Dec 27, 2011

Worth Remembering in 2011

As we prepare to turn the page on 2011, it's worth taking a look back at some highlights from the past year. While it's never easy to encapsulate all that's gone on in the Catholic world, it's fun to highlight a few key activities and give praise to those who have worked so hard to make it happen.

So while, our little list is not exhaustive by any means, it's an opportunity to reflect on some key moments in the life of the church (both local and global) this past year. Here's a few thoughts (in no particular order):

Pope Benedict XVI - it's safe to say that Pope Benedict has once again presided over an extremely active year in the life of the church. At 84, he has arguably one of the most high profile jobs on the planet. While most 80 somethings find a trip to the store for groceries a major outing, the Pontiff continues to meet with curial officials, bishops and diplomats from around the world daily. Yes, he's scaled back some of his meetings but that's understandable.

He's also surrounded himself with capable, trusted officials (including Quebec's Cardinal Ouellet). Apostolic voyages outside of Rome this past year included Croatia, Madrid (for World Youth Day), Germany and Benin, Africa. The man who once planned on retiring to his native Bavaria to write in "peace and quiet" has led a life that's been anything but private. We must remind ourselves that, at almost 85, he was the 5th oldest pope ever elected. Thank you Holy Father for all that you continue to give to the Church!

Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic - the 9th Archbishop of Toronto was called home to God in August of 2011. Plagued by health issues in the final years of his time as Archbishop and throughout his retirement, the late Cardinal will be remembered for his no nonsense approach to the faith. If you had a meeting with Cardinal Ambrozic, you walked out knowing where you stood. Those who worked closely with him also had a chance to see the lighter side, his humour and passion for books, history and culture.

Bishops from across Canada and priests throughout the Archdiocese came to St. Mike's Cathedral in Toronto to bid him adieu. One who never relished the media spotlight, he likely was smiling in heaven as a high profile political funeral the same week took away much of the media attention from His Eminence. More likely to show up unannounced at a soup kitchen or anonymously fund a struggling student with a scholarship, it was never about fanfare for the late bishop. His faith was woven in all that he did, never apologizing for proclaiming the truth and embracing his priesthood to the end. He will be missed.
Your Eminence, we thank you.

Third Edition of the Roman Missal - with "and also with you" officially retired to the rafters, "and with your spirit" became the new lingo in parishes everywhere throughout North America the first weekend of Advent. Still in its infancy, the new translation has definitely accomplished one goal for both clergy and laity - everyone is paying more attention to the words we proclaim at Mass. That's not a bad thing at all.

Likely the most awkward Christmas in recent history with a few jumbled responses, the New Year will bring with it a new familiarity of the text and hopefully, a new appreciation for the summit of our faith journey. Most agree that adult catechesis is something we could all benefit from and this is one of the best ways to start. As the New Evangelization and a Year of Faith to begin in the latter half of 2012, no doubt this is only the beginning of our catechism classes.

Beatification of Pope John Paul II. For Canadians watching from afar, this was sandwiched between a Royal Wedding, death of Osama Bin Laden and a Federal Election. If you were in Rome, you might as well have been in Poland with all the red and white flags on display. An opportunity to once again honour one the most beloved popes in history, "JPII we love you" chants were resurrected in St. Peter's Square with a multi-day celebration that clearly brought back fond memories for Catholics everywhere including Pope Benedict XVI.

Once again, a "teachable" moment for Catholics and people of any faith, the opportunity to learn more about the road to sainthood, miracles attributed to the process and a look back at the life of man who introduced World Youth Days to the church, making it cool to be catholic. The late days of 2011 also saw the canonization announced for Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha who will be North America's first aboriginal saint. We can always use more Catholic heroes from which to draw inspiration. This year was especially inspiring in that regard.

World Youth Day 2011 Madrid - an event that clearly invigorated Pope Benedict even if he had to cut short an evening prayer service due to a violent storm. These gatherings still demonstrate the tremendous passion of young Catholics ready to proclaim their faith and energized by a global gathering that is part catechesis, part youth festival and completely marinated with faith. Organizers in Brazil are scrambling to pull together WYD 2013 in two years rather than the requisite three over the last decade. With WYD, the World Cup and Olympics on tap over the next five years, it's clear that Brazil is flexing its collective muscle on the world stage - whether or not the Mardi Gras influence will seap into WYD celebrations remains to be seen.

Refugee Sponsorship - Archdiocese of Toronto - this one is from the local perspective but it could easily be at the top of the list. Close to 150 parishes across the Archdiocese have been engaged in refugee sponsorship over the last year, a tremendous response. Most communities have supported families fleeing the Middle East, in large part Christian, as a response to increasingly unsafe conditions there, ongoing violence (often in the midst of worship services) and continued instability.

Parishes never cease to amaze at their generosity, taking in the stranger and offering shelter, clothing and monetary support, in addition to assistance with finding employment and helping families learn the ropes of a new community, new language, new country. Our Archdiocese is truly a United Nations of countries, immigrants who've come worldwide to a city that has welcomed them with open arms.

To the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office for Refugees, every parish, priest, committee member and volunteer who's helped make the dream of a new home a reality for hundreds of families this year, we thank you. One can only imagine what Christmas in 2011 is like for someone who lived in fear of even attending Mass just a year ago.

So while there are literally dozens of other stories or personalities that could be highlighted in this space, we'll leave it at that for now. To all who have made a difference in 2011, for those who quietly serve without fanfare, to those who fill the first 12 rows faithfully day to day, week to week, we're forever grateful.

May the New Year bring with it God's blessings in abundance, health, happiness and the chance to walk hand in hand with our God once again in 2012! Or to sum it up in shorthand - and with your spirit in 2012!

1 comment:

Gerard and Marge McCauley said...

We wish to thank Neil from the bottom of our hearts for this wonderful reflection " Worth Remembering in 2011". This allowed us to reflect and give thanks once again for our many blessings, including this wonderful faith which was passed on to us from our ancestors and for those that tirelessly continue to walk the walk and follow Jesus! Happy 3rd day of Christmas and we wish you and your family and everyone out there a blessed and Holy New Year!