Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 2, 2007
Bishop Smith brings youth, experience
Halifax native spent 5 years in Ottawa Valley
By BILL GLEN
I can only look forward to building on what he (Archbishop Collins) has put in place."
Smith, a native of Halifax, is seen as an up-and-comer in Church circles. Ordained a bishop only four and a half years ago, he has already become president of the Ontario bishops' conference and chairman of the Canadian bishops' commission for Christian education.
He also serves as national spiritual advisor for the Catholic Women's League.
Smith was born on April 28, 1959, the eldest of four siblings. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 23, 1987.
In Halifax, he served in a number of positions including vicar general, pastoral minister to French-speaking Catholics and chaplain to the deaf community.
Before entering the seminary, he earned a bachelor of commerce degree from St. Mary's University. He holds a master's degree in divinity from the Atlantic School of Theology, as well as a licentiate and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Smith was ordained and installed as bishop of Pembroke in the beautiful Ottawa Valley on June 18, 2002.
But last month he had to excuse himself from a Council of Priests gathering to take the telephone call appointing him the new archbishop of Edmonton.
The jovial and grey-haired bishop took it in stride.
"I went back to the meeting in a state of surprise and did my best to carry on," he said.
"During my visits, I got a very positive sense of the priests in the archdiocese."
Smith said it took a little while for him to react. He felt a mixture of emotions knowing a large challenge awaits him, yet a sense of remorse after having grown close to the people of the Pembroke Diocese.
"I hear wonderful things about Edmonton, yet at the same time, I grew to love this diocese and area so quickly. There is a great bunch of priests here. However, when you're called to do something, you do it."
Smith has been to Edmonton three times - once to give a retreat to the priests and again in 2005 to attend the 50th anniversary of the Marian Centre run by the Madonna House, whose headquarters are near Pembroke.
"During my visits, I got a very positive sense of the priests in the archdiocese," he said.
Smith was also in town for the March 24 installation of Bishop David Motiuk to the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton.
While he doesn't know Edmonton well, he knows it by reputation. "And its reputation is spectacular," he said.
Smith enjoys a round of golf.
"I'm not an athlete, but I love to get out and play golf. I play poorly, but that doesn't stop me. Unfortunately, I play what is called 'landscape golf.' Why I go back is one of the mysteries of life."
Entering the priesthood was a life-long discernment for Smith. The desire was put there by countless examples of wonderful priests, he said.
"In my home parish, I always served the altar and at times, worked in the rectory. I helped wherever," he said. "At university, I was involved with the chaplaincy. Wherever I was, I had wonderful priests.
"The witness of these men giving of themselves, serving the people and making sure the Eucharist was present and the Christian life could be lived, really spoke to me."
Father Ryan Holly, vice-chancellor of the Pembroke Diocese, offered his congratulations to Edmonton.
"The people in Edmonton are very blessed. You have a wonderful spiritual leader," he said.
Smith was pro-active in working towards the pastoral planning process of the diocese, Holly said. He established offices for youth and Christian Family Life. Smith firmly tackled the issue of faith formation.
"Because we are a diocese in Ontario and Quebec, it presents unique challenges for working within frames of both provinces. Bishop Smith is a very balanced man. He is a man of great prayer, but he also works very hard. He very much is a pastor. He is a brilliant man."
At the root of Smith's ministry is making the Gospel known in the presence of culture for preserving our identity as members of the Body of Christ, Holly added.
"He is very strong on asking people to discern vocations. He will certainly carry on the outstanding work Archbishop Collins did in Edmonton."
As bishop, Smith chose the motto Fiat voluntas tua (Thy will be done, taken from the Our Father).
"Coming out, my first priority will be to listen. I'll get around and see the parishes, the institutions and meet as many people as I can," he said.
"I want to learn about the great things that have been going on there and what the Lord's been doing through the people, and continue to work with it."
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