In 1999, the community expanded outside of Ottawa for the first time, establishing foundations in Toronto, Ontario and Houston, Texas. In 2000, Archbishop Gervais appointed an Episcopal Vicar to oversee our transition to an independent community. Having received the Holy See’s approval, Archbishop Gervais issued the decree establishing the Companions of the Cross as a Society of Apostolic Life on the first Friday of May 2003, our Foundation Day. The Companions of the Cross had finally come of age.
This recognition was significant for several reasons. First and foremost, it was official confirmation by the Church of our unique charism and mission. Second, it confirmed our belief that Fr. Bob’s vision for our community came from the Lord and ultimately belongs to him. Third, it confirmed that we are called to accomplish a particular mission that began in the Lord’s own heart. Our community exists to answer this call from the Lord.
A Society of Apostolic Life
Generally speaking, priests are ordained to serve the Church either in a particular geographic region or through attachment to a group with a particular way of life and mission. In the first case, the priest is attached to a diocese (‘incardinated’ in that diocese) under a bishop.
Whereas diocesan priests are ‘secular’; the latter are often called ‘religious’. This is because, initially, some felt called to follow Jesus’ own way of life more closely by taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience (the ‘evangelical counsels’). Their primary witness was this way of life. They attracted followers and became communities which received official Church status. Nowadays, these are ‘Institutes of Consecrated Life’. The Church’s group of laws—‘Canon Law’—is very specific about how these institutes are run.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in response to various needs, there arose new groups of priests wherein the focus was more on the mission, the ‘apostolate’. St. Philip Neri’s Oratorians were one such group. These groups required greater flexibility and mobility and were governed by whatever their Church-approved constitutions laid out. Today, they are called ‘Societies of Apostolic Life’.
The Code of Canon Law defines them as follows (canon 731): Societies of apostolic life approximate to institutes of consecrated life. Their members, without taking religious vows, pursue the apostolic purpose proper to each society. Living a fraternal life in common in their own special manner, they strive for the perfection of charity through the observance of the constitutions. Among these societies are some in which the members, through a bond defined in the constitutions, undertake to live the evangelical counsels.
May 2, 2003
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ottawa
Having received the Holy See’s approval, Archbishop Gervais issued the decree establishing the Companions of the Cross as a Society of Apostolic Life on the first Friday of May 2003, our Foundation Day.