My midday USAirways flight brought me to Philadelphia to take part in a retreat for priests (most from the USA, two others from Canada [BC] and one from New Zealand).
I enjoyed wandering around the 120-acre campus, multiple-building complex that makes this the largest retreat centre in the 'States. The dogberry trees and forsythia bushes are blooming (quite a sight), though it is about as cold here as Ottawa has been of late.
I was going to write further about the conference and atmosphere here, but as I opened my email messages, I learned that two priests associated with my service to the Church in Halifax have been called home by the Lord to share in the heavenly banquet at an unexpected hour just as the Great 50 Days of Eastertide get underway.
Father Lloyd Robertson was Atlantic School of Theology's first president (about 1974-80) and offered me my first teaching position, as one of two professors first hired by AST; that was in 1975 as I was finishing doctoral studies in Toronto. Thus began my relationship with the Church of Halifax--as it were my "first love"--where I had my first posting as a priest as director of seminarian formation and Professor of NT (1975-81). In latter years, Father Lloyd suffered from clinical depression, and it was painful to see someone who had been so playful and full of life struggling with daily life itself. His sadness is ended now and I am sure he was delighted to hear from Christ's lips, "good and faithful servant, enter into your Master's joy".
Father George Leach was a beloved brother in the Jesuit Order: he preached at my Final Vows. That was on the Wednesday of Easter Week (April 19) in 1979. The gospel that day featured the Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35) in which the Risen Lord Jesus first veils himself from the eyes of the sorrowing disciples, lets them share their burdens with Him and then exposes how the Messiah (and all his followers) have to pass through suffering to enter into the glory of the resurrection.
George worked on the staff of the Catholic Pastoral Centre in lay and diaconal formation, then served as the Superior of the Halifax Jesuits during my tenure there as archbishop (1998-2007). Recently he had been named Rector of Regis College in Toronto and was undertaking his leading role in the priestly formation of younger Jesuits. This Saturday, he would have presented his first candidates for ordination.
May God grant them both a merciful judgment and may the Good Shepherd draw them to His Sacred Heart and invite them to draw water joyfully from the wellsprings of salvation! Please join me in praying for the repose of their souls and for the consolation of their relatives, friends and those touched by their ministry who grieve their sudden passing.
May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.