(Photo by Tim Yaworski)
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon is preparing to bid farewell to Bishop Donald Bolen, who will be installed archbishop of Regina on Oct. 14, 2016.
A farewell mass and reception for Bishop Bolen will be held in Saskatoon beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Cathedral of the Holy Family. The public event will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of Bolen’s ordination as a priest on Oct. 12, 1991.
Pope Francis’ appointment of Bolen as archbishop of Regina was announced July 11, 2016. Regina has been without a bishop since the Jan. 15, 2016, death of Archbishop Daniel Bohan after a battle with cancer.
Bolen’s ready smile, his episcopal motto “Mercy Within Mercy Within Mercy,” his focus on the power of the Word of God, his commitment to dialogue and justice, his joyful exploration of the fundamental human experiences as signs of the Paschal Mystery, and his proclamation of the evangelizing power of beauty, has touched many throughout the diocese and beyond.
The announcement of his departure has been greeted with words of appreciation for Bolen’s leadership and service during his time as Bishop of Saskatoon.
“We so appreciate the love and support Bishop Don has shown the students and staff of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools in his time with us,” said Diane Boyko, Chair of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools Board of Education.
“His gentle spirit, his ecumenism, and his belief in the goodness of the world have been an example for all of us to follow. We will miss him and will continue to pray for him and his ministry” Boyko said.
Others noted his spirit of collaboration, consultation and dialogue. “Bishop Don has built and maintained many good relationships in the diocese in areas ranging from health care and education to our ecumenical partners and the First Nations,” said Blake Sittler, Director of Pastoral Services. “He has a great ability to meet people where they are and make them feel comfortable sharing their concern or story.”
Linda Klassen of the Diocesan Pastoral Council said that Saskatoon’s loss is Regina’s gain. “I have worked with Bishop Don for several years on a number of committees and he brings a real sense of peace and understanding to the issues facing our diocese.”
Priests in the diocese of Saskatoon also reflected on his impact and example as a servant leader.
“Bishop Don challenged and encouraged me to take on leadership roles within the diocese. I learned a lot from his example of prayer, humility, honesty, and strong but gentle leadership,” said Rev. Matthew Ramsay, pastor at St. Anne Parish in Saskatoon and chair of the Council of Priests. “He encouraged us as priests to build priestly fraternity among each other and to continue growing with the lay people of the diocese as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Rev. Iheanyi Enwerem, OP, said he will miss the bishop’s leadership style. “He is a leader by example. He is not just a humble man, he is seen as such,” said Enwerem. “It is worth noting that we knew from him, long before the emergence of Pope Francis, what exemplary leadership in humility means and demands.”
Bolen’s first words about his appointment as Archbishop of Regina were words of gratitude for his time in the Diocese of Saskatoon.
“Serving in the Diocese of Saskatoon has been one of the great joys and privileges of my life,” he said. “Because of the dedication, faithfulness and wisdom of the Catholic Pastoral Centre staff, the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Diocese of Saskatoon, this has been a powerful experience for me of the Holy Spirit at work in the church.”
Saskatoon’s outgoing bishop acknowledged that the appointment brings mixed feelings. “To be moved from the Diocese of Saskatoon is painful because it has been such a grace-filled experience to live and to serve here as bishop, but, at the same time, to move to the Archdiocese of Regina is to go home. I am profoundly grateful to remain in my home province — that is a great joy.”
Bolen was born Feb. 7, 1961, in Gravelbourg (which is now in the Archdiocese of Regina) and raised on a nearby farm. He was ordained a priest on Oct. 12, 1991, in Regina, and served at a number of parishes in the Archdiocese of Regina over the years, as well as being on the faculty of the department of religious studies at Campion College.
With the permission of Regina Archbishop Peter Mallon, Bolen spent seven years (2001 - 2008) working at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome, before returning to Regina in 2009, appointed vicar-general for the archdiocese and serving as chair of the Regina Archdiocesan Ecumenical Commission.
Bolen’s appointment as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Saskatoon was announced Dec. 21, 2009, and his episcopal ordination was held March 25, 2010, at St. Patrick Parish in Saskatoon. His six-year tenure has been marked by a range of initiatives and undertakings, with a particular focus on dialogue and outreach.
*for more coverage of the congratulatory issue for Archbishop Bolen, see the print edition.