Sr. Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence was given permission to officiate a wedding on July 22. Photo courtesy of Prayitno via Flickr []

Quebec nun officiates wedding with special permission from the Vatican

  • August 1, 2017

OTTAWA – When no priests were available, the Bishop of the Quebec diocese of Rouyn-Noranda sought and received Vatican permission for a local nun to officiate at a wedding.

While the story has been portrayed around the world as a sign that Pope Francis is “valorizing the role of women in the Church,” Bishop Dorylas Moreau said the unusual wedding was carried out according to a long-established provision of canon law.

It allows an exception for a lay person to be permitted to officiate at a wedding when a bishop, priest or deacon is unavailable. That lay person can be a man or a woman.

“It is an exceptional situation, not something habitual,” Bishop Moreau said in French.

The bishop said he has only 16 priests for 35 parishes in a diocese that covers more than 24,000 square kilometers of rugged territory bordering on Northern Ontario. There are more than 75 nuns, but the diocese has no deacons, although three are currently in formation.

This priest shortage, especially acute in the summer, led the bishop to make a request through the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship for permission to have Sr. Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence conduct the wedding. Approval was received in May.

On July 22, Thiffault conducted the wedding of a couple identified only as David and Cindy at a Catholic parish in the town of Lorrainville, Que., 465 km northwest of Ottawa. The church was not far from the parish of Moffett, where Thiffault is a pastoral worker.

She had known David since he was a high school student through her role as a catechist.

The couple was unavailable for an interview.

“It was a new experience for me,” said Thiffault in French. She described the experience as “precious” for her, for the couple and for the people in the parish.

“It was good for the diocese,” she said. “It was also an experiment for the Catholic Church.”

It was a great privilege to “aid a couple for a Christian marriage.”

Thiffault called her involvement a “work of evangelization,” because she met with the couple several times to help prepare them for marriage.

If another need arises, she would be happy to officiate again, she said.

“I imagine the authorization will not be given only for one marriage.”

“I don’t know why Monseigneur (the bishop) would refuse (to seek Vatican permission in a similar circumstance),” she said. “If I can help, I will accept.”

nun wedding webWhen no priests were available, Bishop Dorylas Moreau of Quebec’s Rouyn-Noranda diocese sought and received Vatican permission for Sr. Pierrette Thiffault to officiate at a wedding. (CNS photo/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence)

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