By Fr. David Purcell, C.Ss.R.
As you know, Archbishop Joseph Tobin gave the first of two keynote presentations at the biennial convocation of the National Religious Vocation Conference, held in Plano, TX November 1-5, 2012.
The scope of his presentation was vast……..Archbishop Tobin began:
“How do I hope to use the time that has been allotted to me? First I invite you to consider the gift of reconciliation in the rich theology of the apostle Paul. Then we will examine some conditions in American society that make the appropriation of this gift more difficult but, nonetheless, ever more urgent. We will then think about a few of the consequences of the gift of reconciliation and look at what it means for vocation promoters to act as “ambassadors.” Finally I might be able to offer some suggestions that flow from this consideration. The best part, of course, comes afterward, when we will have time for a conversation and the chance to learn from each other.” (Horizon, Journal of the National Religious Vocation Conference, vol. 38, no. 1, winter issue)
Archbishop Tobin presented these words of wisdom near the end of his address:
“Gratitude is the attitude.
During 18 years of service in the general government of my congregation, I had the privilege of meeting many grateful confreres. One gave a particularly vivid testimony of his gratitude, an example that remains with me today. Father Peter had spent nearly 60 years in Southeast Asia. Originally from Ireland, he had lived for decades in the Philippines. I met him in the mid-1990’s, a time when his vice-province was about to become a province, and the leadership would pass from the pioneering Irish to the younger Filipino confreres. The incoming council was a bit anxious to learn the intentions of the Irish missionaries. Were they going to remain in the country or return home? An assembly of the vice-province was held and each confrere was invited to share his state of mind. Some signaled that they were ready to return to the Emerald Isle, others committed themselves to remaining for a determined period: a year, two years, five years, etc. The last one to speak was 83-year old Father Peter, who smiled and said, “Boys, put me down for 10 years … and make it renewable!” I might add that God apparently took Peter at his word. He died in Cebu in 2006— 11 years later— and the confreres still speak gratefully of him. Vocation ministry ought to show young people how grateful we are for our own vocations. We need to provide opportunities for other members of the community to share with candidates their own gratitude. At a time when religious are aware of the prophetic dimension of our vocation, I am not convinced that prophetic anger alone will attract young people. The young may be momentarily curious about what has gotten us so upset, but they will move on. They need to hear that we are also grateful: to the point of wanting passionately to invite others to share our life.”
As I visited in Holy Spirit Parish in Calgary, Alberta in February this year, the pastor invited me to preach about my call to the priesthood and the Redemptorist life at the Sunday Masses. A man came up to me after Mass and voiced his immense gratefulness for the Redemptorists in Windsor at Holy Redeemer College. He described with vivid detail, as if it happened yesterday – the loud voice of Brother Nick Haley pouring out of the kitchen doors into the refectory followed by the loud laughter of all those who were working with Brother Nick in the kitchen. This man was greatly inspired by this spirit of humour and the tremendous faith formation and deep growth he experienced through Redemptorist life and ministry.
I spoke about the Redemptorists at St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta, in Edmonton this past February. An Ursiline Sister came up to ask about Fr. David Cottingham. I was able to update her about the progress of his cancer. She impressed upon me the ways that she had been inspired and nourished in her faith and religious life by the Redemptorist parish missions she had attended in Edmonton over the years.
A burly man, of stoic nature, came up to me after I celebrated this most recent Passion Sunday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Vancouver, British Columbia. This man described his gratitude for Fr. Doug Pankhurst. He could not finish his last sentence and walked away with tears in his eyes – he was so moved in gratitude and the sense of loss of someone he had so greatly relied on for spiritual guidance.
There are many more examples I could give from my travels just since January of this year. However you now get my point. I too am deeply moved and grateful. We, as sons and daughters of St. Alphonsus in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, have offered and continue to offer life and goodness to all those we serve. It is a rich service within a Congregation with solid roots. I am grateful that we are enriching the lives of others in ways that will live on for many years. I am grateful that the people whom we serve also affect us and spark growth and life in us. I am grateful that we have a lot to offer those who will come to join our Congregation in the future.
As you may know, Sunday the 21st of April is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. I suggest this is a great opportunity for you as vocation directors, vocation promoters and “ambassadors,” within your local setting, to speak at Sunday Masses or other occasions or ministries that week, about gratitude for our life within the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
As I have mentioned before, a simple and popular way of sharing this gratitude is through displays such as the one seen here in the narthex of St. Joseph’s Church in Grande Prairie, Alberta. This particular display features our gratitude for the life and ministry of Fr. Claude Lemieux. As you have seen in a previous Community Connections, we also have a display of gratitude for the life of Fr. Don MacLellan. If you have a confrere whom you would like to feature with the people whom you serve, then please let me know. With the help of M.C. Havey, our archivist, we have many resources to place at your disposal.
God, we thank you for the blessings
you have given us in Christ our Redeemer.
Let your Spirit overshadow your people,
making your gentle invitation heard in many hearts.
Lord of the harvest,
bless the Redemptorist family
so that those in greatest need
will experience the good news of redemption.
May your love grow among us
and spread throughout all your creation,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.