Monday, November 7, 2011

Introducing Father Rosica

Last night I had the pleasure of introducing Father Tom Rosica at the annual Meet the Movement dinner hosted by Catholic Christian Outreach Vancouver. Here's what I said.

When I grow up, I want to be Father Tom Rosica.

I told this to Archbishop Miller the other day, but he said it's already too late. Turns out Father Rosica is four years younger than I am. (We are, however, both celebrating this year our silver jubilees of ordination to the priesthood.)

Among my many reasons for jealous admiration, he speaks well two languages that I speak badly, having received his bachelor's degree in Italian and French literature. He attended two of the world's most distinguished schools of biblical study, and taught Sacred Scripture at three universities here in Canada.

For six years he served as the director of the Newman Centre, the Catholic chaplaincy at the University of Toronto. Perhaps it was there that he became a true apostle to youth, in which role we welcome him specially tonight.

To give you a proper list of our keynote speaker's other accomplishments, I'd have to be, well, the keynote speaker. But it's impossible not to start with his work as the chief executive office for World Youth Day, held in Toronto in 2002. It's no exaggeration to say that there are some people here tonight who trace their strong Catholic faith to that event.

Father Rosica had barely caught his breath after WYD when he took on a challenge no less daunting than running a massive international gathering. He became the CEO of Salt + Light Television in 1993, at the same time serving the Congregation of St. Basil as a formator and, then, as a member of its General Council. As you know, Salt + Light has gone from strength to strength.

He has advised both the Holy See and the Canadian bishops on communications matters; he has even been so brave as to be a consultant to the CBC. In just three weeks, he adds the presidency of Assumption University in Windsor to his other responsibilities.

But even these tremendous contributions to the Church in Canada and around the world pale in comparison to something else: Father Tom is "a man for others." His energies, his talents, his intellect may be focused on getting the job done, but his heart remains devoted to people.

If you'll allow a quick story: When my father was gravely ill, Father Tom offered Mass for him—more than once—at St. Peter's. And when Dad died, he wrote to say he'd prayed for me—and for you, Archbishop Michael—around the exhumed casket of Blessed John Paul II.

There are many other stories, well known to us in CCO, of his almost indescribable support for our movement; he has opened doors for CCO like a very skilled locksmith… or maybe an equally skilled burglar, I'm not quite sure! … CCO owes him an incalculable debt.

Dear friends, join me in welcoming a friend—a man for others, and a man for youth: Father Tom Rosica.

When the applause died down, Father Rosica looked up from the podium and said "I'm not dead yet!"

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