Everyone knows that I am a big fan of Archbishop Michael. Ever since he arrived the Archdiocese of Vancouver back in 2007 (first as Coadjutor Archbishop to Archbishop Roussin), I have admired his leadership, courage, and vision.
It wasn’t the smoothest of starts for us – I believe that he was trying to figure out just exactly who he inherited as his “Youth Guy” whereas I was pretty much intimidated by him from the get-go. Over the years, especially as we spent more time with each other, we start to feel more comfortable together and we engaged in some pretty memorable exchanges (as I detailed in my blog from a couple of years ago).
Awkward exchanges aside, I never had any doubt that he was a strong advocate for me, for our office, and most importantly, for the youth and young adults of our archdiocese. His presence at all of our events and his support (both directly and indirectly) is noticed and appreciated.
This past fall, I decided to take things up a notch and I endeavoured on a much-publicized (by me, at least) mission to get Archbishop Michael to call me his friend. It took a few attempts, but in the end my perseverance paid off. Either that or he was sick of me badgering him.
Attempt #1: early-October 2013 in our lunch room
Clay: “Hello, friend.”
Archbishop Michael: “I’m not your friend, I’m your boss.”
Analysis: I was a tad surprised by his direct response but I’ve come to appreciate that about Archbishop Michael: he doesn’t really waste words. I knew I had my work cut out for me.
Attempt #2: late-October 2013 in the hallway
Clay: “Hello my friend.”
Archbishop Michael: “My friends call me Michael, and you don’t call me by that name.”
Analysis: I had to fight back the urge to point out that I actually do indeed call him “Michael”; it’s just that I put the title Archbishop in front of it. Calling him Michael only would certainly be a CLM: Career-Limiting Move.
Attempt #3: early-November at Spirit Day
Clay: “Thanks for being here, my friend.”
Archbishop Michael: “I’m not your friend. Jesus is your friend.”
Analysis: A couple of things here. First, notice how Archbishop Michael went back to “I’m not your friend” to start off – a clear indication he meant business. Secondly, instead of dropping the boss line, I liked how he went with a more affirming approach reminding me that I have the ultimate friend in Jesus.
After these three failed attempts, I decided to re-think my strategy. I stopped trying so hard and was willing to let things unfold as they would.
And then it happened.
We were in Yellowknife for Bishop Hagemoen’s ordination and we were getting ready to leave the high school to load the bus to the airport. As I held the door open for people exiting, I noticed Archbishop Michael looking sharp in his leather jacket and hat.
“Looking good, Archbishop Michael,” I told him as he passed through the door.
“Thank you, my FRIEND!” he replied as he let out a loud chuckle.
I had to do a double-take to make sure that I had heard him correctly. After confirming it with a couple of people near me, I yelled out “FINALLY!” and let go of the door being careful not to let it hit anyone in the face.
“Thank you, Archbishop Michael, my FRIEND!” I replied as I gave him a side-hug. “I’ve been waiting to hear you say that for 6 years now.”
Needless to say, I was beaming the whole flight home. I was grateful for people like Krissy, Analyn, Pat, and Tom – they were in Yellowknife with me and were aware of my mission.
Now a casual observer might be reading this and thinking “Oh, what’s the big deal? So he called you his friend…whoop de doo.”
Well, to me it was a big deal. What had started as something fun had turned into a quest for me.
Since then, Archbishop Michael has called me his friend – and even his buddy – on numerous occasions, showing that this wasn’t a fluke occurrence. In fact, he introduced me to the visiting Father Raymond de Souza like this: “Father Raymond, do you know my buddy Clay?”
He is an extremely kind, intelligent, and genuine man. He has always been extremely generous and welcoming to Gail and the kids.
Regardless of what he calls me, I’m grateful to know that I have Archbishop Michael’s trust to direct the efforts of youth and young adult ministry for the archdiocese. It’s a privilege that I take extremely seriously and I hope that it shows in the work that our office does.
And if I ever falter or lose my way, I’m sure he’ll be quick to give me a friendly reminder to smarten up.