No community should botch its deaths. Last month a wonderful leader within the faith community in Canada died and it could profit us all more fully to receive his spirit. How do we do that? It can be helpful for us, I believe, to highlight those places where his life, his energy and particularly his leadership steadied us in our faith and helped us to use our own gifts more fully to serve God. Who was this man? Joseph Neil MacNeil, Emeritus Archbishop of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
I was lucky enough to have had him as my bishop for the first 18 years of my priesthood. He was a good mentor, and I needed one. I had just finished seminary and, not unlike many a naïve young man just turned loose in ministry, I had overly rigid views on what was wrong with the world and how to fix that; views rooted more in personal immaturity than in prudence, views in need of a lot of levelling out. He was
a guiding hand, not just for me but for many others too.
And this was a time when the Church as a whole was struggling for a deeper maturity. The Church was just engaging the reforms of Vatican II, wondering whether it was going too far or not far enough, and reeling at the same time from the radical cultural and sexual changes of the late 1960s. Change was everywhere. Nothing, Church-wise or otherwise, was as before. We were a pioneer generation ecclesially in need of new leadership.
He led us well, nothing too daring, nothing reactionary, just good, steady, charitable leadership that helped us, among other things, to be more pastorally sensitive, more ecumenical, less self-absorbed, less clerical, more open to lay involvement and more sensitive to the role of women. He kept things steady but inching forward, even while properly honouring the past.
Among his many gifts, three qualities of his leadership stand out as a challenge for us all to live our discipleship more deeply.
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