Canadian to lead worldwide Redemptorists

  • November 19, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Toronto-born Fr. Michael Brehl has been elected Superior General of the Redemptorists , the first Canadian to hold the top post in the congregation’s 277-year history.

As leader, Brehl’s inspiration will come from the Redemptorists’ mission of reaching out to those in need and promoting peace and justice, he told The Register in his first interview from Rome after being chosen Nov. 4 to lead the order founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori in 1732.

“Our mission statement is always about sending us out to places which might have been neglected, out to people who are on the margins and neglected, and how to bring the Good News of the Gospel (to them) so they can be raised up and healed,” said Brehl.

Among his immediate plans, Brehl said he will discuss with other members of the leadership team the ways in which the Redemptorists — formally known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and present in 78 countries with 5,300 members — can address global issues like environmental stewardship and the mass migration of people.

Brehl, 54, is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Toronto’s Neil McNeil High School. He was the head of the English-speaking congregation in Canada before assuming his new role.

Fr. Mark Miller, who takes over as the provincial of the Redemptorists’ Edmonton-Toronto province, says Brehl will bring many gifts to his new role. Miller, who met Brehl when they were students about 30 years ago, said Brehl is welcoming, has a great sense of humour and is “the kind of guy who appreciates people” and knows how to put them at ease.

It’s this inclusive leadership style Brehl hopes to practise. Among his long-term priorities, he said the congregation will be looking at how to combat the “great decline in vocations” and how to care for aging members, while at the same time ministering to areas where the congregation is growing, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

In addition, the congregation is also feeling the pinch of the global economic crisis, Brehl said, which means it has to ensure “good stewardship” of its financial and human resources.

Brehl will live at the Redemptorist General House in Rome for the next six years.

In an online post, Brehl recounts the first time he was introduced by a friend to the Redemptorists. He said he was drawn to the order’s “warm hospitality and commitment to preaching the Gospel.”

He applied to join the congregation after graduating from university and professed his vows as a Redemptorist on Aug. 15, 1976. On March 15, 1980, he was ordained to the priesthood.    

In Canada, the Redemptorists have three branches: the Toronto-Edmonton, Ste. Anne de Beaupre and Winnipeg (Byzantine rite) provinces. There are nine congregation houses across Canada, with a total Canadian membership of 175.

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