Friday, 7 October 2011

Fr Bob Bedard R.I.P.

I write today's posting with a tear in my eye. I just received an email telling me that one of the best priests I have had the privilege to know died last night - Fr Bob Bedard, former parish priest of St Mary's Ottawa in Canada, and founder of the Companions of the Cross.
Although I only knew him closely for the two years I was studying in Ottawa, when I helped at St Mary's every weekend, his influence on me was enormous. He was Ottawa born and ordained for the diocese there. He taught in a local Catholic high school, becoming its principal, but then spent five years or so as a full-time evangelist, giving talks and retreats across Canada and beyond. When I met him he was two years into an appointment as parish priest in what had been a rather run-down city parish, St Mary's on Bayswater Avenue (very smart website here, where you can also hear some of Fr Bob's homilies). The attendance had rocketed, especially among the 20s and 30s, and the main Mass now attracted about 700 people.
When I was in Ottawa there were the very beginnings of a new community gathering around him, and through the 1990s this evolved into what is now a priests' Society of Apostolic Life (a type of order) called the Companions of the Cross. You can visit their website here where you will also find information about Fr Bob. Take a look at the young age of most of the 39 priest members! If you are on Facebook visit a group that has been praying for him called "Praying for Fr Bob Bedard" where you get a sense of the affection there has been for him.
I have stayed in touch with parishioners in Ottawa, and more loosely with Bob himself. He was a truly holy and inspirational pastor and human being and I am proud to put myself among the thousands he must have inspired. I am particularly proud to be able to say that I played a small part in the beginnings of the Companions when I was priest-in-residence at their first house of formation. Those who hear me speak and sometimes say nice things about what they hear - well, often you are really hearing Fr Bob Bedard...
His Requiem Mass will be celebrated next Wednesday at the Cathedral Basilica of Notre Dame in Ottawa.
Eternal rest grant to him, Lord.

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