Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 29, 2007
Pettipas' motto, coat of arms, reflect quest for holiness
Man of prayer wants to help others grow close to the Lord
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
True to his order and heritage, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas has selected a motto and coat of arms honouring both.
"I wanted something for the Redemptorists and my Acadian roots," said Pettipas, who was to be ordained a bishop and installed as archbishop of Grouard-McLennan Archdiocese in a large ceremony Jan. 25 in Grande Prairie.
Pettipas had little idea he would ever become a bishop let alone having to select a coat of arms and his pastoral motto.
He chose "Voluntas Dei Sanctificatio Vestra," which translates into English as "The will of God is for you to be holy" or "The will of God is your sanctification," he said.
"It's from the First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians. When I was told I should get (the motto and coat of arms), I contacted a man in Rome. I really wanted something about holiness because that is what life is all about," Pettipas said.
"If I think about the direction I want to take in my own life, and if as a leader in the Church I want other people to go, to me it is the direction of holiness."
Pettipas has followed the words of St. Alphonsus - the order's founder - who said that if you want to become a Redemptorist, you must want to become a saint.
"That is what I want. When I think about ministry and the activity of the Church, of the people of Grande Prairie and the Aboriginals, I want them to be holy. It's what I want for the divorced and separated. I tell them that to be married is to be holy.
"Those who are in their workplace who question what they should be doing as a Christian, should be holy. And we should be helping others to be holy as well."
Father Mike Brehl, provincial superior of the order's Edmonton-Toronto province, said the biblical passage suits his old friend.
"Gerry has always been a man of prayer and has seen holiness as a very important aspect of his ministry as a priest. It is to help other people to grow in holiness through prayer, the sacraments and the sacrament of Reconciliation. He is known and appreciated as a wonderful confessor."
Brehl has known Pettipas for more than 30 years. They met in 1974 before either man was ordained. Pettipas was a Redemptorist student in Toronto and vocation director. They met through a mutual friend. Brehl was interested in the priesthood but had not decided to join the Redemptorists. He found Pettipas to be a formative influence.
"He has a master's degree in spirituality that came out of his own desire to be the kind of catalyst who could help people grow in their relationship with God. That's what holiness is. It has always been a dimension of his ministry as a priest and as a Redemptorist," he said.
"In a sense, all of us are called to holiness whether it is a man, woman or child; educated or not; rich or poor. It's not something that is reserved to priests and nuns. Father Gerry was always very inclined to promote that call among people."
Brehl says Pettipas is one of the most generous people he has ever met - someone who expresses his love for people in real and practical ways.
He is the type of person who is always at the doors of the church. He is as available as he can possibly be, which is an aspect by which people know you are approachable and that you care about them, he said.
"When you meet someone you can talk to about what is going on in your life, you can become really good friends," Brehl said.
"I was wondering where I should respond to live out my life in the priesthood and I saw in Gerry and the other Redemptorists I met through him, a very real possibility of living a good, holy, Christian life," he said.
"Grace is an experience of God's presence and power in our lives. When someone has badly hurt you, real human forgiveness is impossible without God's power and presence in our lives to do for us, and with us, what we can't do alone. Gerry is a very forgiving man."
Pettipas says the Church's doors are always open to those who may feel alienated because of past or present lifestyle choices.
"Talk to us about your desire to be holy. But the world doesn't talk about it a lot. I have to take what I believe about the Gospel and the way it applies to my life. Somewhere in there, is the word 'grace.' I must be graceful," he said.
"Holiness is forgiving someone who has hurt you, like the pope (John Paul II) forgiving his assassin. If I can do that and encounter (them) in a civilized, respectful manner, that might be holiness."