On Sunday the portrait series at Radio Kossuth continued. The “Meet Jesus Live!” radio broadcast makes us familiar with the life of the guest speakers and witnesses of the International Eucharistic Congress. This time Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec was the guest.
Finding the way back home
As a child, Lacroix and his 6 siblings missed their father a lot, since working as a lumberjack, the father could return home to the family every three weeks only throughout long years – as we get to know about his early years from the interview. While the head of the family was out far away, her mother was taking care of the kids and managed their farm as well. Later, in the hope of living all together and in search for a better life, the family moved from Canada to the USA. However, at his age of 19, Gérald returned to his native land, where he started to work as a graphic designer at a printer. Still, all along he felt the urge to help the poor. As a student he met a missionary, who for some years had already been working in Colombia, and joined him. In December 1981 Lacroix asked for a 6 months unpaid leave and started off for the trip that totally transformed his entire life.
“…I was not thinking of becoming a priest”
“We were living in a very poor neighbourhood. Here I started to learn Spanish, and with a pharmacist we were travelling around the countryside to help people. It was then and there when I felt Lord’s call to follow him. This had totally turned my life upside down, since I did not want to be a priest” – recalled Lacroix his first trip to Colombia on Radio Kossuth.
Once, with the missionary they just happened to bandage the leg of a man with sepsis, when an upset young man broke into the house. He begged for urgent help for his sick child. Since the missionary could not interrupt the treatment, he asked Gérald to go home with the worried father. “The house was in a terrible abandoned state, most probably was used temporarily only. There was lying the few months old baby, evidently very sick. I told the father: “Let’s go to the hospital, the baby should be seen by a doctor. We had already been there – the father answered – but they did not want to take care of him, since we had already been in debt to them. Though having no money either, I told him ‘let’s hurry, we should do something’!”
The father agreed, but noticing the bad condition the baby was in, he insisted to have the child baptised. Lacroix could reach the closest parish with a 20 minutes run, but the priest was out somewhere. That time we did not have a mobile, so there was no way to get in contact with the priest. So Lacroix ran for another priest, who, however, had left for the city. Finally, given the extraordinary circumstances, upon a special authorization both from the priest’s secretary and from the missionary himself, it was Gérald Lacroix who performed the Baptismal service. Ever since he has been hoping to meet this little boy once. And though we can see the Archbishop of Quebec as an ever smiling person, he is fairly aware of the sorrow as well.
“I’m a happy person, and this is a divine gift. The profound happiness is not an artificial state, rather it comes from our love to God. This is our relation with the Lord. It is so comforting to know that we are never alone. The safety feeling given by God’s love that’s what makes us happy, and makes me smile. Goes without saying I perfectly know the sorrow itself as well, particularly when I face the human suffering, the misery that I’m unable to solve.”
He had experienced more than enough of the above after having completed his theological studies in Quebec. In 1990 as the leader of a group, and already as an ordained pastor, he left again for Colombia. This time for 8 years. “From the local bishop I received a parish, where no one had worked for 5 years. There was no pastor, everything was completely abandoned. This parish was located in the Andes and included 85 small villages, all the service of which was our duty. Sometimes it took an 18 hours mule ride to get from one village to the other. There was no proper road, only horses and mules could move around. On top, there was not even electricity or mail service, practically there was nothing. Only 2 single phone lines for 18 thousand people. Life was extreme, still I was very happy.”
In the interview the Cardinal unveils further curiosities on his Colombian service performed in the shadow of the drug barons’ war. Further on he reveals his answer given to Pope Benedict XVI, when some years ago the Pope asked him: “You are a happy man, aren’t you?” And so could he answer with a “Yes”.