Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 6, 2008
Life in the fast lane
Edmonton's former archbishop keeps hectic schedule in Toronto, but still keeps spiritual balance
By GLEN ARGAN
“There has been a looming threat to Catholic education since 1830. I would rather concentrate on strengthening the great good that is already there.”
Collins visits a couple of parishes most weekends and enjoys visiting Catholic schools. The day before he met with the WCR, he gave a talk to a group of Catholic teachers.
Because of one political party’s platform that emphasized full funding for all private schools during the recent Ontario provincial election campaign, others came out of the woodwork demanding an end to tax support for Catholic schools.
Is Collins concerned that Catholic education might be threatened?
“There has been a looming threat to Catholic education since 1830,” he said. “I would rather concentrate on strengthening the great good that is already there.”
Catholic schools, he noted, have a long historic role in Canada and are deeply rooted in the nature of the country. It is of tremendous benefit to Canada to have diversity in the school system where people have a choice between secular and Catholic education.
Collins looks back on his days in Edmonton with fondness. He recalls being choked up while celebrating Mass in the Catholic Pastoral Centre when his appointment in Toronto was announced. But there is no sense of a desire to return.
“Archbishop Smith is a wonderful bishop. You are very blessed to have him as bishop.”
Edmonton is in good hands with its new bishop, he said. “Archbishop Smith is a wonderful bishop. You are very blessed to have him as bishop.”
Collins’ main vocation is to serve others through the priesthood. “I love being a priest. I love being a bishop. I always have.”
And when it is time to move on, that has to be accepted. “Though you always love the people you’re working with and the place, when you get the call to move, then you’re called to do that.”
Tuesday morning, he was up at 6:30 a.m. to pray, read the newspapers over breakfast, grabbed the subway, did some work before this 9 a.m. interview and then went into a full day of meetings that ended with a dinner meeting.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I have stacks of books all over the place.”
In July when he released a statement objecting to Henry Morgentaler‘s Order of Canada award, he did 18 media interviews in the next two days before he was rescued by the airplane that whooshed him off to World Youth Day.
Collins recalls his long walks along the top of the North Saskatchewan River Valley.
“Edmonton is such a beautiful city. The whole diocese is beautiful, visually beautiful. I really loved my time in Edmonton.”
His home there on the grounds of the Pastoral Centre was “almost a non-urban setting.” Now he lives in the cathedral rectory two blocks from the Eaton Centre with nine other priests. It’s a quick subway ride to his sixth-floor office on Yonge Street.
Toronto looks like a big place, he continues, but even downtown the city is made up of many small villages, each with their own character. “For a very big city, there’s a small town warmth and dimension to it.”
Despite a hectic schedule, he says he makes time for a weekly sabbatical. “In order to keep perspective, I have to step back. The first page of the book of instructions from the manufacturer says, ‘Six days on, one day off.”
Collins is now located much closer to his two sisters who live in Guelph, But he says he may well have seen more of them when he lived in Alberta. In those days, they would come to visit him for a week at Christmas and another week at Easter. Now, the visits seem to be more catch as catch can.
Frodo, the seven-year-old cat Collins acquired in Edmonton now has a better home life with Collins’ sisters and another cat, Buffy. “Frodo is having the time of his life. He’s getting a lot more attention than when he was with me. I was kind of an absentee guy.”
As usual the archbishop has his nose into numerous books. “Anyone who knows me knows that I have stacks of books all over the place.”
Right now, he’s reading Shakespeare, Joseph Pearce’s book on The Catholic Background of Shakespeare, the Notebooks of Jacques Maritain as well as re-reading a history of the First World War – The Guns of August.
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