Francis Leo at his Mass of Installation as Archbishop of Toronto, March 25, 2023. Michael Swan

The man in the mitre

  • March 29, 2023

About 10 days before Montreal Auxiliary Bishop Francis Leo was installed at the 11th Archbishop of Toronto, succeeding retired Archbishop Thomas Collins, he generously made time in a frantic schedule of meetings and moving cities to sit down for an interview with The Catholic Register

As the interview began in his offices on the sixth floor of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre in Toronto, I told Leo that I’d made a conscious decision not to ask him for his position on the innumerable storms of the day — from Indigenous reconciliation to clergy abuse scandals to Medical Assistance in Dying to the gyrations of the German bishops in their push for same-sex marital blessings. 

The about-to-be Archbishop quickly demonstrated he would have been capable of discussing any of those issues, and many more. His years as a priest in Quebec, time in the Vatican diplomatic service, service as the secretary general of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, had all obviously provided tailor-made training for handling hot button issues. His answer when I asked him about a Montrealer having to pretend he cares about the fate of the Leafs was abundant proof of that. 

But like the inevitable seasonal failure of the Leafs, controversial topics will always be with us. They’re there for later interviews. I thought it far more important that the first interview offer him a chance to let his new parishioners know who their new Archbishop is — as a person and as a man of God. To that end my preference, I explained, was for a conversation, not an interrogation.

On that basis, we began by talking about our shared love for Our Blessed Mother, Mary. 

Peter Stockland: I was looking through some background material, and my eyes popped when I came across your motto is, “Just do what He tells you.” That sentence is my favourite in all of Scripture. I love it for a variety of reasons, but mainly because of it says everything about Mary, or Myriam as I always think of her. It captures perfectly for me how amazing she is.  As I was thinking about it I wondered what is the meaning of that for you? Why is it your motto? Why choose that, and not something else?

Archbishop Francis Leo: Well, it’s taken from the first miracle our Lord ever made at the Cana of Galilee. And they are the last recorded words of the Blessed Mother in the Scriptures. They’re sort of her spiritual last will and testament. What she’s telling us is we always need to refer back to Christ, who is the centre. As I like to put it, Our Lady is not the centre, but she is central. In our walk with the Lord, and our pursuit of the path of holiness in the Church as a missionary disciple, Our Lady holds a central place.

That first miracle, which speaks volumes to us, it could be interpreted as, well, it’s a sign, right? It doesn’t call them miracles, but signs which point to Christ, His identity and His mission. Our Lady is part of that. She’s part of the miracle making. She’s part of the new wine that Christ came to give us. And sort of like the Heavenly Father, who, at baptism, we hear His voice, the baptism of Christ, and also at the Transfiguration: “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” 

So we have our Heavenly Father saying, “This is Jesus, listen to Him.” Now we have our heavenly mother who’s pointing to the same saying, “This is Jesus. Do whatever He tells you.” And it’s our vocation as a Christian to be a child of God, and a disciple, brother or sister, of Christ, temple of the Holy Spirit, member of the Church. Our Lady is saying, “Keep your eyes focused on Christ, like I did,” as she says, “Do whatever He tells.”

So, it means fulfilling the will of Christ, who always fulfills the will of the Father. And in doing the will of God, we find peace and meaning and hope in our own journey. It really encapsulates the essence of our faith that points to Christ. And we have a mother, His mother,  who He has given to be our mother, to walk with us, to accompany us. And she’s always pointing back to her son, saying that we are to do in our daily life whatever Christ asks of us. And so it’s foundational, and it’s fundamental to our identity as a child of God and as a member of the Church, as a follower of Christ, to live out our faith with this command, if you will. With this exhortation on the part of the Blessed Mother. So for me, it speaks very much of who we are and what we’re called to accomplish your honour.

