It is with mixed emotions that the Redemptorists of the Edmonton-Toronto province celebrate the ordination of their brother, Rev. Jon Hansen, CSsR, as bishop of the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. However, those mixed emotions flow for the very best of reasons!
We celebrate with joy the choice of Jon for this office; as the church has discerned his qualifications and called him forth, we Redemptorists — our ordained members, lay missionaries and our associates — take great pride that one of our own is entrusted with the episcopal ministry to serve as shepherd, brother, companion and friend the people of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.
However, in truth, we are saddened to see him depart from among us Redemptorists in the way we have known him. Jon will always be a Redemptorist in his heart as well as ours. As Redemptorists we have studied, worked and lived with him for the past few decades, and it has been a blessing to share life and ministry with him. We will miss him because his presence with us has been a true gift; however, it is the nature of a gift that it be shared. We have shared in the gift of Jon, and now the people of his diocese will share in that same gift.
Jon has always been a person of a simpler life and style. It is one of the reasons why he resonated with the religious life shaped by the vow of poverty. Jon’s quiet way showed us that a simpler, uncomplicated attitude in a complex world is a strength and blessing. It has guided him in his own life and it helped us in the many Redemptorist ministries that Jon participated in during his years with our province. For those who know Jon, you have come to learn that his quiet simplicity brings with it not only confidence in him, but also wisdom. We Redemptorists can say with sincerity, this confidence and wisdom will now serve the people of Mackenzie-Fort Smith well.
We have also seen Jon’s great love for the poor and the marginalized. It was for the poor and marginalized in the hills of Scala, Italy, in 1732 that the Redemptorist founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori, founded the Redemptorists. Since we have come to know Jon, he has heard and treasured that same charism.
When Jon was at St. Patrick’s Church in Toronto, he became closely involved with Out of the Cold program hosted by our parish to provide a hot meal and a warm, safe shelter to people who lived on the street during the winter months. Also in Toronto he was part of an effort called, “Becoming Neighbours” which helped refugees settle and find community in a new city and country. His time as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Saskatoon saw him care of the poor of the parish in the many ways that parish does. But it was his call north that perhaps stands out above all.
Jon has always had a deep love for Northern Canada, its land, its waters, and its people. When he sought to minister up there, we Redemptorists sent him there with our support and blessing because we saw in this effort our own charism, as well as hearing a call from within Jon that had to be followed. We see that in a real way, Jon has found his home among the land and peoples of northern Canada. We see his call to serve as bishop to be a natural consequence of this most recent call, and of his Redemptorist heart.
And so we let go of him with, yes, a sense of sadness, but it is consoled by the joy of knowing that he is following the call of God and the call of Alphonsus to this next chapter in his life. As Redemptorists, we know that we and Jon will always be bound together by the Alphonsian charism we share.
To the people of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, we entrust our brother to you and we know that you will be as blessed by his presence among you, as we were while he was among us.