Canadians share in historic U.S. moment

  • January 22, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - It was a road trip of a lifetime for Newman Centre parishioner Monique Ferdinand.

The 26-year-old consultant made the 10-hour drive to Washington, D.C., with two friends for the inauguration of the United States’ first African-American president, Barack Obama, Jan. 20.

Ferdinand said it was important for her to be there to witness history and join the close to two million people who came to attend the inauguration, “those who have been touched and inspired by Obama,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Register.

Ferdinand had also attended the opening ceremony for Obama’s inauguration which included a free concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

In Washington, Ferdinand stayed at a Carmelite monastery. One of its residents, Marlon Mateo, 33, also attended the inauguration. A former seminarian at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto who will be ordained a Carmelite priest next year, Mateo said he welcomed Obama’s biblical references about taking responsibility and “refocusing the people to God” during his inauguration speech.

“The main message of Barack is hope, being hopeful that America will change,” he said in a telephone interview.

Fr. Pat O’Dea, pastor and executive director of the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto, said he encouraged Ferdinand to go to Washington and bring back her experience of the inauguration to the parish. He arranged for Ferdinand to stay with the Carmelites.

O’Dea was born in Ireland but raised in the United States and served in the U.S. Air Force. He remembers the civil rights marches and the march after Martin Luther King’s assasination when a lot of priests joined in.

“It was quite moving,” he said, “the idea that this historic moment was coming is very, very important.”

O’Dea said young Catholics who admire Obama “aren’t blind-sided by the fact that there are a number of issues which (they don’t) agree with in the moral realm,” citing Obama's support for abortion. The hope, O’Dea said, is that Obama will follow through on what he had previously stated in public: that he will be a president who will listen to people and consider different opinions.

“Regardless of where the president is on certain issues, people have to work with him in terms of getting their issues heard,” he said.

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