Pope makes flurry of episcopal appointments

  • June 8, 2007
{mosimage}OTTAWA - On June 1, Pope Benedict XVI made three Episcopal appointments in Canada and accepted two resignations, close on the heels of recent appointments to Ottawa, Edmonton and Saint John, N.B.

In this recent flurry, the Pope appointed a coadjutor archbishop for Vancouver (Archbishop J. Michael Miller), replaced the retiring Ukrainian Eparch of New Westminster, B.C., with Fr. Kenneth Nowakowski, filled the vacant Kingston archdiocese with Archbishop Brendan O’Brien, and accepted the resignation of Hamilton Auxiliary Bishop Matthew Ustrycki.

Two archdioceses — both in Atlantic Canada — and the Pembroke, Ont., diocese remain open.

{sidebar id=2}The Pope appointed Miller, 60, who has been secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education since 2003, as coadjutor archbishop of Vancouver. As coadjutor archbishop-elect, Miller will take over when Archbishop Raymond Roussin, 67, retires. Roussin has publicly discussed his battle with clinical depression since his 2004 appointment.

“It will be wonderful to finally get back home again,” the Basilian Miller said in a telephone interview from Rome June 4.

“To be able to be a pastor of a local church is a privilege,” he said, admitting he was surprised by the appointment.

From 1979-1992, Miller taught dogmatic theology at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Houston, Texas. From 1992 to 1997 he worked at the Vatican Secretariat of State before returning to St. Thomas Aquinas as president.

“When you work for the Curia, it’s good work, but it’s different than being pastor of a local church,” he said. Though he has not experienced the pastoral ministry, he said for those in ordained ministry “that’s the best thing one can do.”

O’Brien, archbishop of St. John’s, Nfld., will be heading for the Kingston, Ont., archdiocese left vacant when Archbishop Anthony Meagher died last January.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge and I look forward to it,” he said in a June 1 telephone interview from St. John’s.

The dioceses are roughly comparable in size, he said, though Kingston has 79 priests to the 49 in St. John’s serving a similar number of parishes and missions.

O’Brien, 64, spent 14 of his 20 years in Episcopal ministry in Ontario, first as an auxiliary bishop in Ottawa, then as bishop of Ontario’s Pembroke diocese from 1993 to 2000 before he was appointed to St. John’s. Born and raised in Ontario, O’Brien’s mother and most other family members still live in the province.

O’Brien, who served as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2003 to 2005, said he knows many of the Kingston priests because they attended Saint Paul University when he was teaching there.

St. John’s is the second archdiocese now without an archbishop, following the May 14 appointment of Halifax Archbishop Terrence Prendergast to Ottawa.

“I hope it won’t be too long before they name a successor,” O’Brien said of St. John’s. “It’s always difficult when there’s a long session without a bishop. I think they’ll be starting the process very soon.”

Pope Benedict appointed Nowakowski as Ukrainian Eparchial Bishop of New Westminster after accepting the resignation of Eparch Severian Yakymyshyn, 77.

“If this is where the church would like me to serve, I’m dedicating my life to the church and I want to serve where I’m needed the most,” he said in a telephone interview June 1.

“One of the challenges will be how to keep our eparchy feeling united and being able to be that good shepherd to people who are physically distant.”

Born in North Battleford Sask., Nowakowski, 49, is rector of Holy Spirit Ukrainian Seminary in Ottawa and chancellor of the Saskatoon Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy.

Nowakowski spent more than 10 years in Ukraine as chief of staff to the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church under two different leaders. He also founded Caritas Ukraine and served as its president.

Yakymyshyn has high praise for Nowakowski.

“He’s going to be the best,” said Yakymyshyn, who looks forward to returning to his monastic community of the Basilian Fathers and preparing his sermons and other writings for publications.

The Pope also accepted the resignation of Ustrzycki, 75, who has served as a bishop in the southern Ontario diocese for 22 years.

Ustrzycki said he plans to do plenty of visitation of the sick and elderly at St. Joseph’s Centre in Hamilton.

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