Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
February 25, 2001
St. Paul patiently waits for new bishop
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
ST. PAUL — After two years without a bishop, some priests in the Diocese of St. Paul are getting a bit anxious. But the lack of a chief shepherd has not prevented them from getting the job done.
"We do our best," says Msgr. Jean-Luc Pigeon, the diocesan chancellor. "We just try to avoid big problems. And when we encounter something that's over our jurisdiction, we just tell the people 'Wait until we have a bishop.'"
Pigeon, however, acknowledges that the lack of a bishop slows down the diocese and believes that if the situation were to last another year, "it would become a problem. But, for now, we survive."
St. Paul has been without a bishop since Feb. 18, 1999, when Bishop Thomas Collins moved to Edmonton to become coadjutor archbishop of Edmonton. Collins became archbishop of Edmonton in June of that year.
Since then, St. Paul has been run by a diocesan administrator, Father Walter Laliberty, who is also judicial vicar of the Edmonton-based Alberta Marriage Tribunal.
"Basically we do very well because we do have a good administrator in Father Laliberty," said Msgr. Robert Poulin, pastor at Morinville. "If he needs help in making a decision, he consults with us."
Of course, Poulin would like to have a bishop. But is he anxious? "Not at all," he said. "The world will not fall apart (if we don't get a bishop soon)."
The diocese was told to expect word from Rome "probably in January 2001 but nothing happened," noted Pigeon. "Every morning we check the fax machine, just in case."
Laliberty said there hasn't been a hint as to when a bishop could be appointed, although he is hoping for one to be named sometime this year. In fact, he thought it would come this winter.
"Letters from the apostolic nuncio (in Ottawa) say they are thinking of us," the administrator said, adding the nuncio's goal is to find a bishop who truly feels at home in St. Paul.
As administrator, Laliberty can do almost anything a bishop can do, from incardinating a priest to appointing pastors to organizing activities. But as he puts it "we try to walk middle line," which means making those decisions that are strictly necessary to keep the diocese operating smoothly. "You can't go around making believe that you are a bishop."
The things Laliberty is barred from doing as an administrator include "making innovations," organizing synods and ordaining priests. But if he has a candidate for ordination, he can always ask a neighbouring bishop to perform the ordination.
One reason for the delay in getting a bishop is that St. Paul may get a "bit sidetracked" every time a larger diocese faces a similar situation, Laliberty said.
The archdioceses of St. Boniface and Winnipeg have had vacancies in recent times.
"Every time that happens, St. Paul gets just put to the side temporarily for a little bit."
Added to that is the fact naming a bishop is a lengthy, complicated process.
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