The following post was contributed by Debra Gervasio, a secretary at St. Ambrose Parish in Etobicoke.
When I began working for the church years ago, I was truly ignorant about the copious amount of work necessary to run a successful parish, and even more so about the often grueling life of a priest. Since arriving in Alderwood almost two years ago, I have had a first-hand glimpse at the life of Rev. Father Edward J. Smith, pastor of St. Ambrose Parish. Sometimes seeming a bit stern on the exterior, I soon learned that under that serious demeanour lies an extremely committed priest who runs his parish with an unmatched wit, a sensitive heart and a keen attention to detail.
The St. Ambrose parish bulletin proclaims the mission: "May the message of Christ in all its fullness continue to find a home in you" (Colossians 3:16). It's a message Fr. Smith embodies in his ministry and personal life. Let me share one of many stories I could tell about Fr. Smith living Jesus' message and his tending to those less fortunate.
During the destructive ice storm of Christmas 2014, Fr. Smith drove to Scarborough to pick up an elderly man. The gentleman, who required a cane to walk, had no hydro and no family to look in on him. Fr. Smith respectfully took him to the rectory where one of the staff made a hot dinner. At this time, he found out from one of the neighbours in Scarborough that the power was now back on. Patiently, he waited for the elderly gentleman to bundle up to face the elements for the trip back from Etobicoke. After settling the man into his house, he headed back to the rectory to get ready for Christmas Eve Mass.
A few hours later, news reached the rectory that hydro was out again in Scarborough. As Fr. Smith rushed to grab his coat and boots, I cautioned him against running himself ragged for this practical stranger. "As it should be," Fr. Smith replied—one of his favourite responses—as he headed out the door.
After Mass he took the gentleman to his cousin's house for dinner—there was no limit in giving an elderly person a place at Christmas—returning him back to Scarborough when the lights finally returned for good.
Through Fr. Smith's acts of charitable service, I began to understand the role of priests much better. Pope Benedict XVI once said, "Priests are the dispensers of the means of salvation, of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. They do not dispose of them according to their own will but they are humble servants for the good of the People of God. It is one life, then, profoundly marked by this service: from the attentive care of the flock, from the faithful celebration of the liturgy, and from the prompt solicitude for all of the brothers, especially the most poor and needy."
Fr. Smith takes these words to a whole new level. Though the majority may not be able to quote the Pope Emeritus, parishioners who have been touched by Fr. Smith's ministry are well aware of his commitment. While working in the office, I received a call asking for the pastor of Dorothy Ley Hospice. Fr. Smith is at this hospice so often that one can understand why he could be mistaken for its pastor! He takes his ministry seriously, running out at a moment's notice, even on days off and holidays, never asking if they are a parishioner. "As it should be," Fr. Smith states as he leaves for the hospice.
Fr. Smith is often seen filling his car with supplies for Good Shepherd Ministries. In addition to the food drives that he runs within the parish, he is always looking for supplies for this worthy cause, as witnessed by the bags of clothes regularly left in the porch of the rectory. Fr. Smith has been seen purchasing boxes of Girl Guide cookies and chocolates with the sole purpose of taking them to those less fortunate.
Props in hand, Fr. Smith also ministers at Catholic schools, determined to make a difference in the lives of the children to whom he preaches. Everything that our pastor does reminds us how priests are called to imitate the love of Christ to humankind.
May 3, 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood of our faithful pastor. Priestly jubilees afford an occasion for gratitude. Although Fr. Smith decided to celebrate his 40th anniversary quietly, the staff at St. Ambrose felt we would be remiss if we did not pay tribute to a phenomenal example of humanity at its best. On behalf of the staff and parishioners of St. Ambrose, I wish to thank Fr. Smith not only for the countless sacraments he has administered, but for the unforgettable moments he continues to give each one of us through his ministry.
God chooses the men he wants to become priests. In the case of Fr. Ted Smith, we give thanks to the Lord for calling him to the sacred ministry and for his exemplary service these past years. While congratulating our pastor on this significant jubilee, it is with gratitude that we promise to remember him in our prayers so that he may continue to serve the Lord in his Church for many more years to come, "as it should be."