Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 29, 2007
The unexpected morning caller
When the phone rang early Monday a.m., Pettipas thought it was likely the sacristan
By BILL GLEN
"I wasn't surprised the holy father chose him. It makes all the sense in the world . . ."
- Fr. Mike Brehl
"I told him the priest who lives above me had gone to say Mass. I said we were pretty private here."
Ventura then told him that Pope Benedict had appointed Pettipas the new archbishop of Grouard-McLennan.
In an interview, Pettipas said at that moment, he could have been knocked over with a feather. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I asked him if he was serious."
Pettipas admitted he was virtually speechless, yet was able to ask what he was to do next. Did he automatically say yes or was he supposed to ask if he could think about what he had just been told?
"He told me that it was an appointment that had been made by the holy father. He wasn't asking what I thought of it. He was asking me to accept the appointment."
Pettipas told Ventura that in all his years as a Redemptorist, he had never refused an appointment. Ventura suggested that if he needed to think about it and pray about it, he could get back to him sooner rather than later.
Pettipas asked if he could speak to his provincial superior, Father Mike Brehl. Ventura replied he already had.
Brehl advised that he indeed pray.
"I wasn't surprised the holy father chose him. It makes all the sense in the world because he is such a pastoral man and that's what the archdiocese needs right now," Brehl told the WCR.
"But my reaction was mixed because it is going to be really hard for the Redemptorists. Gerry is loved and trusted by the men.
"The nuncio told him he will continue to have the fraternal bond with the order, but we are going to miss some of the gifts and talents he has been able to share so freely and generously with us," Brehl said.
"We also know we only exist in the Church for the mission of the Church and that's the reason why we are. What he is doing is taking the whole missionary spirit to Grouard-McLennan because that is where he is called."
Pettipas described the moment following that call to Brehl as "a very fine time of prayer.
"When I called Father Mike back that afternoon, I said I think I'm going to accept this. He thought I might wait until the next morning to see how I felt. I agreed."
Pettipas made the call to Ventura on Nov. 21, who told him he had to keep silent until the Vatican's official announcement Nov. 30. He was in Toronto with his fellow Redemptorists when the announcement came.
Pettipas wanted his elderly mother to find out before other people had a chance to offer their congratulations to her. It would have confused her.
"She is 88 years old and living in a nursing home in Halifax. But I knew I couldn't explain this to her over the phone. She wouldn't have got it. It would have been frustrating for her."
Rather, Pettipas called his sister Joanne who visits Mrs. Pettipas twice a day - on her way to work to cook for the Jesuits and on her way home.
It was 7 in the morning in Halifax (4 a.m. in Grande Prairie) when he called Nov. 30. He woke her up.
"I told her I had some news, that I'd just been made the archbishop of Grouard-McLennan. She said, 'Who's Grouard McLennan?'"
Pettipas had to explain it was not the name of a person, but the name of the diocese. She asked what she was supposed to call him now.
"You're my sister and of course you can call me Gerry. But most people will call me 'Your grace.'"
Pettipas asked his sister to explain it all to their mother. He called his mother later that afternoon.
He burst into laughter recalling how she addressed him.
"Hello mom, it's Gerry."
"Oh hello, your . . . honour?"
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