Words of Appreciation
offered by Rev. John Barry on behalf of the Diocese of Antigonish
Archbishop Dunn - Your Grace:
When you came among us nine years ago, you arrived without any fanfare and with a minimum of public celebration.
It was your judgment and prudently so, that given the circumstances in which you began your ministry among us as our Chief Shepherd, it was not the time for such festivity. It was a frugal and low-key ceremony held in this very Cathedral Church on January 25, 2010, that saw you take possession of your Office and assume your duties as Bishop of Antigonish. It was surely a task intimidating, as also daunting, to any individual, and I am sure that you were filled with a certain degree of trepidation.
Nevertheless, your modest and humble manner won the hearts and minds of all and helped to restore the confidence of the people of this diocese (clergy and lay) in their ecclesial leaders. You came among us as St. Paul wrote, not with eloquence or outward show, but proclaiming the testimony of God (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1). And you set about getting to know the Church here and working to bind up the deep wounds that had been inflicted given the tragic events that preceded your coming among us. Again this is in no small measure due to that low key and kindly approach. You also sought out our priests, knowing they too were suffering as they ministered to a people who were disillusioned and downhearted. It was not easy to be a Catholic in those days; it was not easy to be a priest in those days – and it certainly was not easy to be a bishop.
But you were able to draw upon the deep reservoir of faith and tradition in this historic and venerable Church of Antigonish. You helped the faithful of this Diocese to understand that we are not defined by the recent past no matter how painful but with an honorable and outstanding history. This diocesan Church could, by God’s grace, have a glorious future if we but trust in God and focus on Christ and the power of his gospel.
In your meetings with priests, you were always open to hear what was said whether welcome or unwelcome! In your meeting with the faithful, you were committed to ensuring that they could have the formation necessary to assume their rightful place within the mission of the Church. Your respect for the women religious, who had made such an outstanding contribution to this diocese , was always appreciated by them and was the expression of your commitment to the dignity and vocation of women within the Church and within the wider society. So that the Diocese would not be bereft of ordained ministers, you gave great encouragement to the permanent diaconate and here too, you were committed to ensure their proper formation. And so, for these reasons, we can celebrate this evening - with glad thanksgiving and festivity - what you have accomplished as Bishop of Antigonish.
We have just marked the 175th anniversary of our Diocese and it was fortunate that even though you had taken up your new duties as Coadjutor Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth, as our Apostolic Administrator, you were able to preside over the celebrations. And once again, your arrival in Halifax was also marked by simplicity. It takes a certain self confidence together with humility, to take up such an appointment with the same quiet disposition and which reflects one of your great strengths: your ability to work collaboratively for the good of the Church and for the proclamation of the Gospel.
Your episcopal motto, drawn from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, is a timely reminder to us all, that no matter the outward and difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves as St. Paul often found himself in his work of proclaiming the Gospel, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord (cf. Rom. 8:38-39). You reminded us all of this truth less by words and more by the manner in which you carried out your Pastoral Office as our Bishop – remembering another motto - acta non verba – actions not words. We are truly grateful and we pray in earnest that God grant you many years of health and strength to govern and shepherd the People of God of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth and as Metropolitan Archbishop of the ecclesiastical province of Halifax embracing the suffragan dioceses of Antigonish and Charlottetown. Ad multos et faustissimos annos!