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Extraordinarily Blessed
On his way to an academic and political career, Raymond de Souza, made a right turn into religion, journalism ... and chaplaincy of the football Golden Gaels.

When student senator Raymond de Souza graduated from Queen's in 1994, his Norman Rogers Scholarship as the graduate with "the most promising future in public service" was no surprise to former Principal David Smith, LLD'94, one of his Economics professors. He'd predicted to colleagues that his star pupil would be Canada's Minister of Finance before he was 40 – that is, if he didn't head straight to the Prime Minister's office.

A devout Golden Gaels football fan, Fr. de Souza is the team chaplain.
Photo, courtesy Ian MacAlpine, The Kingston Whig Standard.

No one was more surprised than Smith when the Calgary native instead opted to enter St. Philip's Seminary in Toronto. Eight years later, de Souza was ordained in Kingston's St. Mary's Cathedral with his proud parents, Greta and Cedric, and three siblings and fellow alumni - brother Duncan, Meds'91, and sisters Rachel, Rehab'96, and Marisa, Artsci'97 - in attendance. These days, Raymond is back on campus as a Catholic chaplain and ad¬junct faculty as a bona fide specialist in Catholic social teaching.

Many Queen'smen have become Catholic priests, but an unusual career prediction began stirring among his parishioners, fellow clergy, Catholic students, and readers of his weekly National Post column; Raymond de Souza, they believe, is destined to be the first Queen's graduate named a Cardinal, a "Prince of the Church."

If so, he'd be completely at home in the Vatican. Papal biographer George Weigel has called him "Canada's finest Catholic commentator." It's Raymond's view that although "the secular press generally shuns religion and faith, it's part of everyday living – more than movies and fashion:' Those who read his writings know him to be both spiritual and intellectual, but also totally aware of the modern world.

Father Raymond (the name he prefers) is a down-to-earth parish pastor on rural Wolfe Island. He's on the board of the Canada-Israel Committee, serves as media consultant to the Ontario Catholic Bishops, and is media consultant to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences at the Vatican itself. At Queen's, he teaches in a course in the Faculty of Education for students who are planning to teach in Catholic schools, and he teaches an honours seminar on philosophy and economics in the Economics Department, as well as guest lectures on religion and science, faith, and politics. It's one of his goals to foster "an ongoing intellectual encounter between faith and the academy!'

Outside the lecture hall, he's Newman House Chaplain to Queen's Catholic students and sees a greater role for Chaplaincy on campus as a whole. Perhaps most surprisingly, he's been chaplain of Queen's football team for the past four years.

When he's pacing on the Tricolour sidelines, his black shirt and white collar stand out, but since November he's been wearing, with obvious pride, a Golden Gaels team jacket – a gift from "the boys," even though his prayers, and theirs, weren't enough to convince the Almighty they deserved the championship after a successful 2007 season in which they finished with a 6-2 record during the regular season before losing to longtime rival Western in the opening round of the playoffs.

Raymond has been a "devout" Gaels fan since his frosh days, and his team chaplaincy was proposed by head coach Pat Sheahan. "My very presence says that things of faith, things of religion, have a place in a modern university," notes Raymond. "Where it's the coach's job to make them better athletes, it's mine to help them be good men:'

Clearly, his own "life game" is going well. He describes himself as being "extraordinarily blessed:'

One blessing is a "community" of 25 students living near campus. He found benefactors for three houses already, but is praying now for one who'll donate another, so the Catholic student community can grow further. He wants a place where the students can live a normal Queen's life, while strengthening one another's faith inside a campus community that he says is "largely indifferent and occasionally hostile to religion!'

He doesn't appear to take predictions of an early "elevation" in the hierarchy seriously "A bishop?" he says. "I couldn't possibly be having more fun than I am now. I'm not looking for a change!'

The above is an abridged version of a longer article, the compete text of which can be read in ReviewPlus.

Originally published in Queen’s Alumni Review, Issue 2, 2008.




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