Peter Stockland: One of the things, too, that I just love, that affects me so much about that scene, and I wonder if this is part of your thinking as well, is that she’s actually quite bossy at the beginning. She goes to Him and tells Him — and she knows who He is — but she goes to Him and says, “Hey, you’ve got to do this. We’re out of wine here.” She’s a quintessential Jewish mother. She’s probably, what, 42, 43 years old at the time. She goes, “Hey, come on, son. We’re in trouble here. You’ve got to do something.” And He’s like so many sons being bossed around by their mothers, “Listen, I’m not ready to do that yet.”

Francis Leo: My hour is not come yet.

Peter Stockland: My hour’s not yet come. And yet, she says “Come on.” And she actually pushes Him out the door, so to speak.

Francis Leo: That’s right. She’s the catalyzer of the first miracle. And that boldness, which speaks to the relationship they had of mother and son. And this again is beautiful. On the one hand we’re called, but to humility, but to be also very bold with our prayers, and go to Jesus and ask Him what we really need with faith, and trust, and humility, of course, that His will be done. That’s the condition. His will be done always. So what she’s telling us is your request, your prayers of intercession, need to be based on a relationship with my son Jesus. Belonging to the family.

Now she of course, she’s a biological mother, but Jesus also opened up to the eschatological family. The family of the Kingdom. And it’s by faith we enter that family. Our leader was also His mother in the order of nature, but also His disciple in the order of grace, and the best, most perfect of follower of Christ. So what she’s telling us is, “Bring your concerns, your woes, your joys, your problems and your requests to my son.” She’s also there as the one who intercedes for us. And at the Calvary, He gives her to be our spiritual mother, Mother of the Church, universal Mother. And we adopt her. We bring her home, as St. John did.

I think it also highlights the importance of Our Lady’s intercessory role right now in Heaven. As the Council tells us, she constantly intercedes for the brothers and sisters of her son in our pilgrimage of faith. And that’s an essential element of our walk in the Church.

Peter Stockland: As you begin your walk in a new role within the Church, Archbishop of Toronto,  there’s this really curious little graph on Wikipedia about you, where it gives  your birthdate, the first 25 years of your life growing up, then priesthood, and for 25 years after that. So, there are two blocks that essentially represent two and a half decades each of your life. Then what it identifies about you are the recent changes in your life given in decimal points of years. You’re announced as auxiliary bishop in Montreal, 51.3 years, installed as auxiliary bishop, 51.5 years, and so on, until now. It gives the decimal point changes in your life as a kind of arithmetical representation of the rapidity with which you’ve come to this new position. As I was looking at it, I wondered whether you might have had, in a way, a human response similar to Our Lord’s: “I’m not ready for this yet. Why are you pushing me out the door?” And Our Lady saying, “Come on, it’s time. You’ve got to do this.”

Francis Leo: Well first of all, thank you. I didn’t know there was (a Wikipedia) article on me, so I need to look into that. But definitely. You’ve hit it on the head in terms of me experiencing this call within the call, if you will. This other service that I’m being asked. And I’m looking at it through the eyes of the Annunciation. And I’ve said that a number of times how Our Lady’s question: “How is this possible?” Well, I asked that too. This is happening very, very quickly. But then again, her example of complete surrender to the will of God, and her acceptance of God’s plan for her, even though she didn’t have the blueprints in front of her. And that’s the greatness of it. She trusted. And she entrusted her life and her future into the hands of God, who is most trustworthy of all, the most loving of all, all knowing, all powerful and all loving and omnipresent. So again, her relationship with the Lord and her deep faith allowed her to say “yes” when she didn’t have all of the answers. And that’s her greatness too: her humility and her purity of course, and her deep charity, and her trust in the Lord. That if He was asking her, things were going to be okay in the end.

"The Lord has been preparing me for 50 years"

Peter Stockland: Yeah. And that’s a motto for you as well, I guess. That she is telling you to say ‘yes’ and do what He tells you.

