Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday, Easter Week 2--April 24, 2009 OCSOA; Spring Arrives in Canada's Capital; Major's Hill Park

Morning Mass today in the cathedral was for OCSOA (the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers' Association) at the close of their convention at the Chateau Laurier Hotel. Bishop Gerard Bergie (auxiliary of Hamilton) is the Bishop Ponens (liaison bishop) to this group who have an important role in guiding the Catholic schools (primary and secondary) in the Province of Ontario.

I got reacquainted with several folks whom I had known when I was an auxiliary bishop in Toronto and spent time with teachers and principals during Parish Visitations to the elementary and high schools within parish boundaries. At the close of Mass, Bishop Bergie and I presided over a ceremony welcoming the new supervisory officers as well as the new executive of OCSOA.

Despite the challenges and struggles of our Catholic schools, they are an extraordinary blessing with immense potential.

While the sun has been out quite a bit lately, a cold wind seems always to have lurked nearby. Not today! We hit 23 degrees this afternoon (close to 80 F) and people have gone from jackets and caps and even a few scarves to shorts for jogging, tables outside on patios, etc. It's marvellous. Tomorrow the weatherman promises sunny and 27. Ottawa has an extreme climate going from frigid cold to sweltering heat. We'll soon be complaining it's too hot.

On a stroll this evening to Major's Hill Park not far from home, I noticed that the flower beds are getting ready to burst into bloom for the Ottawa Tulip Festival (May 1-18).

The park is imposing standing as it does above the Rideau Canal at the point where it enters the Ottawa River. There are dramatic vistas: for across the canal to the west are the parliament buildings, to the north of the park is the National Gallery of Canada and Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, and east is the United States embassy and the Byward Market.

To the south is the Chateau Laurier hotel, built on land once part of the park. The area was originally home to those thousands of Irish who built the canal and it was named Colonel's Hill after Colonel By , the builder of the canal whose house was located atop it. [Ottawa was once known as Bytown and our archdiocese was originally the Bytown Diocese.] When Colonel By was replaced by Major Daniel Bolton the hill was renamed Major's Hill.

From the top of the hill one can see Nepean Point crowned with the statue of Samuel de Champlain with his famous astrolabe and across the Ottawa River to Gatineau (whose skyline is crowned with skyscrapers for federal and Quebec public service employees) and the beautiful, undulating contours of the Museum of Civilization designed by the aboriginal architect Douglas Cardinal.

The park has always been a public space since the earliest days of Ottawa, not a space that was cleared of buildings to create a park. It is now managed by the National Capital Commission, which has placed historical information in the northwest corner of the park, not far from the Peace-keeping Monument.

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