On July 31, 2020, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, then Canada’s Apostolic Nuncio, imposes Pallium on then Archbishop of Ottawa-Cornwall Terrence Prendergast. Photo courtesy Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall

Prendergast finally off into retirement

By  Susan Korah, Catholic Register Special
  • August 31, 2022

Environmental stewardship is a value Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has held near and dear to his heart during his episcopacy, and his final pastoral letter reflects this as his time as Apostolic Administrator came to an end Aug. 11.

An ardent promoter of Pope Francis’ call to action for responsible stewardship of the Earth, which the Holy Father issued through his encyclical Laudato Si’, Prendergast devoted his last pastoral letter to the Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee — “A New Creation in Christ: Dreams for the Boreal Region of Northern Ontario” — to his hopes for the diocese, the region and its people.

“This is our homeland,” Prendergast wrote. “This is where we pray and work, play and rest. This is where we raise our families. As members of the Church in boreal Northern Ontario, I invite you to join with me so we can focus our attention on our boreal homeland. Together let us seek what God is revealing to us through the breath and beauty of our lands and waters.”

Prendergast pleaded for Catholics in the diocese and beyond to “view our boreal homeland with the same comprehensive, integral dream offered by the universal Church in Pope Francis’ vision of the Amazon (elucidated in an address titled ‘Beloved Amazon to a 2019 Synod on the Amazon.’) Imagine if we referred to the boreal region as the ‘beloved boreal’ and to the Hudson Bay lowlands as the ‘beloved Hudson Bay lowlands.’ ”

Referring to the Indigenous population within the diocese and what can be learned from their stewardship of the land, he said: “We need to listen to the Indigenous people. They have the custom when making decisions to ask what our decisions today will mean for the seventh generation following us.”

Prendergast has been Apostolic Administrator of the Hearst-Moosonee diocese since November 2020, taking up the role as he stepped down as Archbishop of Ottawa-Cornwall.

“The position of Apostolic Administrator is an interim one, until a new bishop can be found,” Prendergast said in an interview. That new bishop will be Bishop Pierre-Olivier Tremblay, who was inaugurated Aug. 24.

Prendergast is being remembered fondly by his companions in Hearst-Moosonee. Fr. Gilles Gosselin, a retired priest who is the most senior clergy in the diocese, said the bishop’s arrival brought with it “a sense of importance” to the diocese.

“He had been archbishop in several important dioceses in Canada and he was accepting to postpone his well-deserved retirement to journey with us for some time,” said Gosselin.

But despite these credentials, Prendergast didn’t arrive with any intentions to mould the diocese into something it wasn’t, said Gosselin.

“We felt that he listened to the priests, that he was flexible and that he had the ability to gather the priests,” said Gosselin. “He fostered in the people the sense of the Canadian and universal Church.”

Having started life as a Jesuit priest, Prendergast will, at the end of September, join a Jesuit community in Ottawa consisting of an international group of teachers and students of Ottawa’s Saint Paul University.

For Prendergast, who has served as a bishop for 27 years, a priest for 50 and a Jesuit for 61, this is coming full circle. Having entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1961 at the age of 17, he was honoured to be chosen by three Popes — John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis — to become the bishop or archbishop of various dioceses. He was first an auxiliary bishop in Toronto, ordained to the episcopacy in 1995, before moving on to lead the Archdiocese of Halifax in 1998. In 2007, he was named the 10th Archbishop of Ottawa.

“Jesuits take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and don’t normally become bishops unless called upon by the Pope to do so,” he explained.

Asked what he enjoyed about serving as bishop he said: “One of the joys was ordaining priests and bishops, also chrism Masses, where we (priests, deacons and lay people) gathered together, and pastoral visits to various parishes.”

Active in many ministries, he has contributed much to ecumenism and interfaith relations, serving on the Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Toronto and the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue for many years.

“Working with the Jewish community was very important to me, because I had studied Hebrew, as well as Greek and Latin,” he said. While in Ottawa, he made common cause with the late Rabbi Reuven Bulka and Imam Samy Metwally on life, marriage and family issues.

“The monotheistic religions have values in common,” he said.

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