Francis Leo: She definitely is. Yeah. I’m basing it on her fiat. God’s asking me through Holy Mother Church and through the voice of the Holy Father to do something I would’ve never thought of. I did not seek, but I’m asked to serve in another way. Our whole life as a life of service.

And so I’ve served the Lord for 25 years, 26 years as a priest, four as a deacon, and before that as a baptized person. And now I’ve been asked to continue to serve the Kingdom in this other way. It’s all about Jesus, and doing His will and His Kingdom. That’s what we seek first and foremost. And it’s righteousness, the Kingdom. And so I’m asking to serve in this way, and so I said yes.

Peter Stockland: It’s interesting too, isn’t it, because when it was announced that you were going to become the archbishop of this archdiocese, a completely understandable response was, “Wow, that was fast.” Yet you spent 50 years of your life preparing for this…

Francis Leo: Well, the Lord has been preparing me for 50 years for this. I guess from other all things, we need to look at it from a supernatural perspective.  I’m a child of God and called and gifted empowered like all other Christians to do work for the Kingdom. And so when you look back at how the Lord has perhaps been preparing me, the different ministries I’ve been in for many years, and now, I’m being asked to serve in this way, which is a very particular way and a very challenging ministry. And so, I trust Him and I entrust my life and my future, my ministry into His hands and to His heart. I know He will walk with me and ask his mother to walk with me in a special way. I do believe that very much.

Family, parish priests help shape Leo’s ministry

Peter Stockland: Are there specific elements of your own formation and experiences? I mean, obviously, you were in a diplomatic service for a number of years. Certainly, you know the situation of the Church in Quebec as well as anybody, and I want to talk a bit more at length about that in a minute. But in terms of things right now you’re calling on from your years of formation or, as you very well put it, God’s formation of you, are there specific things? Are there saints you turn to and say, “Give me strength to get me through this. Help me unpack the boxes?”

Francis Leo: Yes, definitely. So I guess at this point, I’d be drawing more from my six years at the CCCB (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) because I did get to know the Church in Canada in a very close-up way, worked in a parochial diocese and the international (experience) with the Holy See. And I find myself truly blessed to have been able to serve the Church in Canada for six years (as secretary-general of the CCCB), which gave me a very widespread perspective and knowledge of the Church in its beauty and in its weaknesses across the country, including Ontario and including Toronto.

So I find myself drawing a lot from that experience. As for saints, yeah, I mean, number one, of course, is Our Lady who is our role model of every Christian, first and foremost. The other saints that I would turn to would be St. Joseph, patron saint of Canada. How could we not? And I was briefly pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Montreal. St. Dominic, I’m a Dominican third order member. St. John Bosco, as I was growing up, was very important. And then some of the holy bishops of the Church. I have a fondness for the fathers of the Church. I read extensively and taught for many years patristics. And so, you’ve got Ambrose and Augustine and St. John Chrysostom and the Cappadocians, Leo the Great, and Gregory the Great, and other Eastern fathers who blended in a beautifully harmoniously way, personal sanctity, mystic life of prayer, men who were scholars and builders, who were pastors and teachers, who were spiritual fathers, and very creatively strengthened and expanded the Kingdom of Christ in the midst of lots of upheaval and many problems that they had to face, social, political, religious and all. So I looked to them and St. Alphonsus Liguori, one of my favourites, and Francis de Sales, Charles Borromeo. Those are some of the saintly bishops that I asked to help me.

Peter Stockland: I’m just rereading St. Francis de Sales’ The Sign of the Cross. I love his explication at the beginning of ceremony and how ceremony is empty and meaningless — even the sign of the Cross is empty and meaningless — unless you infuse it with God. And that’s why you make the sign. It’s not for a gesture for yourself. It’s because it’s the opportunity to bring God in. And of course, St. Frances de Sales being a patron saint of journalists or writers, the people in  my trade certainly need to be reminded to bring God in to avoid being meaningless….

Francis Leo: That’s right.

Peter Stockland: We need Him to bring meaning into our lives, don’t we?

