Archbishop Meagher devoted to his people 'til the end

By  Fr. Raby
  • December 22, 2006

His final wish. Several weeks ago when the doctor of palliative care visited Arcbishop Anthony Meagher, now in the later stages of cancer, he said: "I have three questions I would like to ask you." The archbishop nodded.

"Are you depressed?" he asked.

"No," the archbishop said. The doctor nodded.

"Do you feel your life has meaning?" "Of course, as a priest I know it has meaning."

"And my last question. Is there any thing you would like to do before you die?" There was no hesitation in the strong reply: "To celebrate Mass in St. Mary's Cathedral on Dec. 8."

It was a serious question at a very serious time. And the answer expressed the archbishop's love and devotion for those who meant the most to him, the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom he was devoted as a priest, and the people of his archdiocese of Kingston to whom he was devoted as their shepherd.

"Well," the doctor said after looking at his chart, "if things stay as they are, we just might be able to do that."

Archbishop Meagher succeeded Archbishop Francis Spence in August 2002. After only a few months in office he was diagnosed with cancer that needed immediate attention. But he was determined to carry on his episcopal duties and be a visible presence in the community. This he has done in sickness and in health.

Even as the cancer grew stronger and he was confined more and more to his family home in Oshawa for the last few months, Archbishop Meagher kept abreast of diocesan business through his chancery officials by phone and Internet.

His hope of being at the cathedral for the eighth of December was encouraged by the doctor's words, "if things stayed the same." But things didn't stay the same. In spite of his hopes and with an ambulance standing by to transport him to Kingston, it became evident cancer was stronger than was his ability to go.

Archbishop Meagher sent a message to be read at the Mass expressing regrets at being unable to be present. He asked Archbishop Spence to offer the Mass and Msgr. Lynch, the vicar gave the homily. In closing he thanked Msgr. Lynch and Secretary Katherine Quinlan for their assistance during his illness, and for the prayerful support of so many.

But if the archbishop could not come to Kingston, Fr. Tim Shea, a long-time friend of the archbishop, thought it fitting that Kingston should go to the archbishop, so he drove to Oshawa and with two other lifetime friends, Fr. Keith Callahan and Fr. Leo Clutterbuck, celebrated in his hospital home on Dec. 8.

Fr. Shea, representing Kingston, was the principal celebrant. Fr. Callaghan gave a homily and Fr. Clubberbuck gave the Anointing of the Sick. The archbishop from his bed added his special prayer: "For the priests and people of Kingston."

Though he could not be in the cathedral with his people on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Archbishop Meagher, through the Mass at the cathedral and the Mass by his bedside, was present to his flock and they to him in the best possible way, in the mind of God and of His chosen one on her special day.

Editor's note: While keeping Archbishop Meagher in your prayers, please also say a prayer for Fr. Raby. Father is recovering from another stroke suffered on Dec. 14. His column will be on hiatus as he rehabilitates.

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