I love it when people ask me where I met my wife Catherinanne. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to say, “I picked her up at a Roman Catholic Seminary!” I feel fairly confident in saying that I am the only man to have found a wife at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario. It makes for great storytelling too. I admit that of all the places to try to meet women, a RC seminary does seem an odd place to look. That being said it worked for me. The late great Bob Giuliano our professor of homiletics used to say, “The greatest thing to come out of Huron’s ecumenical evenings with St. Peter’s Seminary was Kevin and Catherinanne hookin’ up!” Those were good days. Hard to believe that it was 18 years ago that I was in the chapel at St. Peter’s for the first time. How curious I was when I met Catherinanne there that night. What was this fine lady doing in such a place? A few questions later, we were married. It has always been a special place to me because of that night and that chance meeting – or was it chance? But I digress!
This week St. Peter’s Seminary celebrated its centennial. There was a grand celebration on Tuesday evening that began with a Mass at the chapel and concluded with a wonderful dinner at the Great Hall on the Campus of Western University. It would be fair to say that outside of Vatican City that evening it would have been hard to find so many black suits and clergy collars anywhere on the face of our planet. It was a wonderful gala with fine food and drink and speeches befitting such an auspicious occasion.
How pleased I was to look up from my aperitif and see the friendly face of The Rev’d Dr. Bill Danaher, Dean of Theology at Huron University College. He was stopping by my table to say hello. Somehow that moment made me feel a little less alone. (That being said, I was kept in good company with long-time friend The Rev’d Larry Brunet a priest of the Roman Catholic Church who had taken up residence at our table.) Bill was in attendance to bring greetings to St. Peter’s on behalf of Huron. When he took the microphone a little later to congratulate St. Peter’s, Dean Danaher gave an eloquent and inspiring speech about theology and its importance in the life of the church. One statement jumped out at me more than the others.
“Theology is, as our greatest lights have taught us, a process and not simply a product… it is a journey & not simply a destination. Theology is ever in motion & satisfies us by increasing our longing for God.”
This brought me back to my days at Huron College nearly twenty years ago. Being honest, I would have to say that as a young man I think I came to Southwestern Ontario seeking a product. What I found was very much a process. I thought our beautiful Anglican Seminary at Huron College (as it was then known) was a destination. But Huron became a place of journey for me. What I realized while I was in process and on a pilgrimage with others, was that I have a longing for God that only increases when I engage in theology. The study of theology at Huron did not give me a parcel of knowledge to carry under my arm as I traipsed off to my first appointment in Labrador West. In fact it was quite the contrary. What Huron gave to me was a place to empty some of my baggage, lighten my need for firm answers, increase my willingness to ask, and deepen my hunger to be in communion with God and God’s people. Dean Danaher was very articulate and I was proud to have the Dean of my alma mater offer such thought-provoking and inspiring words.
I was nostalgic while on campus this week. I journeyed to a day that seems so long ago and yet in the paradoxical nature of these things, feels like it was just a day or two ago. We have journeyed many miles since those days. We have been engaged in theology at the parish level. It is so true that the more willing we are to explore theology with the people of God at the grass-roots level, the deeper the yearning people have for God. When I enrolled at McCormick Theological Seminary three years ago it was also another opportunity for me to seek a closer communion with God. What was so special about my time there was the surprising number of ways that I was able to engage theological discourse with God’s people in the church. Again, I was reminded of what a tremendous journey theology is and what wonderful places that journey can take us.
I have longed more for God because of how I have learned from people at Huron University College. That longing was increased in learning alongside the people of the parish of Labrador West. My yearning for God’s presence was increased in the many opportunities I had to learn in a near fourteen year period with the people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. In my colleagues at McCormick I found more pilgrims on a journey who loved seeking, asking, and longing. I feel confident that when I have opportunity to enter into theological living with the people of St. Aidan’s in London, my yearning for God will increase yet again. I am thankful for theology and the role it has played in bringing me closer to God and God’s people. I am thankful to Dean Danaher for reminding me of how much we take that process of living theology for granted.
Oh…. and I am thankful to St. Peter’s Seminary for one of its greatest graduates and one of the greatest pilgrims on the faith-filled journey — my wife!