Francis Leo: Yes. Absolutely.

Peter Stockland: This might not be an entirely fair question to ask you at this point in your new walk, but are there individuals who have shaped you maybe more than some others, that you look to at a human level, people whom, when you have a moment, you kind of say, “Oh yes, this is what so and so would have done, or this is what has someone else helped me in a way that I need to turn that around for somebody else?” Any individuals in particular?

Francis Leo: In my own personal life?

Peter Stockland: In your life. 

Francis Leo: I would say perhaps three categories of people. One would be my family. The second would be the parish priests I grew up with, my home parish. And the third would be the umpteen priests who taught me, and formed me, and trained me at the seminary and in the diplomatic service. Those categories of persons and spiritual directors, who I think contributed a lot to me becoming a priest and following the Lord. So depending on the issue, I would turn back and say, “What would this person or that person say, my family, priest of the parish growing up,” and then the other... and lay people, I must say. How high I’ve been edified, challenged and blessed in keeping friends with the laity all throughout my years in keeping it real connected to the grassroots level?

For me, that was very important. Even as I was studying to become a priest, I’ve always kept friends, lay people. I think it’s very healthy. And I would share with them in my own ministry, my own life and their ministry and their life. It really is a wake-up call. Otherwise, what you want to avoid all the time is to be isolated in your own ivory tower, separated from people. That is not the way of Christ, nor should it be our way. You always have to be in contact with the real people and live your life for the real people. And that means everybody across the board.

Montreal upbringing builds in archbishop appreciation for diversity

Peter Stockland: Listening to that, I’m thinking, too, that as someone of Italian heritage growing up in the East End of Montreal…

Francis Leo: Villeray. Villeray-St. Michel. 

Peter Stockland: Yeah. Oh, okay. I thought you were in Riviere-des-Prairie. But particularly in the generation that you grew up, there was a need to navigate for Italians in Montreal, right?  I mean, you were born after the  riots in Saint-Leonard over language rights. And then, the point came where non-French speaking-non-English speaking Quebecers were labeled “allophones,” whatever that means. So you had to navigate between the two dominant linguistic groups. It’s particularly true of Italian people in Montreal, isn’t it? They navigate. They navigate between the francos and the anglos. And you absorb that, don’t you? You learn. You listen for the accent, and then…

Francis Leo: Exactly.

Peter Stockland: …you pick up the mother tongue of the person speaking so you answer them in the right language…

Francis Leo: In Montreal, you do. Yeah. You navigate between the three languages in my case. We grew up speaking Italian at home, English at school, a little French at school, and then French in the lane, playing in the lane with the kids. So you learn to appreciate diversity, although the difficulties were still there as well. They were always going to be there. So in my family, an immigrant family, you work hard. You are connected to the Church. We have the sacraments. It’s about family, and it’s about providing for each other, providing for a good future and a sense of sacrifice and a sense of respect to God, respect for your elders, respect for the institutions, respect for God, faith, respect for the government. Respect is big. And the selflessness and sacrifices you need to do, that was big growing up. And it’s part of who I am as well.

Peter Stockland: And I guess you learn how to get along without abandoning who you are, right?

Francis Leo: That’s right.

Peter Stockland: You get along with people. You find the ways. You find the connection points…

Francis Leo: We’ve got different heritages and different ways of doing things at home. So, yeah, it forcibly makes you more malleable, more flexible because, okay, this person’s coming from another tradition, from another culture. They do things differently. So I don’t impose my way, but I need to understand where you’re coming from. It’s not my way perhaps, but I know where you’re coming from. And I can appreciate the differences. And in building unity, getting along, be it playing on the playground or in the lane, at school, getting along with people who are not of the same colour or faith or cultural sensitivity, and yet being friends and coming together to share something even though we don’t have everything in common.

