Re-printed with permission from Councillor Michael Phair of the City of Edmonton, Alberta ….

 

This is the story of an evangelist who shows compassion and willingness to break new path for believers to follow  …

 

 

 

LETTERS

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Bill Irwin: man of exceptional courage

AIDS house a reality, thanks to Father Bill

 

 

The Edmonton Journal


September 2, 2004

 

CREDIT: John Lucas, The Journal, File

Bill Irwin, the Edmonton priest who founded Catholic Social Services, died on Aug. 30 at age 76 from complications related to Parkinson's disease.

There are many wonderful things that will be said about Monsignor Bill Irwin, but for me it was his courage to act that defined the mutual trust and friendship that we had for each other, a Catholic priest and a gay politician.

Before my entry into politics in the 1980s, I had met Father Bill when he was CEO of Catholic Social Services and I was an employee of the provincial government. My job entailed the funding of a program that Catholic Social Services participated in, but my interaction with Father Bill was primarily at formal occasions.

In 1984 I became involved with responding to the advent of HIV/AIDS in Edmonton. As a volunteer I helped organize the AIDS society and spent time and energy handling media and advocating for education about HIV and support and care for persons infected.

Twenty years ago, HIV was seen as a "plague" visited on gay men. The 1980s were a period during which many health-care workers would not treat persons infected, many religious groups described HIV and gay men as outcasts and "deserving of this disease," and many citizens were afraid of persons who were HIV positive or were gay.

For me personally, this was an extremely busy, challenging time and a bit frightening.

In early 1986, the Canadian national media ran a number of articles about the development of housing facilities in Toronto and Vancouver for persons dying of AIDS. I was quoted locally as saying that there was a similar need in Edmonton and as a new organization AIDS Edmonton was hopeful of responding to this need in the future. The truth was that our organization did not have the finances, expertise or history of providing housing!

A couple of days later my phone rang at my government office and it was Father Bill. He called to tell me he had read my comments on housing for persons with AIDS and wanted more background. With his assistance, I set up a couple of meetings with organizations like Catholic Social Services that provided housing. This work led to outlining the issues and solutions for housing persons with AIDS.

Through his contacts and knowledge Father Bill realized that little if any funding would be available for an "AIDS House," so he decided that Catholic Social Services would take this on and announced it publicly at the agency's kickoff to its fundraising campaign.

And it happened! About a year later, Catholic Social Services opened its first AIDS house and shortly after I visited the facility, the staff and the persons with AIDS living there.

I was overwhelmed. Father Bill's initiative took great courage and I understood that better than most.

Michael Phair, councillor, Ward 4, Edmonton

© The Edmonton Journal 2004

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

福傳我見
楊孝明


閱畢八月三十一日《公教報》中「福傳年工作小組探討引領萬人歸主」的報導後,忍不住要說上幾句。

工作組提出很多建議去達致一萬人領洗的目標,例如派發福傳旅遊單張、邀請未有信仰的親友參加各類型晚會等。

但我認為這些計劃難以達致預計的目標。為什麼?領洗入教是人生大事,一些外教人會否因以上種種的宣傳方法便改變自己一生的取向?

基督教他們最聰明的策略是不會叫在佈道會決志的人加入慕道班領洗,他們會叫人先參加教會聚會。有很多自稱基督徒返教會聚會幾年仍未領洗,沒有什麼壓力會催迫你領洗的,因為這只是遲早的事。

我認為要兩年吸引過萬人歸主,目標不是太高,而是要策略正確。首先,我們要建立健全的基基團,在其中充滿著基督的愛。靠著團體的力量,我們便能比較容易改變一個人對信仰的抉擇,最少比只看宣傳單張或參加一次佈道會容易。但是,我們現在有這樣的基基團嗎?

若能客觀地看,我們得承認沒有這樣的基基團。基基團的發展有兩大點是致命傷。第一、基基團沒有神父長時間同行。但是,基基團實在太需要神長們同行,才能夠長大得足以獨立。在最初發展的階段,只需要有幾位神父願意參與,成功帶起幾個基基團便可,這樣,成功的經驗是會傳開去的。

但是,有神父們幫忙是否便能成功呢?不!很多基基團聚會的次數是每兩星期一次,這是十分不足的。有很多教友願意參加神學課程、聖經課程,一星期上兩三晚課也可以,但當說到要每星期聚會一次,便說沒有可能。這是優次的問題吧!若有神長帶領,教友也願意付出吧!另外,有很多基基團聚會時間在平日放工時段,有很多人因為工作超時而遲到,對聚會造成致命的打擊。

駱鏗祥神父常極力推動福傳,但我心想,若駱神父全力與福傳小組同行,把福傳小組變成有動力、有愛心、有活力的基基團,不要以工作效果為先,而是發展在基督內的情誼,是一個互相支持、互相認罪、互相分享信仰鑽研聖經的團體,05年時由這個團體舉辦一個佈道會,看看他們成員的增長百分率有多少,當然,千萬不要一開始便叫新朋友參加慕道班,而是要他們加入基基團,一起探討信仰。這不是比訂下一些沒有什麼效果的福傳計劃強得多麼?

(此文刊於5/10/03《公教報》)

 

 
   

 

 

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