Bishop Gary Gordon installed in Victoria

By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic

VICTORIA (CCN) — The new shepherd of the oldest diocese west of Toronto has issued a challenge to his Vancouver Island flock: revive your apostolic dynamism!

“Honestly, it’s not easy to leave the north, and it will be part of my mission to re-engage this diocese in its history as a missionary diocese,” Bishop Gary Gordon said in St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

(B.C. Catholic/Burns photo)

In the presence of bishops from all over Western Canada, he was installed as the 17th bishop of Victoria Aug. 28. From 2006 to June 2014 he had been the shepherd of the northern Diocese of Whitehorse.

A relative, Sister Mary Gordon, a retired Sister of St. Ann, lives in Victoria. The prelate paid tribute to her order, the first sisters to serve in Alaska and the Yukon.

“This diocese had an amazing history of going beyond its shores to the peripheries of the world.”

An hour earlier, as people had filed into the three-level building, the setting sun had been illuminating churchgoers on the main floor through a stained glass depiction of King David.

Those seated upstairs in the balcony were below a 40-strong choir, organist, and brass section all crowded into the choir loft.

Three hard knocks at the cathedral entrance rang throughout the vast 1890s structure. A Knights of Columbus honour guard and 750 laity turned toward the door.

With a flourish of trumpets, Gordon strode in to a standing ovation, flanked by Rev. John Laszczyk, the diocesan administrator, and Cynthia Bouchard-Watkins, the diocesan chancellor.

The bishop was handed his crozier, the sign of his pastoral ministry.

“What a wonderfully joyous occasion this is,” said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, in opening remarks. “We are witnessing something awesome and inspiring.”

The archbishop commented that Victoria’s new prelate had a “restless heart,” like St. Augustine, and as a “man always on the move,” would provide an energetic ministry.

“Archbishop Miller, thank you for those kind words. . . . I’m going to go for a little walk, but I’m not going to walk out the door!” Gordon exclaimed to laughter.

During his homily, he walked along the aisles. “Oh boy, there’s a lot of people in the back,” the prelate quipped.

The bishop recalled his eight-week stint as a chaplain at the (now closed) Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women.

“I’d been to jails before and always got a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” he joked.

At the prison he announced mass was on Fridays at 3 p.m. No one showed up. He wondered if any women were actually incarcerated, and thought, “Holy crow, this was a waste of time.”

A month later, Hank, the full-time Protestant chaplain, gave him a call. “Gary, I just got a thank-you; all the ladies in the prison are so grateful.” He added, “’everyone in the prison heard your footsteps.’”

“They knew I cared. That’s ministry!” said Gordon.

He recalled wondering as a boy where his soul was, and said he heard his answer in this message from the prison. “Our soul is in the bottom of our feet. That’s good news for our world.”

Steven Point, a former lieutenant-governor of B.C. (2007-12) who is Catholic and a native, emotionally shook Gordon’s hand at the Sign of Peace.

“Bishop Gary has had a tremendously positive impact on native relations. He’ll bring that to Victoria. It’s sorely needed,” Point had told The B.C. Catholic before mass. He also explained that the bishop’s “Sto:lo Indian name means ‘takes care of the people’: very appropriate.”

Outside the cathedral, Joanne O’Hara remembered Gordon from Chilliwack. “He’s the sweetest, kindest, most fun-loving guy.”

Poor Clares from Duncan also attended the installation. Sister Dawn Marie Kling said their primary ministry is prayer, and her prayer for Bishop Gordon was that he have a “pastoral heart,” and become a “source of unity and hope.”

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