Peter Stockland: I wonder if you see a challenge there — a primary challenge even — in making the transition from Montreal to Toronto, God bless you. Making that transition but within the context of the Quebec Church where it’s a struggle for existence, where people insist they’re baptized Catholics but haven’t been to Mass for 40 years, to Toronto where there’s still a very robust Catholic culture even if the churches are less full than they used to be. And is there a burden involved in that? If you’re used to struggling to just make a go of it, it’s different than stepping up into a role like this where the expectations are still very high. How do you foresee the change that will demand?

Francis Leo: Well, what helps me is my exposure to the international scene having lived in Australia, in Hong Kong, for example, exposed to other realities where the Church is not all that prominent or is the minority as in Hong Kong. So you approach an issue with humility, trying to see first and foremost the wonderful things already at hand, and then saying, “I want to contribute to that.” The challenges will always be there. There will never be a perfect world because that doesn’t exist, and so we have to factor in the human element and there’s no perfection this side of Heaven. However, there are wonderful things, life-giving things that are being done both in Quebec and in Ontario. And so my approach is, how can I join that and contribute to that to increase it even more? Definitely there are many differences and we can go through them and we’ll be here till the Second Coming.

But we need to also learn from each other and how we can help each other as we navigate these storms. And for example, secularism, well, that’s in Toronto and it’s in Montreal and it’s in the U.S. and it’s in Europe and it’s in Asia and it’s everywhere, to different degrees, different extent, but it’s there and it’s not going away. So can we learn from each other how to deal in a life-giving way, not in a crushing, arrogant way, but to live in a pluralistic, multicultural society where our rights are respected, religious freedom is expected. We can profess our faith and live our faith and yet live with people who are of other faiths or no faith as well, and that takes humility and intelligence.

Leo avoids ideology, stays grounded in reality

Peter Stockland: Slightly over a year ago now, I was a witness to people in Quebec and especially Montreal kneeling in snow and ice because of church closures during Covid just in order to be present at Mass in places like the parking lot of Mary Queen of the World Cathedral… 

Francis Leo: On Christmas night?

Peter Stockland: And then afterward. One time, it was minus 29 and people were kneeling on the ice, in the snow while Archbishop Lépine was saying Mass. And it signified to me Catholics insisting: “We are not going to let this go.” Even stripped down. When you’re not even the pilgrim Church anymore. When the Church is literally on its knees, reduced to its absolute essentials. How do you carry that sense of grievous woundedness yet extraordinary strength with you?

Francis Leo: So I think you need to avoid ideology at every cost, and I think you need to be grounded in reality. This is who we are now. This is who we are right here, right now. We can learn from the past and we can learn from others. And I think an approach is always humility. We know what comes after pride. And so if we get too cocky and too proud and too arrogant, the Holy Spirit will not be part of that equation. So I think we need to increase and underscore and celebrate the wonderful things, and to continue to grow, but to stay humble as well because things can change fast. So authenticity, not be content with just numbers because numbers are numbers. We need to go beyond the numbers and see the people and see the communities and see the struggles, and work with them at the grassroots level and encourage them and strengthen people and their walk of faith and be present for them and walk with them and build together with them in the reality that we face today.

I don’t have a preconceived idea because I like to work with what’s in front of me, with reality. Of course, our ideal is the Gospel and it’s Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and they’re there. And Our Lord gave us the game plan, what we need to do. And not only that, but He said He will be with us always till the end of time. And the Holy Spirit, who’s the soul of the Church animating, putting life into all things, and the Blessed Mother and the community of saints and angels. I mean, we’re not alone. This is beautiful. But the challenges remain there and we will face them together.

Peter Stockland: A slightly different question that occurs to me, picking up on your word “authenticity,” is how, as you go to the different parishes here in Toronto, and you meet different Torontonians and you speak with different Torontonians, how can you authentically pretend that you, a born and bred Montrealer who grew up playing in the alleyways of Villeray in Montreal, hope that the Toronto Maple Leafs do well this season? How are you possibly going to be able to authentically carry that off?

