YELLOWKNIFE — Fifteen bishops and the faithful from throughout Canada stood in witness and prayerful support March 16 as Bishop Jon Hansen, CSsR, of the Edmonton-Toronto Redemptorist Province, was ordained and installed as Bishop of the Mackenzie-Fort Smith diocese in the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.). St. Patrick Co-Cathedral in Yellowknife could not accommodate the crowd, so the ceremony was held in the St. Patrick High School gym.
Hansen, a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, commonly known as the Redemptorists, described his ordination as a true community event. Redemptorist Archbishop Gérard Pettipas of the Grouard-McLennan archdiocese presided, provincial superior Rev. Mark Miller, CSsR, of the Edmonton-Toronto Province proclaimed the Gospel, Canadian superior General Rev. Michael Brehl, CSsR, delivered the homily, and many confreres concelebrated mass.
Some of the bishops in attendance included previous Mackenzie-Fort Smith bishops Mark Hagemoen, now serving in Saskatoon; Murray Chatlain, now Archbishop of Keewatin-LePas; and retired Bishop Emeritus Denis Crouteau, OMI; as well as Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, and other bishops from across Western Canada.
Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, the Papal Nuncio of Canada, arrived early and participated in the diocesan spring retreat, which brought together 35 lay pastoral leaders from the 1.5 million-square-kilometre Mackenzie-Fort Smith diocese.
Family and friends also travelled from throughout the country to participate, including from Hansen’s home parish of St. Joseph, Grande Prairie, Alta.; St. John’s, Nfld.; Toronto; St. Mary’s Parish in Saskatoon, where Hansen served for six years; and Our Lady of Victory Parish in Inuvik, where he was appointed pastor in 2015.
“He is the perfect man for the job,” said Miller. “Several years ago, he discerned a call to serve God’s people in the Far North, and he obviously has found his new home.”
Indeed, Hansen said he is grateful to Pope Francis for the opportunity to continue serving in the N.W.T.
“I feel at home here — I love it,” the new bishop said. “When I felt the call to come here, I saw a close parallel to St. Alphonsus and Scala.”
It was in 1732 in Scala, Italy, that St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Congregation.
“Missionaries trekked here 100 years ago and taught the people to love Jesus, but in many cases, there were no priests left to celebrate the sacraments. It’s a barren land, literally and spiritually: there are too few clergy available for ministry.”
Surviving in the beautiful but harsh conditions of the Northwest Territories demands resilience and independence, as well as a strong sense of community.
“It’s a winter playground for outdoor enthusiasts who can tolerate 24 hours of darkness and frigid temperatures at 40 degrees below,” Hansen said. “The people are incredible — generous to an amazing degree. The first response when news of my appointment reached Inuvik was, ‘It is amazing what God is doing with our pastor.’ They didn’t lament my leaving. They are quick to welcome and quick to let go, trusting that they aren’t losing out. That is an amazing perspective.”
Hansen wore a seal-skin mitre, an ordination gift from the community in Paulatuk, a traditional Inuvialuit community with deep roots in hunting, trapping and fishing. He borrowed the beaded moose-hide chasuble, which was given to the diocese years ago, for the celebration.
Hansen served six years in Saskatoon, serving on the Diocesan Council for Truth and Reconciliation (DCTR) during his assignment as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish. The DCTR was created to help heal the wounds caused by the residential schools that played a role in destroying indigenous cultures.
“This territory is 90 per cent indigenous, including many diverse cultures and 12 official languages. It’s a huge challenge because a person’s identity is directly tied to the language they speak. Just learning the Sign of the Cross in a native tongue speaks volumes and is an important gesture because language is a path toward reconciliation,” Hansen said.
In fact, the new bishop chose “Truth and Reconciliation” as his motto. “In my role as bishop, I am a brother. We are a family, and families stick together until issues are resolved. We will walk forward together as brothers and sisters called to this work of reconciliation,” he explained.
Hansen’s website, www.jonhansencssr.com, offers photographs of the landscape and his reflections about life in the Northwest Territories.
This article appears courtesy of Denver Link / Denver Province, Redemptorists.