Champagne takes over Edmundston, N.B. diocese

  • January 8, 2009
{mosimage}OTTAWA - Halifax Auxiliary Bishop Claude Champagne, 61, has had a life-long passion for the Catholic Church’s mission and the New Evangelization — words Pope John Paul II used to describe evangelization equipped to meet the challenges of the modern world.

Champagne’s passion may be a reason why Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of Edmundston, N.B. , Jan. 5 after accepting the resignation of Bishop Francois Thibodeau, 69, for health reasons.

“To talk of the New Evangelization, we have to be aware of how the Spirit of the Risen Lord is already at work in our world,” Champagne said in an interview from Montreal. “I think today we are more aware that the first missionary in our world is the Holy Spirit Himself. When we go to the world we are on our way to collaborate with the Holy Spirit who is already there.”

In 2007, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops asked Champagne to address its annual plenary on the New Evangelization and the church’s mission, a subject area he specialized in before he joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1968 and later taught at Saint Paul University in Ottawa for more than 20 years.

The plenary talk prompted Thibodeau to invite Champagne to the Edmundston diocese to give a similar presentation at the beginning of the pastoral year a few months ago. It was Champagne’s first contact with the diocese, though he had been friends with Thibodeau through the regional assembly of Atlantic bishops. 

“Honestly, I discovered the dynamism of what was there,” he said.

He recalled thinking the bishop appointed to Edmundston “will have good people, full of enthusiasm, serving the church so well.”

“At the time, I had not suspected I would be the one to go there,” he said.

Champagne described himself as a “son of Vatican II.” Growing up with the theology inspired by the Second Vatican Council and the writings of Pope John Paul II, the bishop has been committed to promoting those teachings to “help people become aware of what is there.”

The bishop said that one discerns what the Holy Spirit is doing by recognizing God’s reign and looking at what Jesus did while on Earth.  

“The Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to carry on Jesus’ mission,” he said. That means looking for “signs of life, signs of love, the quest for truth and people ready to serve the other so the other can live life fully.”

Born in Lachine, Que., in 1947, Champagne earned a doctorate in mission studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained a priest in 1975. While a professor at Saint Paul University, he served the Ottawa diocese in youth ministry and vocations and worked with Cursillo groups.

Edmundston, a diocese with 27 diocesan priests, eight religious priests, 94 religious brothers and sisters and 12 lay pastoral workers.

He expects his installation to take place in March.

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