Calgary's Bishop-Elect William McGrattan shares a special bond with Bishop Fred Henry, the man he replaces. Register file photo

Bishop McGrattan shares special connection with Calgary bishop he replaces

  • January 5, 2017

OTTAWA — Calgary Bishop-elect William Terrence McGrattan shares a special bond with retiring Bishop Fred Henry, whom he will replace when he is installed as Calgary’s new shepherd Feb. 27.

Both bishops were originally from the London, Ont., diocese, where they were ordained to the priesthood and both served as rector of St. Peter’s Seminary before being named to the episcopate.

Bishop McGrattan, 60, has been shepherding the Peterborough diocese for the past two years. Prior to that, he served as Auxiliary Bishop in Toronto from 2009-2014. But, the connection to Bishop Henry, who is retiring at age 73 for health reasons, is more personal.

When he was a young man discerning a call to the priesthood, he met with then-Father Henry during his time as rector of St. Peter’s.

“I remember that meeting as pastoral and affirming,” Bishop McGrattan said in an email. “I carry with me in my heart that positive memory and a sense of gratitude for the role he played in the discernment of my vocation. It is a privilege to carry forward his pastoral ministry.”

Though Bishop McGrattan said he had felt God calling him to the priesthood in high school, he was also considering other pursuits, so he “put this call to priesthood on the back burner.”

“I pursued other avenues such as studying engineering at university and then the world of work. And God’s call was persistently through all of those experiences,” he said.

Bishop McGrattan was ordained to the priesthood in 1987, and then went to Rome for further studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He returned to London in 1992 after obtaining a licentiate and served in parish ministry until he was named seminary rector in 1997.

The combination of parish ministry, teaching and leadership as rector prepared him for his nomination to the episcopacy as Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto in 2010.

“It was an adjustment in some ways, and in many other ways it brought together the experiences of pastoral ministry. The sacramental ministry is similar, of course,” he said. “Taking on the role of shepherd as a bishop and becoming more aware of what is required to lead a diocese takes time, pastoral ministry and the support of the presbyterate and the laity.”

Bishop McGrattan said he had hoped for a longer time in Peterborough, but his experience there “has been a blessing.”

“I undertook parish pastoral visits in the diocese and this time with the parish communities has enabled me to see the good works of the faithful and the ways in which the parishes are taking on the call to engage in evangelization,” he said. “I am dedicated to education so my work in Peterborough with the Catholic schools implementing the Growing in Faith; Growing in Christ Religion program and supporting the founding of Sacred Heart College was a real highlight.

“Leading the development of consistent sacramental preparation programs, reviewing the Permanent Diaconate Program and beginning the first stages of Pastoral Planning have also laid some good foundations for the growth of the diocese,” he said.

The prospect of moving to Calgary has left him with a sense of both excitement and apprehension.

He is leaving a diocese of 40 parishes and a Catholic population of 99,000 to go to a western metropolitan area of 69 parishes and a Catholic population of 427,000.

“I am looking forward to new realities of a growing diocese and a larger city. There is a rich faith tradition in the Diocese of Calgary and I am looking forward to supporting and moving forward the pastoral priorities,” he said.

Bishop McGrattan plans to bring his own style to Calgary, but one that respects the work of his predecessor.

“My intention is to recognize and build with the strengths which Bishop Henry has furthered in the Diocese of Calgary over the past eighteen or so years,” he said. “That is a rich legacy and a tremendous blessing for the faithful reflecting the positive message of mercy and hope which the Church brings to these times. In prayer and humility, I promise to be prophetic in that regard.”

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