Keep in your prayers a prayerful bishop

By  Fr. Raby
  • October 13, 2006

We were glad. But we were sad. We were glad to see our Archbishop Anthony Meagher pay a brief visit at our Kingston archdiocese fall convocation. But we were sad because we felt that because of his illness it could be the last time we would see him at such a gathering.

Our annual fall convocation is a four-day session of topics concerning our own spiritual life and questions relating to our times and parishes.

The archbishop is always an important part of these meetings. But not this year, except for the visit on the third day when we all stood and greeted his appearance with applause, not only for his appearance but because we all knew the effort he made to be with us.

Archbishop Meagher is suffering from a very aggressive cancer which has reached the stage when doctors, after many treatments using the latest techniques and drugs, had to say that medically they can do nothing more. But, as one doctor involved with the treatments from the start said, “Of course we can’t rule out prayer.”

“Prayer” is what the archbishop has been receiving since the priests and people heard about the dreaded diagnosis.

Within a few months of coming to Kingston and expressing his happiness at his appointment as the eighth archbishop of the archdiocese, and with plans to publish his “Pastoral Vision for the Archdiocese” for its ongoing renewal, he called the priests unexpectedly to a Saturday morning meeting. The time and urgency of the meeting caused many to wonder the reason, and a few of us, like myself, enough concern to bring along the oil for the Anointing of the Sick.

Our fears were confirmed when the archbishop told us tests showed that he had cancer. It was serious, he said, but his doctor told him not to give in to the cancer, but to continue his work, which he certainly meant to do. To make sure he had all the spiritual help to do that, all of us gathered around him, while seminary friend Fr. John Granger anointed him with the oil of the sick which I had brought along “just in case.”

For the past four years the cancer would at times go into remission and then become more active, each time taking its toll until, as he told us during the vocational day, the doctors said that medically speaking his stay with us could be shorter rather than longer.

But in spite of his feeling of fatigue and the doctor’s sad prediction, the archbishop thanked the priests for their support and urged them to carry on with his pastoral vision for the ongoing renewal of our faith and the church called for by Vatican II.

We know that his pastoral vision is dear to his heart as he urged us to keep implementing its steps for ongoing renewal. In spite of the doctors’ pessimistic medical views, we all know that there is power greater than medical skill and knowledge. It is the author, not only of medical skills used to save life, but of life itself.

And it is to whom Archbishop Meagher entrusts himself.

At the end of his visit the archbishop asked that we repeat what we had done when he had first announced that he had cancer. We had anointed him with the oil of the sick. So once more while we extended our arms in blessing, Fr. John Hibbard said the prayers for the Anointing of the Sick.

Before leaving the archbishop stood as we filed by and, with a handshake that said more than any word could say, we bade our farewell.

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