November 26, 2023

Verbatim: Remarks by Hugh MacKinnon at the 44th annual Cardinal's Dinner


Opening remarks by Hugh MacKinnon, CEO of Bennett Jones, as chair of the 44th annual Cardinal’s Dinner in Toronto on Nov. 14.

It is a delight to be gathered together this evening with so many friends for this celebration in the cause of uniting and supporting our communities. As Hilaire Belloc says, “Where the Catholic sun does shine, there is laughter, dancing and good red wine.” Tonight, the dancing is optional.

Your participation will help to support the good work of over 30 Catholic charitable organizations, providing diverse services to those in need, regardless of religious affiliation.  Since (the dinner’s) inception more than $6 million has been raised for worthwhile organizations. Tonight, we have over 1,400 people in attendance. We thank each of you for… helping continue the tradition of joining together in fellowship… and supporting vital outreach in our communities. 

The history of the Archdiocese of Toronto dates back to 1841 when we finally broke free of the clutches of the Diocese of Kingston, and when Michael Power, a relatively young new bishop, came upriver from the Diocese of Montreal. Over the past 182 years, there have been many examples of how the Catholic Church has put the hands of Christ into action, serving not only the spiritual needs of our communities, but also providing (social) services now integral to our Archdiocese.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Thomas Collins after 16 years of faithful service as Archbishop of Toronto. Your Eminence, we are grateful for your leadership. Be assured of our prayers as you enjoy your retirement although I suspect that, like Bilbo Baggins, you’re probably up for one more grand adventure.

You may have heard that, although he is okay and on the dais now, (Vaughan) Mayor (Steven) Del Duca was hit by a cyclist on Front Street. As (the mayor) was lying flat on the cold and heartless pavement, Police Chief Demkiw jumped into action.  Kneeling beside the mayor, the Chief asked, “Are you comfortable?” The mayor replied, “Eh, I make a living.”

Moments before, (Markham) Mayor (Frank) Scarpitti was having difficulty parking his car on University Avenue so he prayed, “Oh Lord, if you open up a parking spot, I’ll go to Mass every day during Advent.” But when a spot instantly opened up he said, “Oh, never mind, I found one.”...

It is my pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, His Grace Archbishop Francis Leo. His Grace was born in Montreal to Italian immigrant parents. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Montreal in 1996. Ten years later he entered the Vatican’s diplomatic service, serving for six years in nunciatures across the globe.  In 2015, Msgr. Leo was appointed general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which he served for six years. In July 2022, he was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the Montreal Archdiocese, and on Feb. 11 this year, he was appointed Archbishop of Toronto by Pope Francis. He was formally installed on March 25 at St. Michael’s Cathedral.

(He) holds a doctorate in systematic theology with a specialization in Mariology, a licentiate in philosophy… and a graduate certificate in spiritual direction. He has taught in Montreal, Australia, the U.S. and Ottawa. (He) is a founding member of the Canadian Mariological Society, a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Domenic. He is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Italian.

One last note pertaining to our speaker’s progress in his archepiscopal development since arriving in Toronto. As you know, St. Francis Xavier adopted Japanese dress when he moved to Japan, St. Jean de Brébeuf wore furs and learned the ways of the Huron-Wendat when he lived in what is now this very diocese, and I am pleased to say in that fine tradition of cultural recognition and adoption, Archbishop Leo has recently been seen in a Blue Jays baseball hat. Yes, baby steps, but it’s a start, and then again the Leafs aren’t making it easy.

(Verbatim is a weekly feature of The Catholic Register. Texts are edited only for brevity and stylistic consistency.)

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