Quentin Schesnuik has seen plenty in his role as manager of planned giving and personal gifts with the Archdiocese of Toronto. Phil and his silver bars, however, is the stuff of legend. Register file photo

An odd encounter: shotguns, silver bars, a priest and a guy named Phil

By  Quentin Schesnuik, Catholic Register Special
  • November 4, 2016

The old man’s white beard shook as his quivering lips whispered, “The entire world financial system is about to collapse. An armoured car will arrive in 15 minutes to deliver me a truckload of silver bars worth about a quarter million dollars. If you come with me now, half of them are for you.”

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Behind the building where no one will see.”

This actually happened.

The old man, who I’ll call Phil, and I were sitting in my office at the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Chancery building several years ago. Beside him was a priest well known in the archdiocese. Apparently, Phil had come to make a gift from his estate to the archdiocese.

Phil continued, “The only reason I am talking to you, Quentin, is because Father said I need to meet with you to gift the silver bars.”

Father joined the conversation. “Phil and I just met a few days ago at a religious event. He arrived in Toronto today and tracked me down here at the Chancery Office.”

Phil nodded. “I want to start a home for single mothers. When the collapse comes, they will need a place to go. There will be no social services left. Everything will be wiped out.”

“When is the collapse coming?” I asked skeptically.

“I have no idea. Only God knows that,” he replied.

On the elevator ride I was thinking there would be no silver bars waiting for us. My decision to agree to go to the back of the building meant we had to pass by security. A nearby subway entrance meant there were always people walking by. As Phil was quite elderly, I knew there was no physical threat. And besides, in the worst-case scenario I was pretty sure that I could run faster than my priest companion.

 When we reached the back of the building there was no armoured car.

“It should be here in a few minutes,” Phil said.

Twenty minutes later, a black Lincoln Continental pulled up. A serious looking man with dark sunglasses and a black tie sprang out. “The armoured car is in the LCBO parking lot up the road. I’ve radioed them to come over.”

Next — in one of the oddest stories of my career — Father and I watched with utter bewilderment as an armoured car backed into the parking lot behind our building. Two guards got out, one holding a shotgun, the other a ring of keys.

Phil then opened the trunk of his 1980 Ford Pinto and moved the section of foam and blankets he had been sleeping on during his journey to Toronto. I watched as a guard and Phil transferred very large silver bars from the armoured car to the trunk of the Pinto.

“This is a terrible place to do the exchange,” the man in sunglasses said as he looked at all the people walking to the subway.

“That was my decision,” I said triumphantly.

The man gave me his business card and said, “I can tell you that the decision to bring the silver bars here was made at the highest levels. I still can’t believe that we decided to do it. Originally, Phil wanted to take possession of the bars downtown, right outside of the bank, but that would have caused too much havoc.”

I found out later that Phil had rented a safe at a major bank to store his silver. Phil’s belief in the impending collapse triggered his decision to take possession now.

When the transfer was done, the armoured car left and Phil’s car was so weighed down that the back bumper almost kissed the ground. Phil looked at the priest.

“Father, I have a long way to travel. Can you bless my car?”

After receiving a blessing, Phil turned to me and said, “When the collapse comes, your silver bars will be ready for delivery.” And with that, Phil drove off, becoming the stuff of legend.

(Schesnuik is the Manager of Planned Giving and Personal Gifts for the Archdiocese of Toronto. If you have gifts you would like to donate, email him at development@archtoronto.org. The Archdiocese is still waiting for the financial collapse which will trigger the delivery of silver bars.)

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