By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, January 31, 2011

Setting out into Deep Waters

Back at the blog now after some time away for retreat and holidays. Ah, warm temperatures and golf. Nothing like it for recharging the batteries. I’m mentioning this here because, for some reason, the good folks at the office don’t want to hear anything about it. Might have something to do with the 60 centimetres of snow that fell on Edmonton and temperatures that dipped to 30 below while I was teeing off. Not sure. Just a guess.

John Paul II in Edmonton, 1984
During my time away some wonderful news was announced to the whole Church and, indeed, to the world. On May 1st, Pope John Paul II will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. By God’s grace, the impact of this beloved man from Poland on the Church and world was dramatic and profound. Among his vast legacy of writings, one of my favourites is the apostolic letter he wrote to prepare the Church to welcome the new millennium, Novo Millennio Ineunte. Basing himself on the first encounter between Jesus and Peter as recorded by Saint Luke (cf. Luke 5), John Paul challenged the Church to “put out into deep waters” (duc in altum) and let down the nets for a catch. He invited us further, again borrowing the words of the Lord, not to be afraid. This call to set out into the very deep waters of our day, and to rely at all times on the power and love of the Lord, has remained with me. Whether it is the “deep water” of modern communications technology, current and potential bioethical developments, the perilous situation of the family, the needs of our youth, or poverty and injustice at home and abroad, we are called not to turn away but to step into these realities with the life-giving message of the Gospel. We might well find it intimidating to do so, but Christ is with us. Be not afraid, as John Paul said when he first addressed the world upon his election as Pope.

The chapel doors
The seminary we have just completed in Edmonton is among the first to be built in North America in the new millennium. For this reason I wanted the call of Novo Millennio Ineunte to be reflected somehow in its design. Through the seminary and its sister institution, Newman Theological College, future priests and lay leaders of the new millennium are being prepared to encourage our people to put out into the deep and to rely at all times upon the Lord. In response to this particular request, a beautiful artistic rendition of Christ’s call to Peter has been etched into the bronze doors leading into the chapel seminary. It is a reminder to all of us of the exciting mission that is ours as members of the Church.

Visitors admire the new seminary chapel

This excitement was tangible on Saturday as we opened the doors of our seminary and college to the public in the first of two open houses. An estimated 1,300 people came through to see the buildings built on the foundation of their prayers and gifts. These two institutions are very dear to the people of our Archdiocese and beyond. We have had a seminary since 1927. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, following the vision of Archbishop Anthony Jordan, Newman Theological College was founded in 1969 as a place where both seminarians and lay people could obtain advanced theological degrees.

College bookstore open for business
  Their former site was in the way of a major freeway development around Edmonton, so we relocated to the grounds of our Catholic Pastoral Centre. Parishioners and neighbours have been watching the development of the new facilities for a couple of years now. Saturday was the first opportunity for many to see them. It was a delight and a great source of encouragement for me to witness how pleased and enthused our people were as they saw the new, beautiful, state-of-the art facilities in which the missions of St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College will continue.

On a very different and more sombre note, the world is watching developments in the Middle East very closely these days. Much of the attention is focused on developments in Egypt. It is striking to hear the words of the Lord in Sunday’s Gospel at the same time as we see the television images. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” Trusting reliance upon the wisdom and gifts of God is what makes for peace and what leads to beatitude or happiness. Let us not fail to pray for a peaceful resolution to the deep and complex issues now rising to the surface in the Middle East.