Retired Chief Justice Allan Wachowich

Retired Chief Justice Allan Wachowich

October 22, 2012

Lay people must be treated as equal partners in the Church for the legacy of the Second Vatican Council to continue to grow, said former Chief Justice Allan Wachowich.

Wachowich, guest speaker at the annual Newman Theological College convocation, focused his remarks on the differences between growing up prior to Vatican II and the Church today.

Held Oct. 13 in the chapel at St. Joseph Seminary, this year's convocation coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

The Church, Wachowich said, shifted from administering the medicine of severity to a medicine of mercy.

A judge for 36 years, Wachowich is a former chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta. He has served on the boards of many Catholic organizations and founded the St. Thomas More Catholic Lawyers' Guild in 1963.

Wachowich said that as a child, he found a clear rift between the students at his Catholic school and the students at a neighbouring public school.

But the students found themselves socializing at the same places, and playing on the same sports teams, "and I came to realize that our community was larger than only those from the Catholic world."

At that time, theological schools were for seminarians only, not lay people.

"Very few laity in our faith knew much theology. With Vatican II, new things came into existence, and things began to change in the eyes of the Catholic community," said Wachowich.

"Those changes disturbed many pious Catholics. They were comfortable with the status quo, and they were comfortable in their pews."

The priest started facing the parishioners. Latin was no longer the language of Mass. The communion rail was taken out. Sometimes lay people preached the homilies. The social arm of the Church was changing too, as the unanswered needs of Albertans were starting to take greater priority.


"Vatican II changed dramatically the way the Church structured its hierarchy, specifically as the prior 'pay, pray and obey' mentality of the Church faded. The lay people of the Church suddenly saw itself participating as an equal partner in the Church's spiritual wealth," said Wachowich.

Since Vatican II, there has been a noticeable educational evolution in the Church too.

"The laity has taken a very prominent role in the theological and religious education, both as students and as educators," he said. "Nowadays a significant number of religious educators come from outside the clergy of the Church. This certainly makes for a more holistic education by providing insight from other professions."

At the convocation ceremony, 28 students received diplomas or degrees.

Father Miguel Irizar received the Joseph N. MacNeil Outstanding Achievement Award.


John Jordan Robinson, a graduate of the master of religious education program, gave the valedictory address.

Through dedication, hard work, perseverance and passion, the graduates have now fulfilled their childhood dreams, Robinson said.

"As a kid, being a superhero was easy. Throw on a cape, you can fly. Grab a wand, you're making pixie dust. But as adults, our gifts and our talents need attention, fostering, championing, nurturing. Newman Theological College provided many of us the means to accomplish this," he said.

God called him and his fellow graduates to Newman to share their gifts with others, and it was never easy, he said.

Struggling with writing papers, disagreements with fellow classmates, pushing through all-nighters - their journeys at Newman had their ups and downs, broken hearts and broken hard drives.

"Why did we do it if it wasn't easy? The world needs us. The world needs you. The world needs your gifts and your talents, real shepherds that lead and console, inspire and love," said Robinson.