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New Gatineau bishop leaves his comfort zone

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Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Alexandria-Cornwall, Ont., is excited about his new placement as archbishop of Gatineau in Quebec. Photo by Gregory A. Shemitz / CNS, The Long Island Catholic.Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Alexandria-Cornwall, Ont., is excited about his new placement as archbishop of Gatineau in Quebec. Photo by Gregory A. Shemitz / CNS, The Long Island Catholic.Bishop Durocher describes Quebec Catholics as more like pilgrims than residents
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA (CCN)-- Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Alexandria-Cornwall looks to Jesus on the Road to Emmaus as a model guiding him in his new appointment as Archbishop of Gatineau, a major Quebec See opposite Ottawa in the National Capital Region.

Just as Jesus asked the travelers on the road what they were talking about and what concerned them before he opened up the Scripture to them and broke bread with them, Bishop Durocher sees his task as one of discovering the hungers and spiritual needs of the people in his new archdiocese e and hearing their stories.

Fluent in French and English, Bishop Durocher said despite his familiarity with the Franco-Ontarian community, he expects to encounter some cultural differences in Quebec.

A “different style of belonging to the Catholic Church” has developed in Quebec over the last 40 years, he said. The great majority consider themselves Roman Catholic, “but their belongingness is not typically exhibited by weekly attendance at Mass.”

“The belongingness” of Catholics in Quebec “is more like that of a pilgrim than a resident,” he said, noting a pilgrim journeys alone, stopping at various locations with different meanings.

“The pilgrim is always on the road,” he said. “The typical Catholic in Quebec will tend to find spiritual meaning in a book, a concert, a church service here and there, or perhaps going to St. Joseph’s Oratory with a spiritual director they meet with occasionally.”

“As a Church we’re not structured to accompany that kind of journey,” he said, noting the challenge is to find “how we can best help our people to grow in Christ.”

Bishop Durocher said he greeted the news of his appointment with a sense of relief, because his name has come up so frequently in rumors regarding recent episcopal appointments he is glad to know where he will settle.

At the same time, he is sad to leave Alexandria-Cornwall, where he has served since 2002, as well as the Franco-Ontarian community in which he grew up and ministered to during his priestly life. His mixed feelings include a deep sense of humility at the trust being shown him with this more visible position within the Catholic Church in Canada and he greets the challenges ahead with “a sense of enthusiasm.”

“This is going to be for me a real learning experience, one where I really hope to do a lot of listening, a lot of conversations and dialogs to try to understand the issues, the people, and, to understand my role in all of this as bishop,” he said, “I think that I’m well prepared in terms of studies, experience, and personality. It will be a challenge but one I look forward to taking up.”

Bishop Durocher will likely be elected vice president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) after serving four years as co-treasurer on their executive.

If he is confirmed as vice president and Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith is confirmed as president during the CCCB’s annual plenary Oct. 17-21, Bishop Durocher anticipated he might be called on to speak for the conference from time to time on national issues, because he will now live in the National Capital Region.

Born in Windsor, Ontario in 1954, Bishop Durocher vividly recalls his first communion, serving Mass as an altar boy. His parish priest had a big impact on him.

“He was kind of a star for me in my life and I wanted to imitate him.”

Bishop Durocher’s father was an officer in the Ontario Provincial Police, so after ten years in Windsor, the family moved to Timmins. The eldest of seven, Bishop Durocher grew up in a Catholic family that practiced the faith seriously and all of his six younger brothers and sisters remain “very attached” to the Church.

In Timmins, he attended the cathedral parish, continued to serve Mass, and became involved in the Scouting movement through his parish and the youth wing of the Cursillo movement. He discovered his love of music, and was among the first to play guitar in church during the 1970s as part of music ministry.

Though he went to the University of Western Ontario to study music and was preparing for a career as an opera singer, having won competitions and experienced opportunities to sing with an orchestra, he found the idea of the priesthood “wouldn’t let go.”

He put his music career on hold and asked the bishop in Timmons to sponsor him as a seminarian. He entered the seminary at Saint Paul University in 1977 and earned a degree in theology. His music background made him interested in liturgy and the Eucharist. He did his Master’s Degree in sacramental theology, and when offered a year’s sabbatical, went to the Gregorian University in Rome to obtain a licentiate in Dogmatic Theology.

But Bishop Durocher has also had a deep love for Catholic education. Catechetics and religious ministry has been the focus of his ministry over the past 15 years. He obtained a degree in education from the University of Ottawa in 1980 and taught high school in a French public school for four years at the request of his bishops since most of those students were Catholics.

He has remained involved in youth ministry, reaching out to young people and staying close to movements and initiatives that reach out to them. He has been at the heart of Catholic education issues in Ontario, and will now move to Quebec where there are no longer publicly funded Catholic schools.

“The real challenge is adult catechesis, we keep on forgetting that,” he said.

Adult faith formation is “the great challenge,” that Pope Benedict has called the New Evangelization. “How are we going to reach adults and accompany them on their faith journey?” the bishop asked.

Jesus blessed children and hugged them but “the rest of the time he spent with adults,” he said. “We’ve barely scratched the surface there, particularly with the 20-30 year olds.”

Bishop Durocher’s installation is not expected until December. In the meantime, Archbishop Roger Ebacher, who submitted his resignation upon reaching the age limit, will stay on as Apostolic Administrator of the diocese which has 53 parishes and missions, 45 diocesan priests, 25 religious priests, 183 religious sisters and brothers, one permanent deacon and 18 lay pastoral assistants, serving a Catholic population of 256,800.

Gatineau’s suffragan dioceses of Gatineau are Amos, Rouyn-Noranda and Mont-Laurier.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 08:30  

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