Cardinal Collins with his sisters Catherine and Patricia Collins. Photo courtesy of the archdiocese of Toronto

To his sisters, Cardinal Collins will remain ‘T’

  • February 22, 2012

ROME - The first thing that went through the minds of Catherine and Patricia Collins when they saw their little brother in the full regalia of a cardinal was: “Wow, he really stands out now!”

They said that with love and pride shortly after Pope Benedict XVI made His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins the 16th cardinal in Canadian history. The sisters were at their brother’s side at several events during the days leading up to the Feb. 18 consistory, but nothing topped the moment when Collins joined the College of Cardinals.

“We’re just so proud,” said Catherine.

As she watched from a seat near the front of the church, Catherine said she thought about her parents and aunts and uncles.

“They would have been so thrilled, so proud that the youngest in the Collins family — on both sides of the family — had become a cardinal,” she said. “He looks so very good in red.”

Patricia said that the family, friends and the Catholic community of Guelph are looking forward to more celebrations at home.

“There are more events to come,” said Patricia. “This is just the beginning.”

Though they plan on calling him “Your Eminence” in public, “he’ll still be ‘T’ to us” in private, Patricia told Catholic News Service.

Fourteen members of the Collins family were on hand to see Cardinal Thomas Collins elevated to the College of Cardinals.

Fourteen members of the Collins family were on hand to see Cardinal Thomas Collins elevated to the College of Cardinals.

Photo courtesy of the archdiocese of Toronto

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement that said that Guelph, Ont.’s native son is a source of pride for all Canadians.

“On behalf of Canadians, I would like to congratulate His Eminence Thomas Collins on his formal elevation today to the College of Cardinals by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI in Rome,” read Harper’s statement. “While retaining his commitment to the 1.7 million Catholics in the archdiocese of Toronto and numerous Canadian charities, organizations and educational institutions, Cardinal Collins is now adding to his already-substantial international responsibilities.”

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who headed a Canadian delegation to the Vatican to attend the ceremonies, called the day both a “solemn and joyful occasion.”

“This is a testament to your hard work and faithful devotion to the Church,” he said.

Collins is Canada’s third cardinal, joining Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Vatican’s Prefect for the Congreation of Faith. Turcotte wished Collins “good luck — and courage.”

“I’m a fan of Thomas Collins,” said Turcotte. “It will be very useful for the Church to have a man like Thomas Collins (as a cardinal). The word of God is so important to us. In Cardinal Collins we have a scholar who can translate it for the people of the Church.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was represented in Rome by Gatineau Archbishop Paul-André Durocher. He said it is important to have a cardinal to speak on behalf of the Church in English Canada.

“Tom Collins will do that in a powerful and meaningful way,” said Durocher.

Durocher has known Collins for many years and has long admired his ability to articulate complex ideas.

“I’ve  been touched by the intellectual intelligence and practical intelligence that he brings to delicate issues. He also brings a sense of integrity, deep conviction and a sense of humour. It’s a quirky sense of humour. You have to get used to it but, once you do, it’s like fine wine — you want to come back to it.”

Toronto Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau says Collins will bring vision and sound advice to the life of the Church.

“He gives it oomph,” said Boissonneau. “He brings his experience and wisdom to the universal Church. This makes him a co-worker of the Holy Father. It gives him a higher profile in the world Church. That’s important too.”

Cardinals are selected by the Pope. Boissonneau suspects Collins impressed Benedict by his pro-active response to the sex-abuse crisis, particularly his role as an Apostolic Visitor to Ireland, and also by his determined work on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

“Obviously, his words and actions caught the eye of the Holy Father,” Boissonneau said.

Many people who know Collins agree he has a rare ability to be serious when it matters without taking himself too seriously.

“There is a definite sense of him being able to laugh at himself and there is a complete lack of pretension,” said Toronto Auxiliary Bishop William McGrattan. “But what I’ve come to appreciate most is his real love for the priesthood — not only his own vocation but for all bishops and priests.”

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