be blessed beyond measure by having him as their new bishop. I think the rest of Canada will benefit with him in his new position," said Bittman, chancellor of the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"I'm also sad because I've gotten to know him well working closely with him for more than six years. I'll miss his humour. He is a great role model."
He described Collins as a patient and compassionate man who understands the human heart and the human condition.
"He is a brilliant man filled with joy. I'm sad to see him go and I wish him all the best," Bittman said.
Marguerite Bilodeau served more than 30 years as executive assistant to three archbishops of Edmonton before devoting herself full-time to her personal ministry. She met Collins while he was the bishop of St. Paul.
"The news of Archbishop Collins being appointed by Pope Benedict comes as a surprise, in a way. Yet, when Cardinal (Aloysius) Ambrozic was reaching retirement age, it made sense that Archbishop Collins could be on the list as a possible successor," Bilodeau said.
"I was on the vocation committee for the province when I first met him. He gave us all a great impression so that when we knew he was appointed for Edmonton, we were very happy. He is a prayerful man and a gifted speaker, teacher, evangelizer with an exquisite sense of humour," she said.
"I saw him as somebody who inspires, and by inspiring, you lead. I thank God and Archbishop Collins for seven years of service in our local Church."
St. Joseph University College president Father Tim Scott says he will remember Collins for his strong commitment to the priesthood.
- WCR file photo
Archbishop Collins meets with inmates at the Edmonton Instition in 2003.
"He did a great deal of work on implementing vocations. He made St. Joseph Seminary a strong priority in the archdiocese. The fruits of that are fairly visible."
He is a man of great personal, religious piety seen in the Lectio Divina at the cathedral, Scott said.
"He has a great personal commitment to education. He believes in the value of education of the whole person."
Scott calls Collins his friend who prefers to stay out of the limelight.
"A big part of my work is with donors and potential contacts. He really doesn't like the 'schmooze' thing. I always think I had to push him into a room when it was that kind of social function going on," Scott said.
"He is a pastor and things like smiling at a cocktail party were always a bit of a challenge. He was very good natured and long suffering about it because he knew it was part of his responsibilities. But I knew if he had the choice, he would not have done it. But I wouldn't let him have that choice," Scott said with a chuckle.
Collins enjoyed coming to the college, especially for the students' 9 p.m. Sunday Mass where he gave his homily using a piece of chalk.
Scott said it was important for the archbishop to celebrate that particular Mass in order to reach out to the students.
"He would then go off to Tim Hortons with them for a doughnut. I would go home to bed because I was too tired. But he would always make room for them. He was very present to that reality."
Mable Solomon is president of the CWL's diocesan council. Collins was always a great supporter and advocate, she said.
"It's our loss. He listened to what we wanted and to any question we had. If we asked him to say Mass, he did it. If we asked him to speak, he did. He really supported us. We need that from our hierarchy. He's the top guy on our list and he filled that role so well."
When the CWL told Collins of their idea for the Bizarre Women's Group to help promote membership, Solomon said he was quite pleased.
"He said we were setting our own focus and having more people working on the stewardship factions of the CWL."
Added Bittman, "He has many talents and gifts and I appreciate them even more at this time. I can see the potential he has. He is destined to do great things."
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