Just as the leaves start to change colour and people start to book warm getaways to escape the fall chill every year, one group of dedicated men hunker down and head to Cornwall, Ontario for a week. The Canadian Bishops are gathered this week for their annual Plenary Assembly at the NavCanada Centre in Cornwall. If that name sounds familiar it's because NavCanada is the entity that oversees air traffic in Canada. In fact the centre is the "campus" where NavCanada trains air traffic controllers among other air traffic specialists. It's fitting that the men who are guiding the Canadian Church choose to have their annual meeting side by side the men and women who are guiding Canadians through en route across the country.
It's certainly a unique environment, so many bishops in one place, gathered together and letting their guard down just a little bit with their brother bishops. I'm sure it's a much needed opportunity. I had the privilege of dining with Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie, OMI, of the Archdiocese of of Keewatin-The Pas
, who told our table stories of his early days in a northern parish trying to get his parishioners to accept the guitar at Mass. I don't think I've ever heard a more genuine, heartfelt laugh. I've also seen the Bishops drawing strength from each other. While the Canadian Church in general is going through a bumpy patch, the situation has been especially difficult for those who have had to deal with the media attention generated by recent events and I've seen more than one of those bishops here this week receiving brotherly pats on the back from their confreres and words of encouragement.
Perhaps the highlight of the first day was Archbishop James Weisgerber's beautiful homily at the opening Mass. He told his brother bishops "God knows the dispositions of our hearts and we place our trust in him." He added that although the job of Bishop or Archbishop comes with many administrative aspects, budgets and meetings and committees, they do the "job" because they have placed their trust in God and His Church. The Eucharist, he said, is a reminder of where we have placed our trust.
In that light, there is nothing the Church can't handle.