By Fr. Ray Douziech, C.Ss.R.
Queen of the Apostles Renewal Centre has been the site for many of our Redemptorist assemblies and chapters. However, the gathering from October 14 to 18 was particularly significant. It was the first Chapter for the newly created Province of Canada. The new province is the fusion of three Canadian units – the Redemptorist Byzantine Mission to the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada, the Edmonton-Toronto English speaking Province, and the Sainte Anne de Beaupré French speaking province.
Sixty-one participants were present for this inaugural chapter including Fr. General, Michael Brehl, Brother Jeffrey Rolle, the consultor on the General Council from North America, and Fr. Jack Kingsbury, the coordinator for the North American Conference of Redemptorists. We also were pleased to have Dr. Anne Walsh representing lay associates and lay missionaries of the Most Holy Redeemer in Canada. Anne wore two hats. She was one of the Secretaries along with Liliane Fournier. Guiding the work of the Chapter was Fr. Doris Laplante and Fr. Ray Douziech. Fr. Michel Côté and Albert Beaudry provided seamless and flawless translation.
Monday, October 14, was Canadian Thanksgiving. It was a meaningful start to our gathering as there was much for which to be grateful. After many hurdles we were finally beginning what so many had worked tirelessly to create. We opened with a Thanksgiving Eucharist for the new Province during which the new Provincial Superior, Fr. Charles Duval took the Oath of Office. Fr. Michael Brehl presided and preached.
The next morning after invoking the aid of the Holy Spirit, Fr. Charles convoked the sitting of the First Chapter of the Redemptorists of Canada Province. What was striking from the beginning was the atmosphere among the participants. There was a palpable feeling of calm, with affirming, confident, and eager willingness to make this Chapter a positive step for the future. The moderators presented dozens of pages of documents for first reading. These were studied, discussed, modified and given for further editing. These revised documents will be presented for second reading at the next sitting of Chapter a year from now.
Sustaining our deliberations were the evening social times refreshingly arranged by Santo Arrigo and Tony Bidgood and our prayer time organized by the liturgical committee, Bill Bernard, Eumir Bautista and Jacques Desjardins.
An incredible amount of materials was reviewed and by Thursday afternoon we were ready to celebrate. We took the occasion to honour our 15 Jubilarians celebrating 75, 70, 65, 60, 50 and 25 years of ministry and/or religious profession. We also witnessed the Perpetual Profession of Alfredo Medina Ramos.
It was a fantastic climax of our gathering. We applauded the dedication of confreres and were inspired by the courage and faith of Alfredo. The mission of the Redemptorists in Canada has been enriched by the faithfulness of our Jubilarians and will be in the future with men like Alfredo. We were reminded that in November Brother Eumir will be taking his Perpetual Vows while the presence of Ivan Dzhur, our theology student in San Antonio, and our five current Candidates further enhances our hope.
Fr. Charles Duval presided at the Eucharist and preached while Fr. General received Alfredo’s vows and presented him with the mission cross. We were pleased that Alfredo’s mom and sister were able to come from Mexico to be with us for this celebration. Everyone was moved by the simple yet profound reality of a man dedicating himself to the Charism and Mission of our Congregation for life. When it came time for each confrere to wish Alfredo peace, the truth of his commitment was affirmed – a brother, a co-hermano, with us for the long haul in our new Province. “Ad multos annos”!
Friday morning was an opportunity to share information about the mid-sexennial meeting held in New Jersey, the work of Young Adult and Youth Ministry, vocation recruitment and planning the next session of Chapter. By noon this historical gathering was adjourned and our hours of deliberation confided to our hard-working and conscientious secretaries and the provincial council.
The Province is off the ground. We are filled with hope that we can do this together. The Holy Spirit worked overtime and we remain grateful for what has been. To close with the words of Dag Hammarskjold, “and for all that will be “Yes””.