A priest’s ministry of reconciliation

 — Jan. 24, 200724 janv. 2007

Rev. Bernard de Margerie was a young priest, newly ordained, when Pope John XXIII put out a call for Vatican II in 1959.

“Pope John was supposed to be a caretaker pope,” de Margerie recalls. “Nobody expected him to do anything remarkable.”

In fact, Pope John called a general council of the Roman Catholic Church and declared, among other things, that it was time for Catholics to seek renewal of the church and more meaningful obedience in regard to Christian unity.

It was, says de Margerie, a Roman Catholic event that had repercussions for the whole Christian world.

Interestingly, on exactly the same day the papal announcement was made, de Margerie had his own personal call to the ministry of reconciliation.

“I heard the news report about what the Pope had said, and it caught fire in me right away. I knew it would be momentous for the whole of Christianity, and I had a great yearning to be an integral part of it.

“One idea that kept coming through strongly was that Catholic people needed to be educated in the area of Christian unity and church renewal. I coined the phrase ‘ecumenical formation’ or education of our Catholic people.”

Initially, de Margerie thought this “new way of thinking” would be limited to Catholics, but during the period from 1959 to 1984, he found himself doing “a lot of ecumenical things” in the broader Christian community.

He was instrumental in the establishment of the Council of Churches in Saskatoon, organizing interdenominational sunrise services, and carrying out, to this point, unheard of dialogues with various other denominations.

On the highway to Bruno one day to give a workshop on Christian unity to high school students there, another inspiration came to de Margerie. This one was to start a centre for ecumenism.

“Initially, my idea was that the centre would serve as a headquarters for this roving ministry of educating Catholics to which I had dedicated my life. But it became much more.”

A ‘Wisdom Committee’ composed of de Margerie, Lawrence Kotchorek, Daughter of Providence Sister Cecile Laliberte, and Margaret Taylor was established to flesh out the ecumenical dream. The bishop agreed to release de Margerie from full-time pastoral ministry for five years in order to pursue the initiative.

In 1984, the Centre for Ecumenism became a reality, governed by a “devoted band of 12 people, six of them Catholic, and other six from the Council of Churches.”

From the outset, it was a Catholic agency for the service of all denominations. In 1988, however, the Centre became jointly owned. A new constitution was drawn up for the Saskatoon Centre for Ecumenism (later renamed Prairie Centre for Ecumenism), an exclusively inter-denominational agency. House of Abraham was also established as a sub-office of the Centre to develop relations with other world religions. This, in part, says de Margerie, gave birth to Multifaith Saskatoon.

This year marks three significant anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of both Vatican II and Bernard de Margerie’s call to the work of ecumenism, and the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Centre for Ecumenism.

Says PCE director Rev. Jan Bigland-Pritchard, “We are celebrating these three anniversaries with a whole year of programming under the title ’50-50-25.’ The theme for the year is The Ministry of Christian Reconciliation and Unity: Giving Thanks for the Past, Committing to the Future.”

As usual, PCE is sponsoring the current Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, but the closing service Sunday at McClure United Church will pay special attention to ecumenical relationships in Saskatoon.

“Usually the relationships between participating churches is informal,” says Bigland-Pritchard, “but this year the member churches will be signing a covenant that has been prepared and circulated among the church leaders. A formal signing ceremony will take place during the service. We are thrilled and delighted that Mennonite Church Saskatchewan is joining us and becoming a sponsoring church.”

Honour will also be paid to de Margerie. Bigland-Pritchard will interview him, and Bishop Albert LeGatt will say a special prayer of blessing over him.

Other activities planned to mark the anniversary year include a special Lenten program, and a summer ecumenical institute with Fr. Tom Ryan, former director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism as keynote speaker.

De Margerie is currently priest-moderator at the Francophone Roman Catholic parish of Sts-Martyrs-Canadiens in Saskatoon. He also serves as chaplain at City Hospital and ecumenical officer for the Saskatoon Roman Catholic diocese. In recognition of his work in ecumenism, he has received honorary doctor of divinity degrees from St. Andrew’s College, and the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad. De Margerie was also awarded the first Canadian Ecumenical Leadership Award by the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal in 1985.

Posted: Jan. 24, 2007 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=6070
Categories: NewsIn this article: Bernard de Margerie, ecumenism, Saskatoon
Transmis : 24 janv. 2007 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=6070
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Bernard de Margerie, ecumenism, Saskatoon

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