Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ottawa Priests' 2013 Retreat at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Cape

Our annual priests’ retreat (this year for the English Sector priests) brought together some thirty-plus diocesan and religious priests at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Cape (Cap-de-la-Madeleine, QC) in the diocese of Trois-Rivières.

Our leader was a layman Michael Dopp, president of Ministry of the Redeemer, a service to the Church, based in Ottawa, that assists Catholics to share their faith, taking up the new evangelization proposed by recent popes. He invited us to seek our own holiness through morning presentations on the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, and helped us see how to develop these same virtues in parishes, indicating how they can give energy to sharing the good news with others—helping “disciples” to become “apostles”.

When a bishop or priest makes the presentations, he usually delivers the homily at each retreat Mass. However, in this year’s circumstances, priests shared reflections with their peers in the homily: Fathers Frank Brewer, Jessimar Tapia and Brian Hennessey.

Our evenings were given over to celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation, an exchange with me on concerns in the archdiocese and an evening of Eucharistic adoration in the Old Shrine Chapel. On the latter occasion Father Carl Reid gave the reflection, and hymns were sung in Ibo by our Nigerian priests and out of the Anglican patrimony by Fr. Reid.

The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec held their fall plenary in the same retreat centre (Residence Madone) so via interactions in the dining-room and on the grounds each group agreed to pray for the other for our mutual spiritual benefit. The bishops were addressing important issues such as Bill 52, which opens the door to euthanasia, as well as the Charter of Quebec Values, both proposed in the National Assembly by the governing Parti Quebecois.

Early in the retreat, we were shocked to hear of the devastating OC Transpo bus collision with a Via Rail train in Barrhaven. The news became known to us just before Mass and so we were able to offer Mass for the victims, their families, first-responders and all touched by this tragedy.

Fr Steve Lemay with his Bishop, Mgr Luc Cyr

On Thursday some of us met Father Steve Lemay, pastor of the church in Lac-Mégantic, who had come to share with the bishops his experience of the sorrows and graces of this summer’s train derailment, explosion and fire. He thanked us for the support that came to his community from many Catholics across Canada.

Our closing Mass took place Friday morning in the chapel where 125 years ago (on June 22, 1888) a wondrous happening was reported: the opening of the eyes of the statue of Our Lady in the presence of three witnesses—a key layman, the parish priest and the Franciscan friar, Blessed Frederic Janssoone, beatified 25 years ago by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

We return to our parishes and ministries renewed in spirit, ready to address the challenges we face and, with God’s grace, to take part more deliberately in the task of evangelization. Please continue to pray for us.

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