Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 30, 2009
Bishop Cooney enjoys the autumn of his life
Former rector of St. Joseph Seminary maps out a different priestly path, a path he enjoys
Bishop Emeritus Eugene Cooney
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
CALGARY — While some things have changed for Bishop Eugene Cooney, bishop emeritus of Nelson, B.C., since retirement in 2007, others remain the same.
He no longer has an actual office or any administrative staff, and there is less mail and fewer phone calls. The constant for him is the ongoing pursuit of his sacramental ministry as a priest which began with his ordination nearly five decades ago.
The former priest of the Calgary Diocese and rector of St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton currently lives in Cranbrook. There, he assists the local pastor with the ordinary priestly duties of celebrating Mass and preaching the word.
He also gives occasional days of reflection or retreat days for priests or other groups of people.
Cooney terms it an ad hoc type of life, taking things as they come.
“Life is good. I am moving into a new season in my life which has its own gifts and challenges. I have to accept it, realizing it does not carry the same responsibilities as previously.”
A QUIET TIME
Earlier his mail and phone calls often contained criticism of himself or priests in his diocese, which is not the case now, he said. That means less tension and dealing with people’s concerns in a different way than as a bishop. It is also a more anonymous existence which requires some adjustment.
“Living in this season takes a strategy that needs to be worked out in prayer for both my social and intellectual life. I try to keep up my spiritual life with prayer and reading good books, and not just religious ones.”
Apart from continuing in his priestly ministry and speaking engagements, he has remained physically active. He walks and swims daily, which he says is good.
“Swimming daily carries with it its own milieu. I get to meet people and talk with them on a different level than as a bishop.”
Commenting on changes he has seen in his close to eight decades of life, he says things have changed, morally.
“Things today have certainly changed from when I grew up, at least morally changed. I grew up in the wake of a very Victorian view of many things, which wasn’t necessarily good. But, it is astonishing what happened morally in our lifetimes.”
DEATH CAME NATURALLY
He suggests that people had a healthier, more open view of death then than now.
“In the subculture I grew up in we thought more about death, talked more about it. We named it. Today we are not naming death. People don’t even have funerals today. It is sad to not have any acknowledgement of God in a ritual way.”
There is a loss of a sense of the victory over death in the humanity of Jesus, he said. The ultimate goal to keep in mind is that there will not only be life after death, but ultimately a new heaven and a new earth. Only that will bring the peace the world is desperately searching for.
During these challenging economic times, he says things could go either way. People may come through it together or there may be a turning to violence. His only hope is that it won’t be on a global scale.
He says prayer is an essential ingredient to maintaining faith today.
“We will not keep faith if we do not pray in today’s world. I always ask the young people I confirm to pray for a few minutes a day.”
He says he had one group time him as he recited the three prayers he learned at his mother’s knee – the Morning Offering, Prayer to the Guardian Angel and the Memorare. It timed out at two minutes, and adds that even two minutes will make a difference in a person’s life.
His conclusion is that life is good, but that it is temporal — when we miss that, there is a void in people’s hearts that nothing else will fill.
Cooney was in Calgary to speak to parishioners at St. Bonaventure Parish during its Lenten Day of Prayer on March 21.