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My Basilian Priesthood, 1961-1967.

My Basilian Priesthood, 1961-1967. Michael Quealey. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2019. 216 pages. $24.99 paper.

When I finished reading the final few pages of Michael Quealey's memoir, I couldn't help but think of Charles Dickens' now classic observation: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." The Church struggled with reform and renewal in the 1960s, years when religious and lay alike were torn between what had been and what could be, years when many were reluctant to let go of the old order, while others rushed to embrace the Church of the future and all it promised.

Michael Quealey was ordained a Basilian in 1961 and soon found himself in the maelstrom that was sweeping over the Church and society, generally. It was a time of upheaval in Catholicism, and Quealey was an active participant, influenced by the reform spirit and contributing to it as he worked out his own position as a Catholic and a priest. Finding his way amid the uncertainty is the theme of this brief memoir.

Michael Quealey was an innovator and, as a young priest, was interested in discovering new ways to engage the spirit, to involve the laity more fully in the liturgy, and to profess one's faith actively and without condition. He first experimented at the Thomas More Society, St. Michael's College, and in interaction with the student population soon after his ordination between 1963 and 1965. He felt that Mass should be celebrated in English even before Latin was officially replaced with the vernacular, he encouraged the presence of music (drums, guitars, various instruments), and he encouraged lay participation in every aspect of the liturgy. Quealey was no radical, he was seeking a better way, not only for himself, but for all those who sought a more authentic relationship with the faith and the Church. For a few short years, he followed the same path, and did exactly that as Director of the Newman Centre between 1965 and 1967 on the campus of the University of Toronto. Tensions soon arose between Quealey, his superiors, and Church authority in Toronto. It impacted his health, but never, it seems, his faith. His decision to leave the priesthood in 1967 came as no surprise to his close friends. Amidst all this personal turmoil, he completed a doctorate in Upper Canadian history and enjoyed a long teaching career at York University.

My Basilian Priesthood is a slight memoir, published as a volume in the "Life Writing Series" emanating from Wilfrid Laurier University Press. It is clear that portions were written from contemporary journals or diary jottings, especially for the time Quealey spent in Mexico in 1966, and one wishes there was more. His observations are important for understanding the enormous change that shook the Church and the faithful in the 1960s. In all his actions, in his philosophy and throughout his life, Michael Quealey sought a more authentic spirituality, not only for himself, but for all those who sought a more meaningful Christian faith experience.

Glenn Wright


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Author:Wright, Glenn
Publication:Historical Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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