Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher
OTTAWA – Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher looks to Jesus on the Road to Emmaus as a model guiding him in his new appointment as archbishop of Gatineau.
Jesus asked the travellers 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. Likewise, Durocher said he sees his task as one of discovering the hungers and spiritual needs of the people in his new archdiocese and hearing their stories. And sometimes, when it rains, it pours.
Not only will Durocher take over a new diocese in December, he has also just been elected vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
As vice-president, he expects he may be called on to speak for the conference from time to time on national issues because he will live in the National Capital Region.
Fluent in French and English, the 57-year-old Durocher has served as bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall, Ont., since 2002. Despite his familiarity with the Franco-Ontarian community, he said he expects to encounter 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. 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. The challenge is to find "how we can best help our people to grow in Christ."
Durocher said he greeted the news of his appointment with a sense of relief because his name has come up so frequently in rumours regarding recent episcopal appointments that it is good to know where he will settle. At the same time he is sad to leave Alexandria-Cornwall as well as the Franco-Ontarian community in which he grew up and has ministered during his priestly life.
"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 dialogues to try to understand the issues, the people and to understand my role in all of this as bishop," he said.
Born in Windsor, Ont., in 1954, 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," he said.
After 10 years in Windsor, the family moved to Timmins. The eldest of seven, Durocher grew up in a Catholic family that practised the faith seriously – all of his six younger brothers and sisters remain "very attached" to the Church.
Though he went to the University of Western Ontario to study music to prepare for a career as an opera singer he found the idea of the priesthood "wouldn't let go."
So he put his music career on hold and asked the bishop in Timmins if he would sponsor him as a seminarian. He entered the seminary at Saint Paul University in 1977 and obtained 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.
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 moves now to Quebec where there are no longer publicly funded Catholic schools.
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.