Adventures with Anne #2: How I Came to be Part of the Annual Gathering of Canadian Bishops
Last time I wrote I was preparing to attend the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) Plenary in Cornwall, ON, representing the League as one of thirteen invited observer groups. Observers are welcomed to the Monday session and until 2:00 p.m. Tuesday. As a first-timer, I was somewhat uncertain what to expect though I had been given lots of information. I was collected at the Ottawa airport and shuttled to Cornwall, about an hour away, along with the Most Rev’s. Donald Bolen (Regina), Fred Colli (Thunder Bay), and Peter Hundt (Corner Brook). We had a lively conversation on a number of topics, some faith-based, some about our personal joys, such as the common love of long-distance walking shared with Archbishop Bolen, the love of our bishops for the church and their adopted communities, and our challenges as members of the church. All made me feel welcome, and my thanks was shown by shutting the door on dear Bishop Colli when we arrived at the NavCan Cente. He dutifully gave me the teasing I deserved.
I realized when I attended breakfast Monday morning how our national spiritual advisor must feel, as I was one of about four women in a sea of black suits. Indeed, one of the servers questioned whether I was in the correct room, understandably.
Being part of the Eucharistic celebrations both mornings was truly a blessing, though I almost missed mass on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. when I’d been up since 5:30 and ready by 6:30, but that is another story. Suffice it to say I was there in lots of time to hear the readings of the day proclaimed and the homily given by presider, Most Rev. Gregory Bittman (Nelson), before I presented the mass intercessions.
What a privilege to hear CCCB President, Most Rev. Lionel Gendron (Saint-Jean-Longueuil), give his report. He enthusiastically stated that the Conference is seeking new ways to assist bishops, and therefore, parishioners, in finding new connections with the church in different ways. He summarized important work being done by COLF, the need for continued advocacy for palliative care and defence of life, which can trace its roots to the settling of New France; calling on the prime minister to rescind the attestation clause in the Canada Summer Jobs Program, which violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; issues relating to religious freedom in Canada; the Morgentaler decision; legalization of marijuana; and the call to action for all members of the Canadian church with regard to Indigenous peoples. He reminded all gathered of the important advisory capacity to the CCCB of the Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council on the occasion of their twentieth anniversary in 2018. It truly is a “time of Grace”, he stated.
Bishop Gendron asked for prayers for the CCCB so they may “remain faithful to the flock entrusted to them”. This is especially poignant in light of the recent sexual abuse in Pennsylvania. They may be assured of the prayers of the members of the League.
During an animation by the Palliative Care Working Group, a newly formed group of the CCCB, including Most Rev. Noel Simard (Valleyfield), Bonnie Tompkins and Archbishop Richard Smith (Edmonton), end of life issues were considered, and a rough draft of a parish based resource kit, was presented. While people await its expected completion in mid-2020, Archbishop Smith presented a slide entitled “Great things happening already!” which included The Catholic Women’s League of Canada “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care” initiative. It was a beautiful feeling when this huge effort which has produced untold benefits through the prayers of members, was recognized.
The complete report of my visit to the Plenary will be sent to national office for circulation among board members.
As my flight from Montreal was not leaving until about 9:30 p.m., I had an opportunity to review my notes before taking a long brisk walk along the St. Lawrence River. I could only imagine how important this beautiful piece of creation has been from time immemorial until the present; and there within swimming distance was another country! “God is good – all the time.” Back to the cottage by 12:45 a.m. and a little chat with my husband before a welcome sleep. Tomorrow, if God is willing, will bring more e-mails, texts, phone calls, and responses to write; today, I thank Him for the breath I’m allowed.