I have come to know and admire quite a number of non-Catholic clergymen through pro-life work, men whom I would never have met under normal circumstances.
One of those is Canon Bob Greene, the pastor of St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, just off Parliament Street in Toronto. Bob Greene – as he has reached the biblical age of 70 – has relinquished his parish and moved to a parish in Philadelphia as an assistant. If I may use a rather trite expression, “Toronto’s loss is definitely Philadelphia’s gain.”
Bob and his wife Marion came to Toronto and St. Bartholomew’s in 1978.
It was about this time that he and I met and became friends – the common denominator was our mutual concern for the fate of unborn babies. Almost anywhere I found myself in the pro-life movement, Bob Green – or Canon Bob Greene as he had now become – was present.
We would meet at Campaign Life Coalition meetings and Rescues, but most frequently on Friday mornings, picketing outside the abortuary of Dr. Manole Buruiana, who is reported to perform some twenty abortions each working day.
A Christlike love for the poor
People who actively support the cause of unborn life are often accused of being “one issue people, “who do not care for other causes, such as the poor or unwed mothers. If this is true of any active “pro-lifer,” and I don’t believe it is, it certainly can never be said of Canon Bob or Marion Greene.
St. Bartholomew’s Parish is one of Toronto’s poorest areas. Shortly after their arrival there, the Greenes realized that hundreds of poor people, men and women and children, frequented the adjoining streets daily. So, they set up a free breakfast service in the parish hall. That was some ten years ago.
Twice a week – on Tuesdays and Thursdays – anybody can come in and enjoy a hot breakfast, free of charge. On an average they serve more than three hundred meals each day. Last time I spoke to Marion I asked her what the menu is. She told me it consists of two eggs, bacon, rolls, juice and coffee. I believe oatmeal is also available. This is probably the only meal that many of the poor get on those days. Marion also runs a food bank from the rectory with 600 families on her list.
While he and I stood outside the Buruiana abortuary on Friday mornings, it was interesting and even amusing to hear about every third poor person who passes by saying “Hi Father Greene,” and Bob replies, “Hi John” or “Mary” or “Patrick.” Nobody knew me! I asked Bob, “Where did you know him?” The reply was always, “In the Don Jail” or “He (or she) has breakfast at our hall twice a week.” Canon Greene spent most of every Monday at the Don Jail. He distributed Holy Communion to any Anglicans who wished to receive and chatted to them about their past and their future.
One of Bob’s greatest assets is a cheerful manner and a kindly word which is the external expression of a truly Christian spirit. Such a spirit is of tremendous importance when picketing outside an abortuary. Sometimes the language issuing from passing cars will not be found in the Oxford English Dictionary. A sense of humor is a necessary ingredient- and Canon Greene has that in abundance.
I have a very nice verse which I often use at the end of a homily on charity and I think it is relevant in the context of this article.
“Is anybody happier because you passed their way? Does anybody remember that you spoke to them today? The day is almost over and its toiling times is through. Is there anyone to utter now a grateful word to you? As you take a glance back of the many that you passed? Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said? Does the one whose hopes were fading now with courage look ahead? Did you win the day or lose it? Was it well or sorely spent? Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent? As you close your eyes in slumber, do you think that God will say, ‘You have earned one more tomorrow by the good you did today?”
I believe Bob would earn an “A PLUS” in reply to any of those questions. Philadelphia means “the city of brotherly love.” The presence of Bob and Marion Greene will make it more worthy of that title.