Intense ministries are Deacon Cambre's legacy

  • August 25, 2010
Bert CambreTORONTO - After a decade of service as the director of deacons, Deacon Bert Cambre is leaving as head of the diaconate office following some internal restructuring in the archdiocese of Toronto.

Cambre’s last day in office will be Aug. 31.

He leaves the office with many accomplishments under his belt.

“We established some new ministries and more intense ministries in some needy areas of Toronto,” he said.

Some of these expanded ministries include ministry to ex-convicts and the Friends of Dismas (named after the good thief crucified beside Jesus), which looks after the needs of people who have been imprisoned.

The restoration of the tri-annual Coming Together convention is another important accomplishment, said Cambre.

“Toronto is very large and there are many deacons, so there is a need to support one another, bond and bring them together — to pray together, to learn together and to socialize together,” Cambre said of the weekend-long event that takes place every three years.

Deacon Steve Barringer said Cambre did a tremendous amount in supporting the deacons, and Coming Together was just one example.

“It was very important to the diaconate community in terms of building it up,” Barringer said. “It was one of his best exercises in leadership.”

But more recently, Cambre recalls a favourite memory: handing Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic a copy of Michael Power’s Servants of All, a history of the Toronto diaconate, at the Providence Centre.

“I will have that memory for a long time because he was a lover of history and we worked together for seven years.”

As well, he said during his time as director, the number of vocations to the diaconate increased.

Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications at the archdiocese of Toronto, agrees.

“To see that it’s thriving certainly is something that I’m sure he’s proud of and we’re all proud to see so many deacons in service with the archdiocese,” said MacCarthy.

MacCarthy said that Cambre helped put a face on the diaconate and helped people understand the importance of the ministry.

Cambre worked for 25 years with people in prison and his diaconate mission more recently was visiting Mexican migrant workers on farms in Holland Marsh, north of Toronto.

“I’m now in transition discerning what is my next work,” he said. “One thing is for sure: I’m not retiring. I’m going to be working. One thing that attracts me very much is missionary work in Central America.”

Cambre is also one of the founders of Pax Christi in Toronto, a Catholic peace movement, and founded the social justice committee at St. Christopher’s parish.

“Bert’s a good man,” said Deacon Bill Daly. “He did a good job... On one hand, I’m sorry to see him go. On the other hand, I wish him well for doing what he did for the diaconate office and hopefully, he gets some new challenges soon.

As for the future of the diaconate, MacCarthy said a formal announcement will be made soon about the restructuring.

“The archbishop is committed to supporting the deacons in their ministry,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we want to find a structure that’s going to work for everyone.”

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