Durocher expecting great challenges in new role as archbishop of Gatineau

  • October 19, 2011

OTTAWA - Alexandria-Cornwall Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher looks to Jesus on the road to Emmaus as a model guiding him in his new appointment as archbishop of Gatineau, a major Quebec See opposite Ottawa in the National Capital Region.

Just as Jesus asked the travellers on the road what they were talking about and what concerned them before he opened up the Scripture and broke bread with them, Durocher sees his task as one of discovering the hungers and spiritual needs of the people in his new archdiocese and hearing their stories.

Fluent in French and English, Durocher said that despite his familiarity with the Franco-Ontarian community, he expects to encounter some cultural differences in Quebec. A “different style of belonging to the Catholic Church” has developed in Quebec over the last 40 years, he said. The great majority consider themselves Roman Catholic, but it “is not typically exhibited by weekly attendance at Mass.”

“The belongingness” of Catholics in Quebec “is more like that of a pilgrim than a resident,” he said.

“The pilgrim is always on the road,” he said. “The typical Catholic in Quebec will tend to find spiritual meaning in a book, a concert, a church service here and there, or perhaps going to St. Joseph’s Oratory with a spiritual director they meet with occasionally.

“As a Church we’re not structured to accompany that kind of journey,” he said, noting the challenge is to find “how we can best help our people to grow in Christ.”

Durocher greeted the news of his appointment with a sense of relief because his name has come up so frequently in rumours regarding recent episcopal appointments that it is good to know where he will settle.

At the same time he is sad to leave Alexandria-Cornwall where he has served since 2002, as well as the Franco-Ontarian community in which he grew up and has ministered during his priestly life. His mixed feelings include a deep sense of humility at the trust being shown him with this more visible position and he greets the challenges ahead with “a sense of enthusiasm.”

“This is going to be for me a real learning experience, one where I really hope to do a lot of listening, a lot of conversations and dialogues to try to understand the issues, the people and to understand my role in all of this as bishop,” he said.

Born in Windsor, Ont., in 1954, Durocher grew up in a Catholic family that practised the faith seriously — all of his six younger brothers and sisters remain “very attached” to the Church. After the family moved to Timmins, Ont., he discovered his love of music and was among the first to play guitar in church during the 1970s as part of music ministry. Though he went to the University of Western Ontario to study music and was preparing for a career as an opera singer, he found the idea of the priesthood “wouldn’t let go.”

So he put his music career on hold and asked the bishop in Timmins if he would sponsor him as a seminarian. He entered the seminary at Saint Paul University in 1977 and obtained a degree in theology.

Durocher also has a deep love for Catholic education. Catechetics and religious ministry have been the focus of his ministry over the past 15 years. He obtained a degree in education from the University of Ottawa in 1980 and taught high school in a French public school for four years.

He has remained involved in youth ministry, reaching out to young people and staying close to movements and initiatives that reach out to them.  He has been at the heart of Catholic education issues in Ontario, and moves now to Quebec where there are no longer publicly funded Catholic schools.

“The real challenge is adult catechesis, we keep on forgetting that,” he said.

Durocher’s installation is not expected until December.

The diocese has 53 parishes and missions, 45 diocesan priests, 25 religious priests, 183 religious sisters and brothers, one permanent deacon and 18 lay pastoral assistants, serving  a Catholic population of 256,800.

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