Bishop Thomas Dowd, new Bishop of Sault Ste. Marie. CNS file photo

A Montreal boy ventures north

  • October 30, 2020

Life in a northern town can be tough. Life in three northern towns might be tougher. But Bishop Tom Dowd is relishing the challenge of leading the Church in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and North Bay in Northern Ontario.

“One of the great things I’ve learned about the Church is that it’s just full of so many people who really want to make a difference,” Dowd told The Catholic Register the day after his Oct. 22 appointment as Bishop of Sault Ste. Marie. “You find those people, you rally those energies, and just amazing things can happen in actually pretty short order.”

The former auxiliary bishop of Montreal admits he’s never spent time in Northern Ontario, but he’s aware that the Church in the north encompasses French, English and Indigenous Catholics who have known some hard times as mining jobs have disappeared and the legacy of Indian residential schools has reshaped both Church and society.

“I don’t think we’re responsible for mining jobs. But can we be a catalyst for the life of our communities? Absolutely. That’s kind of what I’m hoping for,” Dowd said.

Dowd is a self-described Montreal boy, born there in 1970, ordained a priest for the diocese in 2001 then made Montreal’s English-sector bishop in 2011. Before seminary, Dowd took a commerce degree from Concordia University. His studies for priesthood were at the Grand Séminaire de Montréal. After ordination and a 2002 Master of Divinity and licentiate in theology from the University of Montreal, Dowd went on to complete a licentiate in canon law from the Institut de droit canonique at the Université de Strasbourg in 2014. He has lectured at Concordia, the Grande Séminaire and McGill University.

In 2018 Dowd was in Rome for the Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment. He has been active within the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as chair of the standing committee on canon law, serving on Canada’s official Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and as bishop-promoter of maritime ministry.

The complexity of Catholic life in Sault Ste. Marie with its French, Indigenous and English communities attracts Dowd to his new job.

“One of the good things about my approach to life in general is that I’m very open to other cultures and other ways of life,” he said.

“I just enjoy getting to know people and getting to know their stories.”

Dowd has already been meeting with diocesan staff on Zoom calls and expects to make his first in-person visit early in November. A date for his installation has not been set, but he expects it will happen mid-December.

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