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20th Anniversary Episcopal Ordination Msgr T. Prendergast

Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr Luigi Bonazzi

Ottawa, June 11 2015

 

Dear Archbishop Prendergast,

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

I am very honored and pleased to prayerfully participate with you in this twofold celebration: commemorating the creation of the Diocese, later, the Archdiocese of Ottawa; and the twentieth Anniversary of the Episcopal Ordination of your Archbishop.

1. The establishment of the Church of Ottawa: It is a moment we remember. And how important it is to remember.  A people that forget the past have no future.  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes:  “I beg you, not to forget your elders, those who have handed on the faith to you” (cf. Heb. 13:7).  And, of course, the same author goes on to say: “Do not forget Jesus Christ”.

Considérez que, au moment de son établissement, Bytown était une petite communauté fondée sur le commerce du bois le long de la Rivière des Outaouais, avant d’être désignée capitale du nouveau Domaine du Canada. Il est presque impossible de donner une interprétation appropriée de l’histoire de cette ville sans tenir compte de la présence et des œuvres de l’Église dans cette région. En fait, les grandes institutions d’éducation et de soins de santé à Ottawa surgissent de la présence de l’Église catholique.

C’était le vingt février 1845, deux ans avant la fondation du Diocèse, quand – un jour venteux et neigeux –  Mère Élisabeth Bruyère, fondatrice des Sœurs de la Charité d’Ottawa arriva à Bytown pour commencer l’œuvre de soigner les malades et les dépourvus. Cette année, en effet, les Sœurs de la Charité d’Ottawa célèbrent le 170e anniversaire de leur fondation et le début de leur apostolat. Félicitations chères Sœurs!

Indeed, the history of this city is intertwined with the history of this Archdiocese.  And so there is much to celebrate and much for which to give thanks to the Lord.  Memory.  How important to remember!  How important it is to have a grateful memory!

2. The second joyful reason for our celebration this evening is to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Episcopal Ordination of your beloved Archbishop, Msgr. Prendergast and which took place on April 25, the Feast of St. Mark. It is fitting that you mark these anniversaries as a Diocesan Church, with the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful gathered around their Archbishop at the Eucharistic Banquet, sign and source of the Church’s unity and strength.

Our celebration takes place on this beautiful Feast of St. Barnabas whose original name was Joseph, “a Levite, a Cypriot by birth” (cf. Acts 4:36).  The apostles renamed him “son of encouragement” (the son of – a common biblical practice to name a person’s dominant quality or characteristic).

According to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Barnabas prayed a key role in the growth of the early Church. It was Barnabas who introduced Saul to the members of the Jerusalem Church who were, at first, hesitant to accept him (cf. Acts 9:27).  It is interesting to speculate, that had Barnabas not done so, Paul could have remained an insignificant figure and the history of Christianity would have been very different!

Dans le texte des Actes des Apôtres que nous venons d’entendre, nous trouvons un détail qui nous aide à bien comprendre la personnalité du saint que nous célébrons aujourd’hui, et qui, je crois, décrit bien aussi l’Archevêque dont nous fêtons l’anniversaire. Comment Barnabé a répondu aux événements qu’il voyait se dérouler à Antioche? C’est-à-dire, comment a-t-il réagi quand il a vu ce que l’Esprit Saint avait accompli parmi les païens, sans l’autorisation formelle de l’Église de Jérusalem?

Il a reconnu leur conversion comme résultat de l’action de la grâce de Dieu (charis), comme un don gratuit (cf. Actes 05:31; 11:18). Et il s’est réjoui: voilà sa réaction!

Et fidèle à son surnom, «homme du réconfort » (cf. Actes 4,36), Barnabé a encouragé tous ces nouveaux convertis à demeurer, d’un cœur ferme, fidèles au Seigneur. Luc continue à décrire Barnabé comme un «homme bon, rempli de l’Esprit Saint et de foi”. Et pendant le ministère de Barnabé à Antioche, une foule considérable s’attacha au Seigneur (Actes 11.24).

To see the free work of God and to rejoice over it!  To confirm and support and encourage such outpouring of grace and discern the potential in those coming into the Church as Barnabas did when he recognized in Paul, remarkable qualities and gifts that could be used to optimum advantage – surely this is the work of a Pastor as he cares for the church of which he has been appointed overseer.

If there is a characteristic of your beloved Archbishop, it is that like St. Barnabas, he welcomes and encourages the many gifts freely given by God.  Look how he welcomes to the Church of Ottawa the newcomers who have come to this region and call this place home.  Consider his attentiveness to the new ecclesial movements.  Reflect upon his pastoral visitation to the parishes throughout the Archdiocese:  visiting the schools, the nursing homes, the places of employment and of natural and cultural interest, and then celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice with his people, giving them opportunity to know him just as he, in imitation of the Good Shepherd, endeavours to know them.

Imagine if Barnabas had a Twitter Account – what wonderful images would have been posted there!  Much like that of your Archbishop – his many encounters happily recorded and showing the diverse and rich scope of his ministry – one of encouragement, welcoming and strengthening.

For the past twenty years he has endeavoured to be “an instrument and means of encouragement” beginning as Auxiliary Bishop in Toronto, then as Archbishop of Halifax and Yarmouth, and for the past eight years, here in the nation’s capital.   Surely, it is the task of every bishop of a diocese, every pastor of a parish, every religious superior in their community, every father and mother in their home – to discern the gifts of those entrusted to their care and to foster them:  to recognize the Holy Spirit’s activity and the copious nature of God’s grace and to rejoice over them!

Among those the Archbishop has supported, include the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  In one of their hymnals they sing of St. Barnabas with high and ready praise, and conclude with a verse that could be an exhortation for us all:

All sons of consolation, how great their joys will be

When Christ the King shall tell them ‘You did it unto me’: 

The merciful and loving, the Loving Lord shall own,

And set them as his jewels, around the Father’s throne. 

 

Cher Mgr Prendergast, que le Seigneur vous donne d’être constamment un Père qui encourage et qui console, afin que, par votre ministère épiscopal, les fidèles qui vous sont confiés dans cette vénérable et distinguée Église d’Ottawa puissent être, en paroles et en actes, les fils et les filles de la consolation, demeurant, d’un cœur ferme, fidèles au Seigneur. Amen.