Opening Statement



Monday, 9 January 2012

Archbishop Tom Collins Appointed Cardinal!


It's official, Toronto Archbishop Tom Collins is going to Rome next month to be invested as a Cardinal. It's quite an honour. Not only are the Cardinals the popes closest advisers, but they also choose the next pope from among their ranks. So someday will we have our own Toronto Pope?


No matter. Like many of you I have enjoyed the privilege of meeting personally with his Excellency on his rounds of the archdiocese, meeting the faithful. After he was appointed to Toronto, he wished to meet with all the partners of Catholic education. That of course included, the parishes, the trustees, the board, and in his Excellency's case, the teacher's too! He gladly accepted our TSU invitation to join us for lunch at one of our executive meetings. I think we were all surprised when he came bounding up the steps, concerned he might be late, after his driver had some trouble finding our office in the condo complex on Wilson Ave.


In my opinion, his everyday charm and direct, personal concern for his flock, is what makes him so delightful for me. He doesn't have to enter with trumpets and great fanfare, far from it. Over lunch he turned out to be quite an amicable fellow equally able to discuss deep ecclesiastic issues, or show us his blackberry and enjoy some informal chatter and good cheer. Tom Collins doesn't have to act like he is an Archbishop, with all the trappings, by his very presence he just is the Archbishop. I got the sense power and responsibility rest quite comfortable on his shoulders. He didn't have to prove anything, he is the real McCoy, and on top of that he's just a regular guy too.


His visit was quite interesting. Over a glass of wine, I enquired as to what he was listening to lately on his Ipod. Without missing a beat he noted he had a few cyber books; the New Testament of course, and Dante's Inferno. He likes classical music and Broadway show tunes. If pressed he will even belt one out for you. How could you not help like the guy?


More importantly, Archbishop Tom Collins let us know that he quite certainly supports our publicly funded Catholic school system, and appreciated the work we do as teachers, on the front lines. I was telling him about my school, James Cardinal McGuigan [JCM] in a perhaps particularly challenging part of the city, in which he expressed great interest. I asked him if he could come visit our students. He gave me his card, told me to call the office and book an appointment. Well,  I figured that was the end of that but a few months later there he was in our school gym meeting the students. They are not an easy crowd to win over or please regardless of who you might be. Out in the streets it's all often the same to them. A title alone does not guarantee anybody credibility.


However, the Archbishop spoke in a very direct and engaging manner, answering some pretty heady religious questions from our more advanced students, and yes, when asked, he belted out a show tune at the close. The students flocked around him to talk Blackberry's on his way out and show him there's. Maybe that's nothing particularly high falootin', but in my estimation he is just what we need, an Excellency for our times. Listen, if the kids in the Jane Finch Keele triangle really like him, like they did, that's no small feat.


On another occasion his excellency accepted our TSU invitation to a reception where we also invited our new board trustees. This was after the Ministry of Education returned control of our board, and perhaps like now, we were very concerned about where this might lead. His excellency was there, and so where some of the trustees. We were of course very honoured and touched he could show up, after all he was getting ready to go to Rome, but nonetheless Archbishop Tom Collins still managed to fit us in his hectic schedule.


Certainly, with the future of our publicly funded Catholic schools facing so many increasing challenges, it's reassuring to have an Excellency like him at the helm. We have the largest public Catholic board in Canada, if not one of the biggest in the world. As we proceed into a new century, I strongly sense the Archbishop is a man of his times and will serve us well, here, and in Rome.


So welcome Archbishop Cardinal Tom Collins to your new position as our Cardinal too! I'm sure we will all , as Catholic teachers, remember him in our prayers, and can rest assured we will be in his. As our experiences at TSU and my school suggest, he is not one to hesitate rolling up the foot of his gown and treading straight into the rough waters of Catholic education in our province, our schools, our city, union, and board. I'm sure like the rest of our TSU members I certainly look most forward to both his very inspiring spiritual and human guidance as our new Cardinal in the years ahead.


Archbishop Tom Collins visits with the staff at JCM.



The students check out the Archbishop's Blackberry. He was a big hit with the kids.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steve you will be missed. known you for 15 years and that wasn't long enough.

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