By Ramon Gonzalez
Western Catholic Reporter
Caption: Former Prince George Bishop Gerald Weisner says he won't be sitting back during his retirement years in Saskatoon. The former shepherd plans to teach and give retreats across Canada. WCR file photo.
Bishop Gerald Wiesner has retired as Bishop of Prince George and is already living at the retirement home of the Oblate Fathers in Saskatoon.
But Bishop Wiesner, who is physically fit and enjoys good health, will not just sit back in his retirement years. He plans to remain active teaching and giving retreats across Canada, which he did over the years alongside his duties as bishop.
Bishop Weisner is well known in Edmonton’s Catholic circles. From 1972 to 1984 and again from 1991 to 1992 he taught theology at Newman Theological College. In 1992, he served briefly as acting president of the college until he was named a bishop.
Pope Benedict has now accepted his resignation that all bishops must present when they turn 75.
The former bishop admits it was not easy to leave after having served the diocese for 20 years.
“But at the same time I’m tired of the administration part of the service and so I’m glad that part is finished. But I would like to continue very much my other aspects of the ministry like the teaching ministry.”
Before that, though, he will travel to San Antonio, Texas, at the end of January to take a five-month renewal program called Ministry to Ministers.
The program is not as demanding as a university course, so he will use part of his time there to read, reflect and prepare for conferences, retreats and missions he will give in the future.
He said he enjoyed his term as bishop of Prince George. “I’m grateful to God for all that’s happened and I’m grateful to the priests, the religious and the laity for their cooperation in all we tried to do.”
Among his accomplishments as a bishop was the reorganization of the diocese. Soon after arriving, he established a council of priests, a diocesan finance council and various committees.
The diocesan debt was paid off in 1996 and today the diocese is in optimal shape with a steady source of income, including properties that generate income and an annual diocesan appeal.
Bishop Wiesner’s tenure was also characterized by an emphasis on lay formation and vocations to consecrated life and priesthood.
His conviction that adult faith education is the primary need of the Church led him to provide the faithful with numerous opportunities to grow in their knowledge of theology, liturgy and practice of the faith.
A lay formation program was established in the mid-1990s and people from throughout the diocese have taken advantage of it. The Domano Renewal Centre opened its doors in 1994 and has provided formation to hundreds of lay people.
As president of the Canadian bishops in 1999-2001, Bishop Wiesner promoted the involvement of women in society and in the Church, a move that attracted opposition.
However, he kept a steady hand because “if we don’t have women involved, we lose out on the genius of women in the Church,” he said, quoting Pope John Paul II.
Previously, at the 1997 Synod of the Americas in Rome, he had already spoken about the role of the women in the Church.
In the end, the struggle proved successful because women today are involved at all levels of Church and society, he said. “I feel very good about that.”