Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 5, 2007
Who will change? Collins or the Toronto Church?
Edmonton's former archbishop eschews 'palace' in favour of rectory
By GLEN ARGAN
In Toronto, the Church holds its annual Cardinal's Dinner (alas, it will now, at least temporarily, be downgraded to the Archbishop's Dinner) to raise money for Church charities. Conrad Black, despite his current legal embroilments, usually finds a spot at the head table along with a phalanx of other millionaires and politicians.
The Toronto archbishop tends to be well removed from the lives of ordinary Catholics. He doesn't do Confirmations, the rigours of the annual Confirmation tour being left to the anointed hands of the three auxiliary bishops.
But after 10 years in the wilds of Wild Rose Country, Collins says he loves Confirmations and having his picture taken with the steady stream of newly-confirmed. He even regularly heard Confessions at St. Joseph's Basilica on Saturday afternoons.
Now he seems determined to chart a different course for Toronto, bringing Western ways to the world-class city.
- WCR photo by Glen Argan
Canada's cardinals under the age of 80 – Aloysius Ambrozic of Toronto, Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal and Marc Ouellet of Quebec City – were among the nearly 60 bishops present for Archbishops present for Archbishop Collins' installation.
Two days before his Jan. 30 installation Mass, he held a well-attended lectio divina prayer service in a Toronto church with lots of young people in the pews.
The invitation-only installation was to be followed by a series of five "regional Masses" over the next two weeks where the new archbishop could begin to meet his flock.
Of course, you know what happens then. He speaks. And magic happens. When Archbishop Thomas Collins speaks, people don't simply listen. They are drawn to the man and his message. His summary witticisms ("A faith that is sad, not glad, is bad") and insightful renderings of the stories of the saints and the transformative power of the Catholic faith leave people wanting more.
Three years ago in an interview, he told me, "If people can just catch the fire and experience the glories of the faith, that will draw them to the great glorious realities of God."
Does this sound like a man who would leave the real ministry to the masses to parish priests while he sits in meetings with his auxiliary bishops charting the course of the world-class archdiocese?
- WCR photo by Glen Argan
Archbishop Collins talks with his sisters Patricia and Catharine half an hour before the installation Mass began. The archbishop's cat now stays with them.
Also in that interview, he said, "Give 20 per cent of your time to the problems (of the Church) and 80 per cent to the beautiful, glorious realities of the faith and the problems will disappear on their own." Well, 80 per cent should be enough to get him out of the office with great frequency.
At the start of Collins' ministry in Alberta, there was some low level grumbling about an Ontario prelate being imposed on notoriously independent Albertans.
But now the shoe appears to be on the other foot. Did the former Ontario seminary rector "go native" when he was in the West? Or, is it that he has always approached the Gospel in a way that was radically different than that of bank presidents and media barons?
The pressing question for the start of Collins' Toronto episcopacy is: Who will garner the larger share of his ministry - the corporate bigwigs or the 12-year-olds being confirmed this spring?
For myself, I would bet on the irrepressible Archbishop Thomas Collins moving outwards to be with those 12-year-olds as well as his spending a whole lot of time encouraging his flock of 1.6 million folks to "catch the fire."
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.