Francis Leo: Now you are getting political here (laughter).

Peter Stockland: But how can you possibly going to carry it off?

Francis Leo: I think there are a lot more things we have in common than we don’t. That’s a good question. Do we have another question? (laughter.) I do like sports. I like religion even more.

"I’m here to learn... to do a lot of listening"

Peter Stockland: To go back to what you said earlier, I want to explore your approach to things a bit more, are you by nature someone who sets priorities and then ticks the boxes or make sure that you get your priorities accomplished? Or do you come into a situation, whether in this role or in others, and say, “Okay, what’s the priority of the other people around me, not the priorities that I have”?

Francis Leo: So there’s the wonderful Catholic approach of “both/and.” Yes, I do have priorities and like to achieve them, but the priorities are not preset. I think we need to discuss those together. And so when I would come into a community or dealing with any question or issue at hand, first we listen and we ask questions and try to see what the Holy Spirit is telling us right now, and where people are at in terms of what they think needs to be done, what they see that needs to be changed and needs to be adopted, what they see is important. And we start with that. And then we put that next to the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, what they are teaching of the Church. And so any priorities that we can set need to be grounded in the positive faith, grounded in where the people are at.

Otherwise, again, you’re imposing an ideology or ideas that are not grounded, that won’t work, won’t fly. They’re not speaking to people and to their lived reality, and they’re not connected to anything really that counts as meaningful. And you’re wasting your time and other people’s time. So we look at it from God’s perspective. What does the Gospel say? And then (human) reality. What were people saying? Where are people at? What are the struggles? What are the difficulties? What are the joys? What are the signs of the times? What are the gifts here? Okay. Now what does the Gospel say, and how we’re going to move forward with all of these things.

Peter Stockland: I don’t know that it’s so current anymore, but for a very long time in leadership courses you were always taught that if you were going to make change, it had to be in the first 100 days. Remember? I always thought, sure, you can announce all the changes you want in a hundred days, but you haven’t actually changed people because people don’t change in a hundred days.

Francis Leo: No, that is right.

Peter Stockland: A fitness program takes at least six weeks to begin to take effect, never mind make complete change. You can’t change people in that short of a time. 

Francis Leo: Absolutely. And you need to learn. I’m here to learn. I’m here to do a lot of listening, a lot of hearing and asking questions, where we’re at in terms of Church, be it at the head office, in the different communities and parishes and schools and health-care services and religious communities, in the four regions of the archdiocese, trying to understand and trying to learn from people exactly what the reality is. It would be ridiculous and a waste of time for me to come in with preconceived ideas and say, “This is the way it’s going to be done.” That’s crazy talk. It’s arrogant. It doesn’t work. So, any reflection, and then any discernment, and decision, and plan of action that we need to implement needs to be, first of all, based on listening with humility and actively hearing what people have to say. And change is made with the grace of the Holy Spirit and with people being part of the solution. So I don’t have preconceived ideas. It does take more than a hundred days. I really want a personal contact with people, and to ask a lot of questions and take a lot of notes and bring it to prayer in Adoration and with the Rosary, by speaking to wise people, and people with experience,  to see what direction should we be going. And I go back to my first point, first and foremost, seeing the wonders that God is already accomplishing, how He is already present and what He is already doing in and through our communities. How I can integrate myself into that movement of grace and enhance it even more.

A man of communion

Peter Stockland: Building off of that, in your own mind, is there a  distinction between those priorities at the national level and at the archdiocesan level. Because obviously being Archbishop of Toronto is a national role as well as a Toronto-centred role. You’re the Archbishop of Toronto, by far the largest archdiocese in the country. It has clout. What happens here matters. Is it the same process nationally as locally, whether it’s indigenous reconciliation or whether it’s MAiD,  just using them as examples, do they need to go through that same process? Is it as critical to talk with and hear from your brother bishops?

