SASKATOON - Three priests have been appointed to key roles in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, filling the positions of chancellor, judicial vicar and vicar-general.
Rev. Clement Amofah is the new chancellor for the diocese, as well as serving as adjutant judicial vicar. Rev. Marvin Lishchynsky was appointed judicial vicar, and is working primarily with matters related to the marriage tribunal and annulments.
Rev. Kevin McGee is the new vicar-general, serving as the bishop's "right hand man," as well as being named episcopal vicar of education for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, taking over both roles from Rev. Ron Beechinor, who retired this summer.
Reb Materi, former chancellor and judicial administrator, is continuing to work at the Catholic Pastoral Centre as consultant and assistant to both the new chancellor and judicial vicar. The new appointees took up their positions in the chancery this summer, and all three are also serving as priest moderators in parishes in the diocese.
Amofah has been in Canada since September 2008, when he arrived from Ghana at the invitation of Bishop Albert LeGatt.
Ordained July 21, 1990, Amofah's background includes civil law, thanks to an innovative bishop in his home Diocese of Obuasi who asked priests to take on secular studies and work in the community in a variety of fields - such as law, journalism, medicine, administration, architecture, and so on.
After studying law, Amofah was called to the bar, and practiced in the law courts in Ghana from 1998 to 2008 while also serving as pastor of up to five parishes at a time.
"I enjoyed it," says Amofah. "I was able to help a lot of people. I saw law more as a missionary activity, rather than a profession - to be an advocate for justice."
After arriving in Canada in 2008, Amofah spent several months at St. Paul's Cathedral in Saskatoon before being appointed first as associate pastor and later as pastor to seven parishes in the Wadena area. In June 2012, Amofah went to Ottawa to pursue studies in Canon Law at St. Paul's University, which he completed in two years, returning to Saskatoon in July 2014 to take up the position of chancellor. Canon law is a bit different than civil law, he noted, but it was not hard to adapt the skills from his earlier experience to this new field of study.
In his role as chancellor, Amofah ensures the written actions of the diocesan curia are "guarded, arranged, and safeguarded," overseeing archival records, and information management for the Catholic diocese. He also cares for the property of the diocese when it comes to all legal and ecclesial documentation. The chancellor is the one who declares that copies of documents are in conformity with originals, and who signs, verifies and witnesses all official acts emanating from the bishop and the diocesan curia. "The chancellor is the chief ecclesiastical notary of the diocese," he explains.
Amofah has also been appointed as adjutant judicial vicar, in order to assist in the work of judicial vicar Rev. Marvin Lishchynsky as required. In addition, Amofah is providing parish ministry as priest moderator, working with lay parish life directors Don and Bonnie Courchene in Lanigan and Leona Wakelam in LeRoy. Judicial-vicar Lishchynsky returned this summer from two years of study at St. Paul's University in Ottawa, where he earned a licentiate in canon law. He is now serving as judicial vicar in the Diocese of Saskatoon, working with former chancellor and judicial administrator Reb Materi and longtime employee Donna Rogal on matters pertaining to marriage annulments.
"It has been a sharp learning curve - and it will continue to be. But I enjoy it, I really do, especially meeting with people," says Lishchynsky, who was ordained in 2004 and served several years in parish ministry before being asked by the bishop to pursue his studies in Canon Law.
Lishchynsky's new role on the tribunal is a pastoral one in many ways, he says.
"There are times when you can almost feel the weight that people are carrying. We need to be there for them, listening to their story, affirming them on their faith journey, and reassuring them that they belong in our faith community. Through our service and ministry, we need to remind them of God's presence and care through it all," says Lishchynsky.
Vicar-general McGee came back from a year-long sabbatical this summer to take up the position of vicar-general in the Diocese of Saskatoon. "In a way, it was a year of prayerful preparation," he says of the sabbatical. "When Bishop Don first asked me, I felt it easy to say yes - because of Bishop Don. I find that his pastoral leadership resonates with my own vision, particularly as we listen to Pope Francis and his words of encouragement and inspiration."
Originally from Edmonton, McGee was ordained in the Diocese of Saskatoon 17 years ago, and served in a number of parishes - most recently as pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Saskatoon as well as of St. Michael and St. Peter the Apostle parishes, alongside associate pastor Rev. Patrick Ampani.
The role of a vicar-general is to be of service to the bishop, and in the Diocese of Saskatoon that includes a focus on personnel issues, and building dialogue and relationships with priests across the diocese. Personnel concerns can be challenging, but McGee stresses the importance of careful listening, something which he also fosters in his prayer life, and his devotion to the contemplative tradition and centring prayer. "Really the emphasis is on being a pastoral presence. I think the word relationship contains it," says McGee, recalling a homily from Pope Francis about the importance of a bishop developing friendships with his priests. "As vicar-general I see myself sharing in that role, in being a presence, hopefully that will build on relationships, and build friendships with my brother priests. Hopefully I will be seen as someone who is approachable, and in some areas can be a bridge in relationships."
In addition, McGee is now serving as episcopal vicar of education for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools. McGee is also the priest moderator at St. Augustine Parish in Saskatoon, serving on the pastoral team with parish life directors Russ and Yvonne Powell. "They are very supportive, and are doing a great job," McGee says. "To be present at St. Augustine is a great joy."
McGee sees his new role as vicar-general as an extension or a continuation of his service as a priest in the diocese. "I would hope that wherever I go and whatever I am doing, it is always with a pastor's heart."