In 1984, Fr. Bob was appointed pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Ottawa to implement a vision for parish renewal. Fr. Bob describes the initial situation this way:
The congregation was now very small. My predecessor … using a suitably Canadian image, put it this way: “You can stand at the front of the church at any of the weekend Masses, and throw a snowball down to the back without hitting anybody.”
Having never been a Pastor before, Fr. Bob was completely at a loss as to how to begin. So he “persevered in prayer, seeking the Lord’s particular word for the parish.” He felt the Lord answered him in the following way:
I don’t want you to do anything, except the very obvious things that a pastor must do. I want to take over here myself. I don’t want any of your programs or ideas. I have a plan of my own. But, what I want from you is your permission. I want you to give me permission to do what I want to do. And, not only that, I want you to tell the people that you are giving me this permission, and that I want their permission, too. If I get enough permissions, I’ll move. When I do, you’ll see it. You can then point it out, and get everybody to support it.
Fr. Bob then preached passionately to his parishioners about the need to give God permission:
Let God be God. He’s good at it. God is very good at being God. Let’s let him do what he wants here. God has plans for our lives both as individuals and as a body. If we consult him, maybe he will tell us what they are. Are we satisfied with the condition of the Church, with the condition of this parish, with what’s happened to our families, to the kids? Do we think God is satisfied? Do we think he has the power to turn it around? Are we willing to let him change the things that we ourselves cannot change? Then let’s tell him so. God is fed up being a spectator in our lives. He wants to be a participant.
He continued to preach these same basic themes for over a year. And he waited… and waited, as the Lord had instructed him to do. Gradually it began to dawn on him that the Lord was on the move! One sign was tears. Many people, especially men, began to weep in church. It was the Lord sovereignly touching people’s hearts and bringing them into deeper conversion. The parish began to flourish and became a prominent center of renewal. A wide diversity of lay ministries and apostolates grew up to serve those who were being changed, healed, and converted. Throughout this whole process, Fr. Bob firmly believed the Lord was communicating an important lesson, not just for one parish, but for the whole Church.
 Fr. Bob Bedard, Companions of the Cross, 24.
 Companions of the Cross, 24.
 Companions of the Cross, 25.
 Condensed from Companions of the Cross, 25-26.