Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 16, 2006
Amazed priest off to the Yukon
Much loved Chilliwack pastor becomes bishop of the Diocese of Whitehorse
By BILL GLEN
"My family sowed some good seeds."
- Fr. Gary Gordon
An avid fly fisherman, Gordon enjoys mountain climbing, cross-country skiing and playing golf. He also makes a terrific moose roast.
"I enjoy all of the blessings God has given us on this earth. I enjoy people and cultures - understanding where people are coming from in terms of who they are, based on their culture," he said. "I enjoy being a priest and doing pastoral work."
Born in Vancouver, Gordon grew up in Burnaby. As a child, he was an altar server for daily Mass. His vocation to the priesthood came from his family's strong faith.
"My family sowed some good seeds. My uncle was a priest and I have two aunts who became nuns," he said. "I saw and understood a whole human dimension to the religious life that most people don't see - not that we were a pious family.
"When he was alive, my father had priests who were very good friends. There was always a sense of natural rapport. Our faith was just how we lived and who we were."
Gordon's parents served on a number of committees in their parish, helping to build churches and schools in the Vancouver Diocese. They made many sacrifices in order for Gordon and his brother to receive a Catholic education in an area without a government-funded Catholic school system.
He attended St. Francis de Sales Elementary School and St. Thomas More Collegiate in Burnaby before entering the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission as a 15-year-old.
"I remember the rector asked me why I wanted to come. I told him I just wanted to try it out. Every year he asked me if I was coming back in the fall. And every time I told him that he would see me if he sees me. Everything was open-ended. I had tremendous freedom."
Gordon graduated with a B.A. in philosophy from St. Jerome's College in Waterloo. In 1982, he received a master of divinity degree from St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont. He was ordained on May 22, 1982 at St. Francis de Sales Church in Burnaby. Since then, he has served at the Vancouver Archdiocese's cathedral, as well as at parishes in Mission and Chilliwack.
Archbishop Thomas Collins was one of Gordon's professors at St. Peter's Seminary.
"Our faith was just how we lived and who we were."
- Fr. Gary Gordon
"He was a dynamic professor," Gordon said. "I struggled with school all my life until I entered theology. I just loved it. It was as if I was doing something important and crucial in life. There was meaning."
The bishop-elect has yet to pin down the dates and locations for his ordination and installation, but he anticipates a welcome reception when they are celebrated.
"I understand they are excited to be getting a new bishop. The indication is that I will be received with open arms. Affirmation is good for the soul."
Gordon had the opportunity to meet Lobsinger a few times.
"My goodness, what a gentleman he was. He had a heart of gold. It was a huge tragedy when he was killed."
While Gordon's appointment is Yukon's gain, Shelley MacDonell is one Chilliwack resident who will feel the community's loss.
"It's somewhat daunting to name the graces we have received during the many years of Father Gary's pastoral leadership," said MacDonell, principal of St. Mary's Elementary School. "This is a time of much grief, yet we are all excited for him."
MacDonell said she admired Gordon's compassion for people in all the joys and sorrows of life. He takes delight in children and he has a high respect for elders. Gordon lives with a profound fidelity to the word of Jesus, she said.
"Father Gary's ministry of presence at schools, hospitals, homes, prisons and at celebrations of joy will be profoundly missed. He truly journeys with people," she said.
Gordon has visited the Arctic on a few occasions, most recently on a two-week sightseeing venture to Nunavut. He admits he has some work to do on his snowmobiling skills.
"I was at Pond Inlet (north Baffin Island) and the snowmobile tipped over," he said with a laugh. "I can handle snowshoes, but I guess I'll have to figure out a snowmobile."
As Gordon gets his footing, he plans on talking with members of the diocese to discuss their faith journeys - where they have been and where they want to go.
He also plans on travelling to get to know the land and the hearts of the people.
And this summer, when he has some spare time, he will have 24 hours of sunlight to fish with his dog, Celty.
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