Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 29, 2007
Guimond ponders his 'unfinished symphony'
Retired archbishop has quiet acceptance of aneurysm that cut short his term of office
By GLEN ARGAN
"I left my heart in the Peace River Country."
"The image that comes to me is that of an unfinished symphony."
Arthé Guimond was born near Rimouski, Quebec, one of 11 children. The family moved to the Peace River Country in 1951. Six years later, Guimond was ordained a priest for the northwestern Alberta archdiocese. He will celebrate his 50th anniversary of ordination on June 23.
After ordination, he served in parishes, studied in Montreal and Rome, taught in a seminary, and served as a theological advisor to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for 12 years.
He'd been away from Alberta for a long time, but when he returned, it seemed he'd found his niche as a pastor to parishes in Fairview and Peace River.
But in 1998, Archbishop Henri Goudreault died suddenly and the priest consultors for the archdiocese chose Guimond to be the archdiocesan administrator. It took two more years before the pope appointed him archbishop.
Now, looking back on his "unfinished symphony," Guimond speaks of four principles derived from Vatican II that guided his work as archbishop:
"These points to me are like an overall program," Guimond said. "Much of this is not done yet. I leave it to the new bishop to complete the work. I am confident he will do very well."
He sees the adult faith education program he helped to develop as a cornerstone of the archdiocese. "The people who took it are extremely positive. We touched over a hundred people that way."
He also cherished the work of Catholic schools and the faith formation of youth.
Guimond said the archdiocese has an important ministry to Aboriginal people. "We have to rethink the mission to the natives, putting the emphasis more on their taking responsibility for themselves."
As well, the archdiocese is home to the booming population of Grande Prairie as well as well-established French and English rural communities.
"We have to find ways to keep our own culture meanwhile living with other cultures."
As archbishop, he said, he left many issues still to be dealt with. "A big one is what happens to the diocese after the adventure of the residential schools."
That "adventure" almost bankrupted the archdiocese. Father Charles Lavoie, the archdiocesan administrator after Guimond stepped down, said the residential school lawsuits "kind of paralyzed us."
The diocese, which "has never been very rich," has signed an agreement to pay out "a significant amount" of money to settle the suits and also faces legal bills, Lavoie said.
Guimond said he "would love" to attend the Jan. 25 installation of his successor, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas, although he admits that he is not a good candidate for making a long trip.
He would also love, it appears, to find a way to live in his home archdiocese.
"I left my heart in the Peace River Country," he said. "I did the best I could and I felt at home over there.
"I would not have liked to be a bishop elsewhere. I loved the people and I loved the country. The people were very receptive to me. Not for one moment would I have wanted to be elsewhere."
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