Saint’s Stories: Tom Collings

tom_collingsPriest, Bishop, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Friend. Tom was born December 2nd, 1938 in Abergavenny, Wales. He died July 8th, 2014 from cancer, at age 75. His early schooling was in Wales, and he studied mathematics and theology at Oxford, England. A scholarship sent him to Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he studied under Reinhold Niebuhr. To most of his friends this was a surprise. Tom as quite modest and never once mentioned his impressive academic credentials.
Tom met and married his wife Julie (also a priest). They returned to the U.K., where Tom received an MSc in Operations Research from the University of Essex. He was then ordained deacon in the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1979. Tom, Julie and their children came to Winnipeg, where he was ordained priest in 1980.
In 1991, he was elected and consecrated Bishop of Keewatin. After retirement, Tom and Julie moved to the Diocese of Qu’Appelle, where he did ministry development. Moving back to Rupert’s Land, Tom and Julie worked in various ministries with First Nations communities, and as volunteers at St. Thomas, Weston, where they spent several years developing a “Total Ministry” model. He was also extraordinarily committed to prison ministry.
Tom shaped his life based on the gospel. He lived his faith with determination and enthusiasm. With a few other retired clergy of Rupert’s Land, he met regularly and never allowed us simply to drink coffee and gossip, but encouraged us to spend time on Bible study, prayer and even hymn singing.
When he and Julie went on a vacation to Tuscany, they decided to stay in a monastery and help out in a soup kitchen.
Tom’s family was very important to him. In his last few days in palliative care, he refused pain medication until he had a chance to talk with all his family from out of town. He was compassionate with others but extremely hard on himself.
One of my favourite memories is the time when he first came to Rupert’s Land in the early 1980s. My wife, and I invited him and his family over for dinner. Because they had five children, and we had four, we decided to eat inexpensively by barbecuing hamburgers. Tom’s children were wildly enthusiastic about the meal. It was only later, after an invitation to their home, that we discovered Tom was a vegetarian. Apparently his children were somewhat reluctant vegetarians, and hamburgers were a rare treat for them. But Tom politely ate the hamburgers with the rest of us.
He will be missed.

David Pate is Honorary Assistant at All Saints’ Church and a former colleague of Tom Collings.

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