They are engaged in activities as diverse as union organizing and staging country music festivals. Some are princes of the church, others simply priests and nuns—or former priests and nuns— who seek reform. But all are practising Roman Catholics who have influenced the lives of their fellow Canadians. And they reveal a remarkable range of views on the challenges faced by their church. A report:
MARY JO LEDDY
Toronto writer June Callwood once described Sister Mary Jo Leddy, 41, as one of the “brainiest and most
compelling orators in the peace movement.” A tireless campaigner for peace, the Toronto-born Sisters of Sion nun was a spiritual leader on an expedition to Nevada last May in protest against the U.S. government’s nuclear test. Leddy has also participated in peace missions to Honduras and the Soviet Union. In 1976 she cofounded the Catholic New Times, a highly respected biweekly newspaper of liberal Catholicism. Observers say that she has managed to maintain connections with influential Catholics while at the same time criticizing the church’s establishment for its failure to give women a greater role. She is also critical of the clergy’s preoccupation with the hierarchy. Declared Leddy:
“Priests tend to be more concerned about pleasing bishops than giving their lives in service to people.”
Hamilton-born O’Sullivan, 35, has been one of the most prominent—and popular-figures in the Catholic church since his ordination as a priest in 1981. At 20, O’Sullivan, a former Conservative aide to John Diefenbaker, toppled the incumbent Liberal candidate in the federal
riding of Hamilton-Wentworth riding in 1972, at that time the youngest MP ever elected. But five years later he resigned his seat and entered a seminary in Rome. Shortly after his return
to Canada in 1980, he began working in the Toronto Archdiocese.
In 1983 he launched a controversial — and successful—advertising campaign that was designed to recruit young men for the priesthood. Its slogan, on billboards that depicted Christ on the cross: “Dare to be a priest like me.” O’Sullivan contracted leukemia in 1983, but he said he believed that his battle against cancer—which went into remission in 1984—has made him a more devout, tolerant Catholic. Said O’Sullivan, who earns $9,000 a year for his parish work and as publisher of the Toronto-based Catholic Register newspaper: “The greatest challenge for the church now is the cult and the curse of materialism—it has got its claws into all of us.”
The 58-year-old Archbishop of Winnipeg was born in Killaly, Sask., and studied in Rome and at the University of Ottawa before beginning a 14year-teaching career at Catholic seminaries in the West. He became a z bishop in Winnipeg in í 1982 and began actively * campaigning against the I presence of an abortion clinic that Dr. Henry Morgentaler established in Winnipeg. In 1985 he organized a massive anti-abortion rally on the steps of the Manitoba legislature.
Exner has also demonstrated that he possesses excellent fund-raising abilities—during the past five years he has erased the diocese’s significant debt. But Exner said that he considers his greatest challenge to be making sure that people hear the church’s message. Said Exner: “The church is competing with many other voices, particularly that of the media. How do you influence public thinking?
How do you make yourself heard?”
Known to his parishioners as Father Des, the soft-spoken 52-year-old native of Corner Brook, Nfld., was one of the key figures in the 1969 formation of the Northern Fishermen’s Union. Organization gave the fishermen a greater voice in the political and economic life of the province, but McGrath said that he was involved because “it was a basic human rights issue. Fishermen in our society were looked down upon.” McGrath attended St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., during
the 1950s with Brian Mulroney—a time that he said he remembers as being the most exciting of his life. Now McGrath is a parish priest in Lourdes, a small fishing and farming community on the west coast of Newfoundland.
The 64-year-old former priest is one of the most influential reform Catholic theologians. Among other issues that he has tackled, Baum has denounced the papal ban on birth control. Born in Berlin, of Jewish origin, Baum fled Germany in 1939 and joined the Augustinian order in 1947. In 1976, after serving six years on the Vatican’s ecumenical secretariat, an organization seeking stronger links with other churches in Rome, Baum’s increasing opposition to the church’s teaching on sexual ethics caused him to leave the priesthood. In 1978 he married a former nun. Baum is now teaching theology at Montreal’s McGill University. There, he said, his goal is to heighten awareness among Catholics of the need for social responsibility. Declared Baum: “The church’s greatest challenge is to listen to God’s call for compassion and solidarity.”
Rev. Bob Ogle says that he grew up in the equivalent of a Third World country— Saskatchewan in the 1930¿. Born in Rosetown in 1928 and educated at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont., Ogle became an NDP MP for Saskatoon East in 1979 but resigned five years later, after he received instruction from Rome that he should not hold political office. Last year his doctors told him that he was suffering from inoperable brain cancer. Despite that diagnosis, Ogle is producing a television project called Broadcasting for International Understanding. He says that he hopes the series, which a Saskatchewan TV station plans to air this fall, will eventually be viewed worldwide and contribute to a mutual awareness among developed nations and Third World countries. Declared Ogle: “I have spent a good deal of my life trying to have people understand each other.”
To the outspoken Bishop of Victoria, the ultimate responsibility of the church is to proclaim the gospel —especially to
young people. And now, says De Roo, “the major issue facing the church is how to translate the language of the gospel into terms that make sense to our contemporary society.” But De Roo, who was born in 1924 in Swan Lake, Man., has at times been described by other bishops as a wellintentioned meddler. For one thing, his critics point to a 1983 economic report prepared under his direction for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
At a time when the federal government was concentrating on lowering an inflation rate that had averaged 10.8 per cent the previous year, De Roo’s report said that the country’s unemployment levels should be of greater social concern. But he says that the report helped to convince Ottawa to increase job creation programs. And it did so, according to De Roo, because “a bunch of Canadian bishops weren’t afraid to risk scorn and derision.”
The 54-year-old Regina priest is a well-known but somewhat controversial figure in his community. Some have called him a saint for his work with disturbed children, while others have said that he uses pressure tactics to raise money for their suplí port. But since 1971, when | he opened his first home 2 for disturbed children in g Regina—there are now x four such residences shel-
tering children who have failed to benefit from other rehabilitation programs, and five more are in the planning stages— Larre said that he has devoted his energies to helping those who seemed to “fall between the cracks” of government programs. In recognition of those efforts, Larre received the Order of Canada in 1983.
One of his fund-raising ventures, a four-day country music festival, drew
60.000 people to Craven, a town with a population of 220, 40 km northwest of Regina. Larre said that such successful efforts as the Big Valley Jamboree, which generated $250,000 for Larre’s program, showed that it was possible for those at the bottom of the hierarchy to influence events. Declared Larre: “It is not from the top down, but rather it is from the bottom up.”
The 58-year-old native of Beloeil, Que., has since 1977 been bishop of the St. Jean-Longueuil diocese near Montreal—the fourth-largest in Canada, with
500.000 Catholics. Born in 1929, one of 10 children, Hubert was educated in Paris, at the University of Ottawa and at Columbia University in New York City. Said Hubert, president of the Ottawa-based Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and an articulate spokesman for the more progressive wing of the church: “Some Catholics are inclined to remain alone in their relationship with God. But Christian faith must be lived through the community.”
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