Regina’s Archbishop Daniel Bohan died Jan. 15. Photo by Alan Hustak.

Bohan a builder of bridges

  • January 20, 2016

When Archbishop Daniel Bohan died Jan. 15, Joey Reynolds had to get on The Regina Leader Post web site to remind everybody of what kind of man had come west to pastor in the Queen City.

“He indeed did help build a much more positive bridge to people like myself, a First Nation (person) that sometimes gets down on his luck,” said Reynolds. “(I was) happy to have seen him sit down and spend time with us. (He) just cared. With that, I say thank you.”
When Archbishop Bohan became an auxiliary bishop in Toronto in 2003 his motto was Misericors et Fidelis — Mercy and Faith.

The bridge Archbishop Bohan built with Reynolds and his friends at the Marian Centre in downtown Regina was typical of the gentle Maritime priest. The archbishop would naturally sit down to Christmas dinner with the city’s homeless. It was the connections between people that mattered most to Archbishop Bohan.

Archbishop Bohan was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, in 1941 and grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick, after the Second World War. He graduated from St. Thomas University in Chatham, N.B., in 1963 and went straight into Halifax’s Holy Heart Seminary. By 1967 he was ordained and off to do a Master of Theology degree at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

As his bishop’s representative to anglophone Catholics in Moncton, as an instructor in moral theology at Holy Heart Seminary and eventually as a board member of the Atlantic School of Theology, Fr. Bohan always sought to bring people together. He developed an interest in ecumenism and was made the Roman Catholic representative on the United Church of Canada’s Gospel, ecumenism and theology committee.

Archbishop Bohan was one of the last bishops appointed by Pope John Paul II on March 30, 2005. It was a request that took him away from his roots in the small cities and Irish neighbourhoods of the Maritimes and placed him in Toronto, where he learned to be at home in the most diverse immigrant Church in the Western hemisphere.

As soon as he was a bishop he was at work with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on its social affairs commission.

The protection of ordinary people was a duty Archbishop Bohan took seriously. When the Saskatchewan legislature dropped Sunday closing laws in 2013, he issued a pastoral letter decrying how working people were being treated as mere economic inputs there to fuel higher GDP numbers. What the government called greater flexibility in the provincial labour force, Archbishop Bohan saw as the dehumanizing of the economy.

“It is out of concern for the dignity and value of human persons that Catholic moral teaching advances an accurate understanding of work, one that includes the need humans have for the sabbath, for a day of rest,” wrote Archbishop Bohan.

It was that same concern over government high-handedness and its effect on ordinary people that worried Archbishop Bohan about the decision to legalize same-sex marriage. He was not assured that government employees would be allowed to opt out of involvement in civil ceremonies for same-sex marriage.

“The threat of loss of one’s job and employment certainly raises the spectre of coercion upon a person if it is demanded of that person that he or she do something that they believe to be wrong in order to keep their livelihood,” Archbishop Bohan wrote in 2011.

Government skittishness about public reaction to increased use of nuclear power in Saskatchewan got Archbishop Bohan working ecumenically with the Anglican and Lutheran bishops. In 2009 he stood with his Anglican and Lutheran counterparts in demanding the government slow down and consult with the people.

Archbishop Bohan spent his last few weeks in palliative care at Pasqua Hospital in Regina.

A Mass for Archbishop Bohan was scheduled for Regina’s Holy Rosary Cathedral on Jan. 22. He will be buried in Moncton, out of St. Augustine’s parish. The funeral will take place Jan. 26 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Augustine’s.

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