Two auxiliary bishops appointed for Toronto include Vietnamese refugee

  • November 10, 2009

TORONTO - Canada's first non-white bishop along with a man who has spent 20 years forming young priests are ready to share in the leadership of Canada's biggest, richest and most diverse diocese.

Fr. Vincent Nguyen (Nguyen Manh Hieu), who came to Canada as a teenaged refugee in 1984 and is a great-grandson of one of 117 Vietnamese Martyrs canonized in 1988, will make the transition from chancellor of spiritual affairs and moderator of the curia to auxiliary bishop with a Toronto ordination likely some time in January

Fr. William T. McGrattan, who followed Archbishop Thomas Collins in the post of rector of St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont., in 1997, will likely be ordained a bishop in London, also in January.

McGrattan was among the first to praise the historic importance of an Asian face among Canada's bishops, particularly in Canada's immigrant capital — a city where more than half the residents were born outside the country.

Bishops share engineering background

Written by Catholic Register Staff

Fr. Vincent Nguyen and Fr. Bill McGrattan have never met each other but they have one thing in common — engineering. Two men who will be called to devise a future in faith for Toronto might both have wound up wearing iron rings instead of bishop's rings.

McGrattan has more street cred as an engineer, having held a job as a chemical engineer at Polysar Ltd. in Sarnia then working his way through seminary as a research assistant with the University of Western Ontario's faculty of engineering.

Nguyen took his 1991 Bachelor of Applied Science in electrical engineering with him into residence at Serra House in 1992 for a year of discernment before entering St. Augustine's seminary in 1993.

Other nuggets about Toronto's bishops-to-be:

  • McGrattan holds a 1992 licentiate in fundamental moral theology from Rome's Gregorian University.
  • Nguyen was granted his licentiate in canon law from the Angelicum in Rome in 1998.
  • McGrattan is a member of the Canadian Bioethics Society.
  • Nguyen was named moderator of the curia for Toronto in September.
  • McGrattan is 53 years old and was born in London, Ont.
  • Nguyen is 43 years old and was born in Vietnam.
  • McGrattan's parents lived in Toronto for about 10 years beginning when he was in the seminary. He admits to some apprehension about Toronto traffic.
  • Nguyen has two brothers in Toronto but most of his family is still in Vietnam. He's been back to Vietnam a number of times to preside at weddings for his nephews and nieces.
  • McGrattan looks forward to life in Toronto with excitement. "There's a vibrancy with the ethnic and cultural expressions of the people," he said. "Having travelled at different times in my life around the world I've come to appreciate that richness."
  • Nguyen was first inspired to the priesthood as a teenager reading the late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan's The Road of Hope: A Gospel From Prison while he was living in a refugee camp waiting to come to Canada.

"I think it's quite historic," McGrattan told The Catholic Register. "It's very symbolic for the archdiocese of Toronto to receive his appointment."

Jesuit Father Terence Fay, author of the just-published book New Faces of Canadian Catholics: The Asians, said Asian Catholics have needed a bishop who understands their struggles and aspirations.

"Asians have been complaining for a long time that they have no voice to speak their words, their needs, their anxieties, their worries to the bishops. They've said, 'We need an Asian bishop,' ” said Fay.

Asians aren't just increasingly visible in the pews on Sundays. They've also been filling up Canadian seminaries for a generation, said Fay. Over the last 20 years, 24 per cent of men ordained after studies at Toronto's St. Augustine's Seminary were Asian-born. That compares to 31 per cent Canadian-born, 25 per cent European-born, eight per cent African-born, eight per cent Latin American-born and four per cent from the United States.

Nguyen himself acknowledges the symbolic importance of being a non-white bishop in Toronto.

"It is important. It's kind of comforting to the people in diverse communities if they can identify with their leaders," he told The Catholic Register. "I don't think having white leaders is a problem for us. But it's more comforting to the people, the non-white people, to be able to identify themselves in the leadership."

Not just Catholics but all Vietnamese will take pride that a Vietnamese has achieved the rank of bishop in Canada, said Vietnamese Canadian Federation spokesman Cam Le.

"It is indeed a very important event," said Cam. "It is an honour for the Vietnamese community."

"We love him," declared Dominic Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Catholic Community at St. Jane Frances parish.

Dominic Nguyen (not related to the bishop elect) has known Bishop-elect Nguyen since the priest was a high school student in Toronto.

The Vietnamese community will be out in full force to celebrate Nguyen's ordination as a bishop, he said.

"It will be a huge celebration. I promise," he said. "Ninety-five per cent of the people will come. We can stand outside."

Dominic Nguyen understands that Canada's first Asian bishop will have significance for more than just the Vietnamese community.

"It will have a very strong effect on the Vietnamese community first, and then it will have a ripple effect on other communities," he said.

McGrattan has been thinking about the spirituality of the diocesan priesthood for  more than 20 years. In priests' retreats, as one of the primary authors of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' 1999 official program for priestly formation, and as a seminary instructor and rector, McGrattan has been working out how priests who don't belong to a religious order (the majority of Catholic priests) can claim a spiritual identity all their own.

