Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 22, 2007
Faithful servant gets a fond farewell
Hundreds say good-bye to Collins before he leaves for Toronto
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Hundreds of well-wishers said farewell to Archbishop Thomas Collins following a Jan. 14 celebration at St. Joseph Basilica.
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
They have grown to love their spiritual leader of the last seven years and wouldn't let him go without saying so.
Hundreds of lay people, priests, seminarians and religious from across the Edmonton Archdiocese packed St. Joseph' Basilica Jan. 14 to say farewell to Archbishop Thomas Collins. He will be installed as archbishop of Toronto Jan. 30.
The farewell ceremony featured about a dozen speakers who praised Collins' contributions to Edmonton.
Father Paul Kavanagh, chair of the Council of Priests, lauded Collins' unequalled "fervour" for vocations.
"He never spoke at an archdiocesan event without saying a word for vocations," Kavanagh noted. "Thank you your grace for being a good steward to us. And as we say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"
"We have a tendency to trade our heroes," said Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Allan Wachowich, who made the congregation laugh when he compared Collins' move to Toronto to Wayne Gretzky's trade to Los Angeles and the trade of football hero Jackie Parker to the Toronto Argonauts.
"You have been an inspiration to all of us," he said. "We will remember you in our prayers and we wish you well."
Father Shayne Craig, rector of St. Joseph's Seminary described Collins as a "good shepherd" and praised the archbishop's support of vocational work and his commitment to the seminary.
Sister Geraldine Kelly, speaking on behalf of the 324 women religious in the archdiocese, praised the archbishop's quality of being a learner.
Joy of learning
"I suspect it is your own joy of learning that makes you labour over the craft of being a teacher in so many ways, whether through personal example, reflecting in the Word of God or in formal teaching," she said.
"We thank you for sharing with us this quality of learning, awakening or renewing in us the desire to learn and to offer what we learn in loving service to others."
Peter Wong, state deputy of the Alberta Knights of Columbus, conveyed greetings from 16,000 knights and their families from Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Collins has been honorary chaplain of the knights since 1999.
Mabel Solomon, president of the archdiocesan Catholic Women's League, announced the CWL is gathering funds for the operation of St. Benedict's (downtown) Chapel in Collins' honour.
"We are happy to have this opportunity to thank you for all your support and assistance that you have so freely given the Catholic Women's League," Solomon said. "We are sad that you are leaving us and think that the Toronto Diocese does not yet know what a blessing they are about to receive."
Others who spoke at the farewell ceremony were ITV's Tim Spelliscy, who emceed the event, Tom Wispinski, chair of the Alberta Catholic Health Corporation; Ted Paszek, president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association; Father Tim Scott, president of St. Joseph's University College; Bryn Kulmatycki, president of Newman Theological College, Alberta Health and Wellness Minister Dave Hancock and Adrian Bussiere, of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.
Collins, who received a standing ovation as he went to the lectern, expressed appreciation for the "kind words" said about him and asked people to pray for him and to continue to pray for vocations.
"It was a great privilege that the holy father sent me here to Alberta, first as bishop of St. Paul and then as archbishop of Edmonton," Collins said.
"I'm grateful that the holy father, Pope Benedict, is sending me now to serve in Toronto," he said. "I'm so grateful to all of you for your support and I ask you to keep me in your prayers. You have been an inspiration to me."
Collins posed for photographs and shook hands with hundreds of well-wishers at a reception in O'Leary Hall after the farewell ceremony.