The Five Amigos

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By  Msgr. Gerry Pettipas, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan

I’m not sure if this is the first time in Canadian history, but at the present time, there are five active (i.e. not retired) bishops in Canada from the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. As one bishop quipped to me during the 2019 Plenary Assembly, “It looks like the Redemptorists are taking over!”

Indeed, as Religious bishops in Canada, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate were always a majority. With so many of their members serving the northern and some western dioceses and providing the bishops as well, the present reality is indeed a change. There are now four active Oblate bishops in Canada: Anthony Krótki in Churchill-Hudson Bay, Doug Crosbie in Hamilton, Pierre-Olivier Tremblay in Trois-Rivieres and Claude Champagne in Edmundston. If this were a race, we’d win by a nose.

The photo above was taken during the said 2019 Plenary Assembly in Cornwall, Ontario. I suspect many of our readers will recognize at least four of the five.

Bishop Bryan Bayda is the Ukrainian eparch of Saskatoon (and for the time being the Administrator of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada), Bishop Jon Hansen is the Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith (in the Northwest Territories), Bishop Marián Andrej Paćak is the Eparch for the Slovaks of the Byzantine Rite in Canada, Bishop Guy Desrochers is the Auxiliary Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall, and me, the Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan.

With our respective dioceses being far from one another, and our different responsibilities, we don’t see much of one another, except at the annual plenary assembly in Cornwall, usually held the last week of September. Since Jon Hansen is one of my suffragan bishops, I do have more contact with him, which is always a joy. One of the realities that I was not very conscious of when I became a bishop is the relationship between metropolitan archbishops and their suffragan bishops. Very briefly: an “ecclesiastical province” is made up of a metropolitan archdiocese and one or more suffragan dioceses. The Metropolitan See of Grouard-McLennan has two suffragan dioceses: Mackenzie-Fort Smith and Whitehorse (Yukon), whose bishop is Hector Vila. Even though I have a certain seniority among my suffragans, they exercise all leadership in their respective dioceses.

In my own archdiocese, I have found that the parishioner in the pew has little understanding of the relationship between their parish and the diocese. When I ask school children “What is a bishop?”, their usual answer is “he’s the priest’s boss”. Well, I can see how children might see it that way. But Gospel leadership is to be exercised as a ministry of service. Jesus is quoted as saying “As I have washed your feet, wash one another’s.” Even given that, my priests are reluctant to take off their shoes and socks in my presence.

It’s a delight, all too rare, to be among the confreres. I am grateful for the times spent with our brethren here in Grande Prairie, or Edmonton, or Toronto … or even Vietnam. I suspect my brother Redemptorist bishops feel the same.

Courtesy: “Community Connections”. The Edmonton-Toronto Region, May 2020

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