Prendergast installed as Ottawa archbishop

  • June 29, 2007

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Ottawa’s new archbishop called all Catholics, including lay men and women, to “enter on the path of holiness” during his installation at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica June 26.


Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., described how he walked by various Ottawa landmarks while pondering the challenges facing the archdiocese. He mentioned observing the Parliament buildings, the United States embassy, the prime minister’s residence, Rideau Hall and various museums and other landmarks on both sides of the Ottawa River. He remarked how Ottawa not only contains the levers of government, but also the institutions of commerce, banking and technology.

“It must be very challenging, even heady, to be part of the apparatus that lies at the heart of Canadian life,” he said, noting that one can yearn for leadership, to “make one’s mark” and to “change things.”

He contrasted those desires with the prophetic promises in Isaiah: “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners: to comfort all who mourn: to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness: the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.”

“What could possibly stand in the way of our being able to do this?”

Prendergast pointed out how the Gospel reading about how the mother of James and John asked that her sons reign with Jesus on His right and left in the Kingdom offers “some clarity about how our motives can become mixed.”

{sidebar id=2}“Yearning for God’s Kingdom can be sidetracked into seeking an opportunity for personal advancement, prestige and status,” he said.

He told a story from an 1856 book written not long after the founding of the diocese called The Christian Life by Thomas Arnold, who wrote that some converts from heathenism and ignorance “were accustomed to leave their right arm unbaptized” so that this arm, not pledged to Christ, might continue to wreak revenge.

“This is a great image: these warriors going into the waters of baptism with their arms held high, holding back something of their life from being immersed in God,” Prendergast said, noting the story “contains a great message of challenge to me and to you, to all of us.”

The priest who had told Prendergast about this book and the story it contained had confessed it had been easy for him to tithe while on a parish priest’s salary, but far more difficult when he moved into a new salary bracket at a university. That priest asked him to imagine his upraised, unbaptized hand holding his wallet.

“Each of us could, no doubt, discover an area in our following of Jesus that still is incomplete, where we have not yet completely surrendered to the author of life,” he said.

Prendergast said Christian disciples need encouragement to “embrace the implications of following a crucified redeemer, whose death and resurrection, offering new life, alone sets us free.”

“There are aspects of our lives where we would prefer that the Gospel call did not enter, or not yet at any rate,” he said.

The installation followed the traditional rite that saw Prendergast, who had previously served as archbishop of Halifax and apostolic administrator of Yarmouth, knock on the doors of the cathedral. Retiring Archbishop Marcel Gervais presented him with a crucifix, which the incoming archbishop kissed.

Following the proclamation of the papal bull, the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, led Prendergast to the bishops’ chair. He thanked Prendergast for accepting the Pope’s appointment to Ottawa, and predicted that he would soon experience the “same affection” he experienced in Atlantic Canada.

Several members of Prendergast’s family took part in the ceremony by presenting the gifts prior to communion.

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