Rev. Kevin McGee (right) introduced new pastoral leaders in the diocese as part of Administration Day Sept. 13 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. (Kiply Yaworski photo)
SASKATOON — Administration Day provided an opportunity to reflect on changes and ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
The Sept. 13 gathering saw the launch of the 2016 Bishop’s Annual Appeal, information about insurance, as well as diocesan initiatives in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action, and the introduction of new clergy and personnel serving across the diocese.
Rev. Kevin McGee spoke about the upcoming transition between bishops. McGee spoke in the absence of apostolic administrator Donald Bolen, who was on pilgrimage walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela before heading to the plenary of the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops in September, and then being installed as Archbishop of Regina Oct. 14.
McGee described next steps for the Diocese of Saskatoon and reflected on the impact of being between bishops. The Diocese of Saskatoon’s College of Consultors will meet Oct. 19 to select a diocesan administrator who will serve until Pope Francis appoints another bishop for Saskatoon. There is no precise timeline for the appointment of a new bishop — it could take six months, a year, or more. In the meantime, the diocesan administrator will provide leadership in the diocese.
“Today we have had some beautiful presentations that represent the ministry that is taking place in the Diocese of Saskatoon and that ministry obviously will continue,” McGee noted. “What has happened here today is a sign of the Holy Spirit at work — and who will continue to be at work in the weeks and months to follow.”
Some changes are already being experienced, he noted. “Until his installation as Archbishop of Regina on Oct. 14, Bishop Don continues as our apostolic administrator — a title that obviously identifies a transitional moment both for him and for us,” McGee explained.
During this transition, there is no longer a vicar-general in the diocese, instead, McGee is serving as a “delegate of the apostolic administrator.” As well, consultative bodies in the diocese cease until a new bishop is appointed; this includes the Council of Priests and the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
“But what will continue are relationships — the relationships that we have here that have been fostered together, in our different capacities, roles and leadership. I can assure you that the administrator working with a wonderful team of managers here at the Catholic Pastoral Centre will continue to provide for and respond to the needs of the diocese,” McGee said.
This time of transition is also a time to pray, he stressed. “There is a beautiful quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin — ‘above all, trust in the slow work of God.’ God is at work — although sometimes not according to our timelines and agenda,” he said.
McGee added that the diocese has experienced great leadership in the past. “As a diocese we have experienced bishops who have supported us in many ways, and given us beautiful leadership and direction. I have no doubt that God is faithful and will provide that leadership for us.”
During Administration Day, director of Pastoral Services Blake Sittler provided an overview of ministry and upcoming events, also noting a few changes and transitions.
For instance, the Msgr. Michael J. Koch Resource Library is undergoing a shift, with a cull of materials that are no longer in demand in an age of the Internet and more readily available digital resources. “The transition we have gone through with technology has radically affected how we use resources,” Sittler said.
“We will still obviously be keeping the resources that are used on a more regular basis — the Bible studies, DVDs and CDs, biblical commentaries (and) current pastoral books, but there are a number of other texts that will be removed from the collection.” Ways of using the space more wisely will also be considered in the weeks and months ahead, he added.
This fall has seen the launch of the Justice and Outreach Year (JOY) of Formation program, Sittler noted. Co-ordinated by Kate O’Gorman, JOY includes 15 participants in a hands-on program exploring Catholic Social Teaching through practical, hands-on experience and theological reflection once a month for the next 10 months.
As of this year, the two-year Lay Formation program in the diocese is also undergoing a change. Year 2 for the diocesan and eparchial stream began in September, but there are no Year I’s in Lay Formation in any of the three streams right now, as the program transitions to a process of beginning a new group only once every two years. The next opportunity to begin all three streams of the Lay Formation program is September 2017. In conjunction with that change, the diocesan program now has only one diocesan co-ordinator, Mona Goodman.
Sittler also highlighted upcoming dates for events such as diocesan Study Days (Oct. 19 - 20), which will again focus on “Forming Intentional Disciples” with speaker Katherine Coolidge; a session on “Building Parishes of Discipleship” Oct. 29; a Diocesan Congress Nov. 29 - 30 on the topic of boundaries in ministry; and a daylong session on pastoral issues related to the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide, to be held on Dec. 1 with Rev. Mark Miller, CSsR.
“There is also a ‘heads up’ that Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon has called a number of people together as he would like to see a marriage conference in spring 2017 around the content of Amoris Laeitia, the pastoral letter from Pope Francis,” added Sittler.
Among new staff introduced by Sittler at Administration Day is a new human resources manager for the entire diocese (including parishes). Patrick J. Clarke will provide support in the area of personnel issues, hiring procedures and employee relations. He will assist in the development and implementation of employment policies, ensuring that employment standards and regulations are met, as well as assisting with conflict resolution, performance evaluation and training.
Other new staff were introduced during Administration Day, including Jackie Saretsky, co-ordinator of Hospital Chaplaincy for the Diocese at Saskatoon City and Royal University Hospitals; executive assistant to the director, Rita Taylor, who will also co-ordinate the diocesan Foundations: Exploring Our Faith Together program; and Vyenda McLean and Brigitte Buehler, who will share the position of receptionist at the Catholic Pastoral Centre.
As another ministry year started in the Diocese of Saskatoon, several parishes have welcomed new pastors, including missionary priests from Africa, India and the Philippines who were introduced by McGee during Administration Day.
Recently arrived priests in the diocese include: Rev. Joseph Thazhathemuriyil, VC, (serving at Leader, Lancer and Liebenthal) and Rev. Binu Rathappillil, VC, (serving at Macklin, Denzil and St. Donatus), both from India; Rev. Deyre Azcuna of the Philippines (serving as associate pastor at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, as well as hospital chaplain); five priests from Nigeria: Rev. Joseph Salihu (serving at Humboldt, Marysburg, Pilger and Burr), Rev. Godwin Aghedo, OP, (serving at Davidson, Kenaston, Outlook and Elbow), Rev. Peter Ebidero (serving at Martensville and Langham), Rev. Emmanuel Olusola (serving at Allan, Colonsay and Viscount), and Rev. Peter Olisa (serving as associate pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon).
A recently ordained Redemptorist priest, Rev. Graham Hill, CSsR, has also arrived in Saskatoon, serving as priest moderator at Our Lady of Guadalupe on a team with parish life director Debbie Ledoux.
Rev. Doug Jeffrey, OMI, has also arrived in the diocese, undertaking a special “Prairie House of Prayer” project near Wilkie, Sask.
One parish, St. Francis Xavier in Saskatoon, has also welcomed a new parish life director, Judy Gatin, who was appointed by the bishop this fall to serve with priest moderator Rev. Nestor Gregoire in a ministry team.
In this year’s round of appointments, departures and changes, Bolen also announced a new arrangement with Archbishop Murray Chatlain of the Archdiocese of Keewatin — LePas, in which the Diocese of Saskatoon will be providing a priest to serve parishes in La Ronge and Southend. Rev. Lawrence DeMong, OSB, will serve as pastor in the two northern communities, spending about two-thirds of his time up north, and one-third back home.