Gerry Turcotte

Gerry Turcotte

Gerry Turcotte is president of Corpus Christi and St. Mark’s Colleges in Vancouver.

So it is with every artisan and master artisan …

they set their heart on painting a lifelike image,

and they lose sleep in order to finish their work

Sirach: 38: 27

As a writer I have always had an interest in the complexity of language: the way words could be constructed to say one thing when an entirely different message was intended. This perhaps is most obvious in coded messages — words spoken into dangerous situations that must be disguised to protect the speaker.

I have always been frustrated by moments, especially in political speeches, where half a well-known adage is presented as proof of concept, completely ignoring the original context and the fuller saying. We see this often when someone cherry-picks part of a saying to prove their point but leaves out significant context that might disprove their argument as a whole.

As a humourist I have often asked myself if my lighter reflections were appropriate in a time of such deep division and grief. As a columnist for over 10 years, there have been times when I have wondered if I should change tack, focus on darker or more politically edgy work, addressing the catastrophes of our times. It is surely fair to ask if one’s lightness, at a time of dark, is fitting or even welcomed. Truth be told, I continue to be torn. Humour, I know, has had a role to play in every context since the beginning of time, as a mediating influence, a salve or as a weapon to address contentious topics.

I think we can all agree that mobile phones are now ubiquitous. What I hadn’t expected was that their impact was literally changing our body shapes.

Learn to do good; seek justice.

Isaiah: 1: 17

I am not a social justice scholar. Nor am I an expert in the field of health care. I was invited recently, however, to be part of a forum on Catholic health care to define the concept of social justice, especially as it emerges within the Catholic intellectual tradition and Catholic social teaching. This tradition, not surprisingly, heavily informs the values and practices that we see manifested in the health care system.

As a newcomer to Vancouver, and in only the second year of my presidency at Corpus Christi and St. Mark’s College, I am still in a stage of wonder, discovering new things every day, about the city and indeed about the colleges themselves.

May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,

and no cry of distress in the streets

Psalms144: 14

On a recent trip to Toronto I inadvertently miscued my GPS and found myself wandering around a part of the city that I hadn’t yet explored. What struck me first was the extraordinary level of homeless people, encampments and other struggling individuals that I encountered — in some cases, block after block of people in need. The next thing that caught my attention, however, was that, like Vancouver where I live now, there was also an extraordinary number of faith-based community agencies set up in the most devastated areas of need, from churches to refuges.

I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me

1 Corinthians 14: 11

I have lived between languages my whole life and have always been intrigued by their glorious complexity. As a young student of English I grew up academically being told there was one correct grammar, an appropriate accent (which I apparently didn’t have in English or French) and that spelling was locked in stone and correct or incorrect.

For individuals of a certain age, the cataclysmic impact of AI has been an existential threat for more than half a century. Many of us grew up with the haunting voice of the predatory artificial intelligence, HAL, from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, resonating ominously, and dispassionately, in our ears.

A few years ago — let’s say 20 — I watched as the police handled a disturbance. An elderly gentleman was standing in the middle of the sidewalk talking animatedly to an invisible friend. It seemed to be a delightful conversation, and the man actually excused himself to his imaginary friend when the authorities intervened.