Around this time, Fr. Bob was meeting with a small group of seminarians and young men aspiring to the priesthood who gathered together for mutual spiritual support.
Fr. Bob explains, “As we were faithful to the weekly gatherings, as we prayed and listened to the Lord, as we responded to what we thought He might be saying to us by making commitments to Him and to one another, we believe He gently revealed to us the kind of body we were to be.” (Condensed from Companions of the Cross, 25-26) Over time there was a growing sense that God desired this group to endure beyond ordination and to minister together as priests.
The final realization of God’s call came at a gathering of the brothers on the first Friday of May in 1985. One of the brothers announced, “I don’t know what you’re going to think about this, but I sensed in prayer that the Lord wants this body of brothers to live together.” The rest of the brothers chimed in, “That’s right on!” This word resonated in the hearts of the brothers who immediately recognized it as an authentic call from God. Fr. Bob then pointed out, “Do you guys understand the implications of this? We’re talking about an identifiable community of priests in the Church. We’re talking about a new community of priests! … Who is supposed to go to the Bishop and explain it all to him? Who is supposed to go and say, ‘Dear Bishop, there’s a priest and four seminarians and we feel that God wants us to kind-of pull out of the general diocesan structure and paddle down a river all by ourselves’?” (Fr. Bob Bedard, History of the Companions of the Cross, unpublished formation talk, 1992.) As the brothers smiled back at him, the answer was obvious.
Fr. Bob explains, “I eventually went to the Bishop, taking several deep breaths, praying like mad and getting everybody else to pray; and I explained the vision to him. He just sat there, looking across his desk at me, with a trace of a half-smile across his face. When I finished, he said, ‘There is no way I can refuse to support this. This is the work of God. So, I want to support it, and I will.’” The Bishop explained that 8 years earlier he had recognized the need for priests to support one other and had outlined a vision of priests living together in this manner. Fr. Bob later reflected, “The Lord already had a man in place who was ready to say ‘yes’… I didn’t know that, but the Lord knew that.” (Fr. Bob Bedard, History of the Companions of the Cross, unpublished formation talk, 1992.) We continue to celebrate the first Friday in May each year as our Foundation Day.