Bishop Donald Bolen, Archbishop James Weisgerber and Archbishop Albert LeGatt at a Theology on Tap in Winnipeg. Photo by James Buchok

Three bishops share faith, stories on Saskatchewan roots

By  James Buchok, Canadian Catholic News
  • January 27, 2013

WINNIPEG - Three bishops walked into a bar... and there, before an enthusiastic crowd of youth and young adult ministers, they shared their stories of how they came to have the faith that they have today.

Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen, St. Boniface Archbishop Albert LeGatt and Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg were guests at a Theology on Tap evening at a pub in downtown Winnipeg Jan. 17, the first day of the Western Canadian Association of Catholic Youth Ministers conference.

The bishops share two things; each was born in small town Saskatchewan, Weisgerber in Vibank, LeGatt in Melfort and Bolen in Gravelbourg, and, in the same order, each has served as bishop of Saskatoon. Bolen is also as an advisor to the WCACYM.

Weisgerber said growing up in his village in the 1940s, where almost everyone was Catholic, “everything revolved around the church.” His was a devout family that prayed the rosary every day and two of his aunts were nuns, “and that’s why I became a priest,” he said.

Weisgerber was ordained in 1963, just as the Second Vatican Council was preparing to bring sweeping change to the Church. Before Vatican II, he said, “the Church was much like a military organization, you obey the rules and you’d get ahead.”

LeGatt said he was seven years old when he first thought of the priesthood. Being from a French and Hungarian background, he said, “you did these things because you were a Catholic, you went to Mass on Sunday,” and as a boy he served at Mass every morning at a nearby convent. LeGatt said in high school, a diocesan college, there was a special spiritual director who was instrumental in his discernment toward the priesthood.

Bolen was born in 1961, when the tumult of the decade pervaded communities and households, including his.

“My oldest sister questioned everything,” he said, while another sister became a Jehovah’s Witness and another joined a charismatic church. “So we all followed very different religious options. I inherited my parents’ faith very early but I always had a lot of questions.”

The bishops were asked about times when they struggled with their faith and how they managed to persevere.
Bolen said growing up “in a context where faith isn’t a given, one deals with faith in a questioning way. Doubt and struggle have almost always been a part of my life.” He said at one point he decided God didn’t exist “but I still went to Mass every day.”

“Doubt is an invitation to look deeper,” Bolen said. “The key to a Christian life is to allow doubt to be a source that makes us dig deeper. Take your doubts and work with them.”

The bishops were also asked for their views of the commonly perceived conflict between faith and science.

“If there’s a conflict it’s because we don’t understand faith or we don’t understand science,” Weisgerber said. “Faith needs science and science needs faith. The Church invented universities.” Weisgeber added what the Church is opposed to is “science overstepping its bounds.”

LeGatt said the question of faith versus science “has more to do with who has the power in society to say ‘you shall believe this way.’ Creationism in the Bible is about one basic truth, that God is the source of all things. Evolution is a much more incredible way of creating the world compared to six days. Evolution speaks much more strongly to God’s power. Science explains very well the ‘how’ and faith provides the ‘why.’ ”

The WCACYM conference continued through the weekend with its annual general meeting, Masses at St. Boniface Cathedral and St. Mary’s Cathedral and a visit to the shrine of Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky, a Ukrainian bishop and martyr, on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in north Winnipeg.

(Prairie Messenger)


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