His passing brought about these reflections, memories of how I was able to work with his style of shepherding. The time I spent with Bishop Dan was as Social Justice Coordinator, 11 years of opportunity in a ministry that calls all to focus on the welfare of the least, the lost and the lowest.
What stays with me is the power and ultimate purpose that some of the Archbishop's ‘small’ words and decisions had on me and the social Justice Ministry.
For example, after Bishop Dan had met with a group of Prolife advocates, he looked at me, then said “Bert, we have to do something about this.” His words stuck to me, and three years later, after a series of unlikely events, they became the reason why the Reverence for Life Commission was established and October was declared Reverence for Life Month.
…or when he asked me to attend a Catholic Conference on Refugees, held in Pickering Ontario. I wondered aloud about the cost of attending such an event and whether Refugee Sponsorship wouldn’t best be handled ecumenically - but I added quickly that if he wanted me to go, I would. Bishop Dan said, “I do want you to go.” That morphed into the Archdiocese's decision to undertake the sponsorship of 5 Iraqi families. Currently we are on family number 3.
Archbishop Daniel Bohan had called me into his office about 2 months after the commencement of the responsibilities of his Office. He stated that he would like to see the Social Justice Office get involved in Restorative Justice. Since I had been working in R.J. for some 8 years prior to his arrival, I was able to tell him about our Restorative Justice Ecumenical Conferencing Committee, and the work of FOTO and COSA. This seemed to please him so the topic never came up again. I took his silence to be an endorsement, meaning that nothing more needed to be added to the way R.J. was being run. So being encouraged in that way, I resumed the direction I was going, something that has certainly proven its worth.
I think one of the greatest impacts that Archbishop Daniel Bohan has had on the Social Justice Office came after I requested that we hire Abdul Ali to assist with the refugee file of the Social Justice Office. I remember that when we met, he had with him, as discerning partners, Fathers Ken Miller and Lorne Crozon. I explained Abdul’s credentials--A man of Islamic faith, with ‘God in his heart’. Abdul had been a refugee himself, coming from Eritrea some thirty years before through the assistance of the Catholic Church; since his arrival, he had become an untiring worker in addressing refugee needs. After some discussion, Bishop Dan offered a creative solution. ‘Well Abdul won’t be giving any homilies; we could give him the title 'Refugee Fieldworker'. Your title, Bert, would be 'Refugee Coordinator' and you would have to be responsible for the refugee ministry.” Since then, Abdul has become a fixture throughout the Archdiocese, is recognized for his knowledge, wisdom and generosity. But there is more…much more. When Abdul and I work together we are a sign of interfaith relations, how Muslims and Catholics can and must dialogue and cooperate in works of mercy.
Bishop Dan, it is clear that evangelization of the multitudes who are so immersed in cultural values and located across such a large region was weighing heavily on your mind; I say this because you facetiously suggested, upon your return from Vietnam and still in awe of their packed churches and seminaries, that perhaps the only thing that could make better Catholics was if the persecution of Communism were to come to Saskatchewan! But to the point, it was about this time you encouraged departments heads, and as guided by the Spirit of the Pastoral Plan, to find fodder for their evangelization minstry by discerning what the Spirit was telling them in the successes of their past ministry activities.
Thank you for engaging in this way. Because of you we can accomplish today what we never could have imagined yesterday.
Archbishop Daniel’s energy, light and friendliness fit his large stature, a stature that commanded attention and denoted strength. Yet I experienced him, not as the commander-in-chief but one who pondered and listened, yet encouraged and insisted upon collaboration and decisiveness.
It is hard to think that he won’t be entering and determinedly striding these halls anymore…Yet on the other hand, since he has a vested interest, I imagine he won’t be all that far away.