Francis Leo: Absolutely. And I think the issue would determine the extent of the consultation. Certain issues are more particular to Ontario. And so we would bring them to the ACBO for discussion. Other issues that are more of a national perspective, and so I would see what is already being done and what is the thinking behind this issue from a national perspective. And then from the local perspective, you bring it back home and say, okay, now this is what’s happening. This is the thought behind this issue at the national level. How is this lived? How is this being played out at the local level?

I’m a man of communion. I believe in the spirituality of communion. The Church is a communion. And communion, first of all, with the spirit of God and communion with the Holy Father and communion with the positive faith and communion with the teachings of the Gospel, teachings of the Church. And in communion with each other here at the local level, in communion with my brother bishops.

Although I am aware, Toronto is Toronto. And it’s the biggest archdiocese. And so there’s an impact also on the rest of the province and the rest of the country. And I’m aware of that. And that’s why I invoke the Holy Spirit an awful lot.

In fact, one of the two prayers that I have been adopting daily since I was named the bishop, one of them is to pray every day the veni creator spiritus because I really need an increase of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be able to serve and to lead God’s people with wisdom and courage.

And the other is, I remind myself of the nine promises that a bishop makes at his consecration. Simply like a man or a woman who’s married, a married couple would go over their vows or should go over their vows. Just remember the promises you made to God in front of God and to others and to each other. It reminds me of who I am, the promises I made, and what I need to keep and to live in more. So, getting back to discernment and the Holy Spirit helping us to make those right choices. And I believe in His presence and in His power working in the Church today. So in that respect, I’m not afraid.

Peter Stockland: In this very room I once interviewed your esteemed — the word doesn’t even begin to describe Cardinal Collins — predecessor who gave me a sentence I’ve never ever forgotten, I repeat it often to myself, “Even in a monastery, the second assistant bell ringer wants to be the first assistant bell ringer. And there’s nothing wrong with that, unless it gets out of line.” He meant by it that ambition is a good thing, wanting to move forward is a good human thing. But it has to come with an equal dose of awareness that if you’re going to make the bells ring their best, you’ve got to pay more attention to the bells than to yourself and your ambition. It comes back to “Just do what He tells you,” doesn’t it? But I wonder, obviously you’ve had an amazing career trajectory, you’ve moved into what many would see as being among top ecclesiastical jobs in the country, how do you keep, within yourself, that sense of balance, that sense of, look, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to go on and do better things, but I have to stay… 

Francis Leo: The pursuit of excellence could be a very virtuous pursuit as long as it is tempered with humility. And so I think being grounded in prayer, in a deep spirituality, and a deep faith and humility. “Humilitas veritas,” St. Therese of Jesus used to say, which means a humble person —  and I’m not saying I am a humble person but it’s something I’m working towards — is one who realizes his giftedness and uses it for God’s glory. A truthful reading of who I am in terms of my gifts, but also my weaknesses, my brokenness, my woundedness, where I need help, where I need the grace of God and redemption to come, those aspects, corners of my heart.

And knowing first and foremost that God is the first actor of evangelization in His Church. But I do think prayer and virtuous life, healthy relationships, devotion in the singular devotion to Christ, His Gospel, devotions in the plural, the sacraments, the means of grace, you know, will keep me, keep all of us, grounded and humble.

Peter Stockland: No more questions. Any final words?

Francis Leo: Well, I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be here. And I will bring all that I am and all that I have to serve the people of God in Toronto as a devoted father and a loving leader. And I know that God will work through my ministry. And I will do my very best. And I look forward to getting to know people and getting to work with them. Each according to our different locations, each according to our different charisms or giftedness, contributing everything to the expansion and the strengthening of the Kingdom of Christ here on Earth.

So I’m eager, I’m happy, I’m enthused of what I already see, and eight days on the job I love, such competent people I’ve met so far. Good people who want to work for the Lord. And so I think there are so many possibilities here in Toronto for the Kingdom of God. And so I’m happy to be able to contribute to that and to be part of this wonderful movement of grace.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.