Yesterday, December 11, I called to The Interim office as I was in Toronto. I found Father de Valk and Michael Otis in deep and concerned conversation. When they saw me they asked in one voice, “Have you got your article?” I said, “Er. What article?” They replied in unison, “The one for the January Interim.” I said, “When do you want it?” They chorused, “Yesterday!” I paled around the gills. I thought there were at least three turkey dinners between me and the next article. But, because of the Christmas rush they want to have everything ready early. They said they would reserve space for forty-eight hours and that was it.

So, here I am early in the morning of the 12th, still in Toronto, and using a strange machine trying to corral my scattered thoughts and confine them within the boundaries of a sheet of paper.

The questions

Since my appointment to St. Rita’s parish in Woodstock, I have been asked so many questions that I thought it might be a good idea to endeavor to answer them all in one article. Here are some sample questions, “Why are you being moved so far from Toronto?” “Do they want to get rid of you?” I’m not sure who “they” are! “Is it to get you as far away from 85 Harbord Street as possible?” “Are you being ‘banished’ to Woodstock?” I hope no “Woodstockers” read this article!

The answers

Why have been moved? Well, since I arrived in Canada eighteen years ago I have spent most of my time looking out an office window, making and answering phone calls and dictating letters to a secretary, and signing them over the rather prestigious title “Director of Promotion for the Spiritan Fathers.” When this title is boiled down to ordinary language, it reads, “Fund Raiser.”

Needless to say I have been engaged in other pursuits such as preaching, giving retreats and pro-life work. But as a Spiritan or Holy Ghost Father, my official function has been raising money to keep the Spiritans’ pot on the boil. Somebody has to do it and I am not saying that I have not enjoyed it, but it is not my idea of “priestly” work. And so, for some years past – not by official letters but over cups of coffee – I have let it be known to my superiors that I would like to spend my declining years as an assistant in a parish – preaching the Gospel, visiting the sick, teaching catechism in the schools, administering the Sacraments – in short, just being a priest!

An ideal appointment

As the years pile up behind me I find that the stairs are getting steeper, the hills are getting higher, and other people probably noticed this too. So, with my eightieth birthday only four stops down the line, it was decided that the time has come to accede to my desire and appoint me to a parish. St. Rita’s in Woodstock was suggested to me and I was more than pleased. First of all, the Pastor, Father Jimmy Dunne, and the first assistant, Father Martin Brennan, are long-time friends of mine, ideal companions and fine priests. Like myself, they both spent years in Africa, so we have a great deal in common.

Secondly, the Parish is very suitable for a priest of my age and abilities. Woodstock is a friendly and lively city. But it is not the type of parish one finds in Toronto, with highrises and all the bustle that goes with a metropolis. On the other hand, there is plenty of work here. As this is my first experience of parish work in Canada, I had no idea what to expect. For one thing I did not realize how much work there is. We have three large schools in the parish and two others which are attended by many of our children. We administer another church eleven miles from St. Rita’s, which is a parish in itself. Then there is a general hospital and several senior citizen homes. There are between forty and fifty communion calls each week. Almost every evening there are meetings of some kind – Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League, R.C.I.A., the Youth Club. Add to all this preparation for sermons, marriage instructions, the day-to-day eventualities, and you don’t have much time left for what are usually termed “extra parochial activities.”

What about pro-life?

I imagine the obvious question from my many pro-life friends would be, “Are you going to give up on pro-life activities?” The answer is, not if I can help it. My first reaction to being told by the judge on October 5 that we were criminals and terrorists was to return immediately to the abortuary and sit on the steps, thus breaking the infamous injunction. Then after consultation with some friends, I realized that I was already late  in taking up my appointment in Woodstock – an official appointment – which was scarcely fair to the two priests who were carrying the load. So I decided to “lay off” for awhile and spy out the land. On coming here I found that it is a very pro-life parish, which distributes literature and prays for the unborn at every Mass – both Sundays and weekdays. We have had a pro-life banquet since I came here. The President of the Right to Life Association in Woodstock is the wife of the Reformed Christian Church Minister, and it is a very active branch. I have also been asked to lead a pro-life pilgrimage to Fatima in February coming. As an item of interest, even if irrelevant, I find that at the same price – free to me – I can take a visit to Ireland and so make up for the holiday I missed in August through being “otherwise detained.”

My pro-life plan for the New Year is to request permission from the Separate School Board to speak and show slides in all the schools in Oxford County. Even if the iniquitous Bill C-43 is passed, we still must preach the pro-life gospel to people and thus hope to prevent future murders of babies. And where better to start than in the schools where values are being formed and young lives are being molded!

Before October 5, 1990 I may have broken the injunction and find myself again a guest of the Government. But just for the immediate future I have decided to “bloom where I’m planted.”