As a bishop, McGrattan sees himself attacking the same questions in a new way.

"I would also see the bishops encouraging certain types of fraternity among priests where that fraternity would call forth a healthy accountability," McGrattan told The Catholic Register. "A desire to grow spiritually but also in terms of their pastoral skills."

McGrattan sees the Jesu Caritas fraternity of priests with about 4,000 members worldwide as a model for how priests can continue their formation beyond ordination.

"Communal aspects of formation are always directed at trying to form a collegium or a presbyterium," he said.

Forming and encouraging priests is important not just for the sake of the priests, but for the sake of the whole community which the priests and bishops serve, said McGrattan.

"I firmly believe I'm going to be in contact with the people," he said. "And I have to have the faith to know that those are going to be opportunities in which they are going to be nourished in terms of the faith and the word that we preach."

For McGrattan the timing of his appointment is significant. His prayer and his thoughts have been intensely focussed on the Year of the Priest.

"I don't know what it will mean in my new role as a bishop, but being named this year to me is significant. I don't know what the implications of it are, but I just know in faith that it is significant," he said.

"I pray for a lot of things. I pray for the grace of being able to carry out this new ministry," said Nguyen. "I thank almighty God for choosing me, but also I need to look ahead and pray for that. I don't know what it's going to be like."


Papal Bull appointing Bishop William McGrattan auxiliary bishop of Toronto

To our beloved son William Terrence McGrattan, from the clergy of the ecclesial community of London and until now Rector of St. Peter's Major Seminary, appointed auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Toronto and bishop of the titular see of Furnos Minor, greetings and apostolic blessing.

Following the spiritual journey of the disciples of Christ who live all over the world, and being greatly concerned for their ecclesiastical communities, we recognize that, because of various pastoral necessities, they may need the presence and activity of auxiliary bishops.

Since our venerable brother, Thomas Christopher Collins, metropolitan archbishop of Toronto, has requested that he be given another assistant to fulfill more appropriately his important duties as pastor, we have judged that you, beloved son, are well suited for this task, having diligently carried out the ministry in the diocese of London, especially in preparing candidates for the priesthood.

For this reason, having heard the advice of the Congregation for Bishops, and in virtue of our apostolic authority, we hereby appoint you titular bishop of Furnos Minor and, at the same time, auxiliary bishop of Toronto, according to the norms of the Code of Canon Law. We willingly authorize you to receive your episcopal ordination at the hands of a Catholic bishop outside the city of Rome, observing the liturgical rules. Before your ordination, however, you are to make the Profession of Faith and take the Oath of Fidelity to us and to our successors, according to the provisions of ecclesiastical law.

Meanwhile we exhort you, beloved son, faithful each day to the reading and mediation of the sacred Scriptures, to commend all your episcopal ministry to our Saviour and to proclaim His words and His deeds to the faithful of the archdiocese of Toronto, as you assist with zeal its archbishop.

Given in Rome, at the tomb of St. Peter, the sixth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand and nine, the fifth year of our pontificate.

Benedictus P.P., XVI

Papal Bull appointing Bishop Vincent Nguyen auxiliary bishop of Toronto

To our beloved son, Vincent Nguyen, from the clergy of the metropolitan see of Toronto, and presently associate judicial vicar and chancellor of the curia, appointed auxiliary bishop of the same archdiocese and, at the same time, elected titular bishop of Ammaedara, greetings and apostolic blessing.

Our venerable brother, Thomas Christopher Collins, metropolitan archbishop of Toronto, has recently requested the appointment of another auxiliary bishop for the pastoral needs of this particular church entrusted to him. Being solicitous for the spiritual well-being of the entire flock of the Lord, we have judged to welcome willingly his request. Therefore, beloved son, endowed with the necessary gifts and with a good experience in the pastoral matters of this church, you have been esteemed a worthy candidate for this office.

For these reasons, after having received the advice of the Congregation for Bishops, by the fullness of our apostolic authority, we hereby constitute you auxiliary bishop of Toronto and appoint you bishop of the titular see of Ammaedara, with all the rights and obligations related to the episcopal dignity and attached to the mentioned office in accordance with the norms of law.

We authorize you to receive episcopal ordination at the hands of any Catholic bishop outside the city of Rome in accordance with liturgical norms. Beforehand, though, you are to make the profession of faith and take the oath of fidelity to us and to our successors in accordance with the sacred canons.

Finally, beloved son, may you carry out your duties to the best of your abilities in close harmony with the thoughtful prelate of the beloved see of Toronto, relying especially on God, our most Provident Father, who takes diligent care of everyone. With the guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mother, and the intercession of the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs, among whom there is one of your ancestor, may the light, strength and joy of the Holy Spirit unceasingly sustain you and give you joy.

Given at Rome, at the tomb of St. Peter, the sixth day of the month of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand and nine, the fifth of our pontificate.

Benedictus P.P., XVI

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