Comments and Homily delivered by Archbishop Gervais
at the Eucharistic Celebration held by Region II at St. Patricks Basilica
March 14, 2007
Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 (observe the commandments show your wisdom to all)
Psalm 147 (Praise the Lord Jerusalem)
Matthew 5:17-19 (whoever teaches the commandments will be called great in the kingdom)
I am very happy to be here, and to be here for the reasons that have brought us together to greet members of Region II of this diocese for a celebration of farewell. Yes that is why we are here. I want to hear what you might have to say and I want to tell you some things that are very important to me.
Here is what we call Region II of the English sector: Holy Korean Martyrs, Our Lady of La Vang (Vietnamese), St. Albertus (German), St. Hyacinth (Polish), St. Anthony of Padua (Italian), St. Leopold Mandic (Croatian). You are classified in this sector because English is your second language in public life.
We also have parishes where English is the first language: Blessed Sacrament, Holy Canadian Martyrs, Holy Rosary, Saint Brigid, St. Josephs, St Margaret Mary, Saint Mary, St. Patrick, St. Theresa.
This variety of languages is part of the great variety that makes our church universal. I am proud of it. This arrangement, however, poses real challenges to unity. This is what I want to talk to you about tonight.
Let us prepare ourselves for this celebration by calling to mind our sins and failings.
Once when I was just a boy, I overheard my parents talking to each other in their bedroom. Maybe I was eavesdropping! What I heard made me secretly very happy and feel very important. My parents were saying to each other what a good and smart boy I was! When people brag about us to others it makes us feel wonderful.
In todays reading, God is wanting to brag about his People. He wants the other nations to say to each other This great nation is a wise and discerning people. God wants the nations to see the way his People live, the laws they follow, the worship they give him and say to themselves, What a great people, what a wonderful way of life they live. Their God must be a great God indeed.
A bishop also wants to be able to brag about his people, the way God wants to be able to brag about us. I want to brag about you, I do brag about you. Here is what I tell everybody and anybody who asks me. I have a terrific diocese. I have wonderful priests, fantastic deacons and a great people. Come and see. Of course, because we are human beings and as humans are always capable of sinning, I have to admit that this happens too; but I must never forget that we do indeed have wonderful people and a great diocese!
Now I have to tell you what I pray for your future. First, I pray that you will have a good bishop. (Of the dozen or so candidates, I think any one of them would be good for Ottawa.) Secondly, I pray that you will support him strongly, consistently. Its not always an easy job, but with support and the backing of his people, it is a joy. Its like marriage when husband and wife pull together and for each other, what can be difficult becomes easy.
Now I will tell you what I will tell my successor: not secrets, but things you should know that I am going to tell him the advice Im going to give him when he arrives.
I am going to tell him about diocesan celebrations: their importance.
On the first Sunday of Lent we have the Rite of Election (NB liturgy is part of the RCIA). Then after Easter we have a Mass for the Neophytes the newly received into the Church. Both of these liturgies give an archbishop a great boost. Theyre terrific.
These ceremonies let me know roughly the number of converts we are receiving into the church this year. I always notice the effort that you are making to bring Christ to new people. The Asian parishes have a wonderful tradition of promoting a national version of the RCIA. Some of you set out to find out if there are any interested people among newcomers to Ottawa. I will recommend to my successor that he meet with you to understand what you do and to let you share your joy with him.
I am certain that whoever is the new archbishop will know of what is happening in the English sector. We have had, on several occasions, special study days about RCIA and many of you attended these study sessions. I am very grateful.
Homelands Mass: I will tell my successor of the excitement of the Homelands Mass. I think this is something that will give him a real shot in the arm, as it did me. Every third Sunday of January, you gather for a Eucharist at the Cathedral and you come in all your beautiful colours and with your food and your music! It is a wonderful feast!
Diocesan feast: near the end of June each year (not this year). It is a wonderful celebration that draws a huge crowd of joyful believers with their parish banners.
English Pastoral Days: This poses a challenge for the English sector, one that we have not mastered yet. Several parishes hardly ever show up. So we get the idea that the pastoral days are insignificant, or there are too many, or some other way of handling them needs to be found. Thats one thing I will tell the next archbishop of Ottawa. I will recommend to him that he decree that every parish in the English sector be obliged to send at least two delegates to these days. This also applies to the national parishes. There is no use to try to unify our diocese if half the people do not show up. This is what we have in the French sector; there are about a hundred lay people who assist at the pastoral days. It is wonderful because we can develop a common way of looking at things, at ministry, liturgy etc&
Vocations: There is a crisis in this area right now. We do have a few vocations to the priesthood and high quality potential vocations but there are too few. We do have to pray for vocations, because it is the Lord who sends them; we do not create them. Pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.
Formation of Lay People: We have put in place programs for the formation of Lay People. It is a program of making known to adults the meaning of our faith. What we believe has to be explained to adults, especially if they have not done any studying since their childhood. The program here is wonderful, it is exciting, it is inspiring. People always are on a high as they probe their faith and find in it the Good News that we all hold dear. I very strongly recommend it to you.
In the future we will not be able to rely solely on priests to do all that our faith and our life demand; we will have to rely on lay people to carry much of the responsibility. That is one reason why we should have many lay people well formed in the faith.
Youth: The diocese for the last several years has a diocesan youth program. It is still new, but it is very promising. I highly recommend it to all. I know that many national parishes have their own youth programs; but youth often want to be in the swim of things and they just might profit from participation in our diocesan program.
These are the points I would like to make with you as I take my leave of you as your archbishop. It has been a joy for me to be with you. I brag about you wherever I go. I tell others that they should see what the diocese of Ottawa is capable of. I will tell my successor of all the wonderful things you are capable of doing, all he has to do is recognize your talents and together you will do even greater things.
Now, let us gather together all of our prayers and present them before God.