I have been asked to many questions regarding my return from Woodstock to Toronto that I decided the best thing was to write an explanation.
The questions have been, searching, interesting and sometimes amusing. Here are a few examples:
“Did you not like it there?”
“Did they throw you out again?”
“What are you going to do now?”
The most amusing was from a grade school boy. He said, “I heard you are not going to be a priest any more and you are only going to do abortions!” It reminded me of the old story about the English general during the Battle of Waterloo sending a message to one of his colonels by word of mouth. The message was, “Going to advance. Send me reinforcements.” By the time it got to the end of the line it had become, “Going to a dace, send me three and four pence.”
The Real Story
About two years ago, when I had reached the age of 76, some friends, both clerical and lay, made kindly suggestions. They intimated that it was time to end my days in a nice parish as an assistant. There I could celebrate Mass for the people, preach the Gospel, administer the sacrament of Penance, visit the schools, take Holy Communion to the sick, etc. What more could an aging priest wish for, with the lines of life beginning to caress his face!
My superiors considered it an a\excellent idea and so I went to St. Rita’s Parish in Woodstock, which has been served by the Holy Ghost Fathers for almost forty years.
Did I like the parish work? I loved it! My two companions, Father Jimmy Dunne, the pastor, and Father Martin Brennan, the assistant, both friends of many years, are zealous, hardworking priests totally devoted to the spiritual welfare of their flock.
The immediate parish staff, consisting of a secretary, Arlene, a house-keeper/cook Debbie, and her husband, Gord , the maintenance man, formed part of a very pleasant group. Arlene claims that she has trained almost twenty priests in her seventeen years as secretary and I was the most difficult! Debbie’s cooking not only restored my waning appetite but considerably increased my girth.
The parishioners are a delightful community. They even listened attentively to my homilies and I know that they supported my pro-life convictions. In fact, St. Rita’s is a very pro-life parish.
So Why Leave?
Living and working in such a delightful setting, the obvious question has to be, ‘So why leave’? It is not an easy question to answer, even to myself. All I know is that ‘The Hound of Heaven’ has been yapping at my heels for a long time.
Working in a parish is a whole time job. If I had left any other work like say, teaching or fund-raising or administration, I could have simply put it behind me and delved into the new job.
But pro-life is different from anything else.
I could not get those 1000,000 babies murdered each year out of my mind or out of my soul. I cannot explain this any more than I could explain why I felt the urge to be a missionary in Africa fifty years ago. It is just a fact.
Another problem was this. I was getting constant requests to speak at pro-life banquets and conventions. This meant that through the kindness and patience of the other two priests, I was too often away on weekends when the parish is at its busiest. And again, I wouldn’t do it for any other cause. I was in Woodstock under obedience as we say in the Religious Life; therefore it was where God wanted me to be! So I kept quiet and tried to cope with a difficult situation.
Then something happened which helped me to solve the problem.
An answer to prayer
Different religious societies have different vocations within the all-embracing arms of the Church. Some are particularly dedicated to education, others to hospital work, and others again to the foreign missions. I belong to the Congregation of the Holy Spirit or the Spiritans. According to our Rule of Life, we are to give preference to an apostolate which takes us to – among other things – “those oppressed and most disadvantaged as a group or as individuals, work with refugees, with immigrants and with those on the margins of society.”
As this was written in France before the abortion issue had become as grave as it now is, abortion is not specifically mentioned, but I cannot think of any human beings who are more “oppressed and disadvantaged” than pre-born babies.
Then a few months ago we all received a letter from our superiors asking us if there is any specific ministry – within the scope of our mandate – to which we would like to devote ourselves. In my case this was certainly an answer to prayer. I immediately sat down at the typewriter and asked to be released from other ministries so that I could devote my time and talents exclusively to pro-life work.
My superiors graciously acceded to my request.
“Our span of life is seventy years and eighty if we are strong,” according to Psalm 99. This month I shall be 78, so this leaves me with two more years of activity, but what can I do in so short a time? I have prayed and thought about it a great deal and I have come to a conclusion. I do not expect to see a pro-life law being enacted during my life-time.
But rather than curse the darkness, perhaps I can light a candle.
I am convinced that grade eight students are at a crucial period in their lives. They have not yet entered high school, but they are mature enough to understand the issues. So, I hope to spend what is left of my life talking to grade eight children, trying to convince them of the enormity of abortion.
During the past year or so, I have spoken to quite a number of grade 8 classes and have shown them slides of the baby in the mother’s womb. I do not show them the slides of aborted babies, which could be too traumatic at that age.
I also give each student a plastic model of a baby of ten weeks in its mother’s womb. This makes a tremendous impression, especially on the girls. You hear them saying, ‘Look at the hands and the feet. It’s really a baby’.
I must thank Father Marshall Beriault for these models. He is the pastor of St. Rose of Lima parish in Scarborough, Ontario. He has bought thousands of them and slls them at the lowest possible price so as to spread the pro-life message.
And so, I am looking forward to devoting what is left of my life to this specialized form of pro-life activity. I have been asked, “Will you go to prison again?” My reply is, “I would gladly go to prison. But if I did I could not visit the schools.” I feel that this is the best contribution I can make to the most important cause on earth. But I leave the future in the Hands of God.
All I ask of my readers is your prayers.
Fr. Ted’s new address is:
30 Sunrise Ave., Apt. 401
Toronto, Ontatio, M4A 2R3