Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 15, 2008
Church must develop aboriginal leaders – Chatlain
Lay leadership essential in northern Church, says bishop
By VIRGINIA BATTISTE
- WCR file photo
Bishop Murray Chatlain receives his bishop's ring from the papal nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Ventura during his ordination last year in Yellowknife.
The six different aboriginal groups form six natural regional divisions within the diocese. Chatlain sees dealing with the relationship with the aboriginal community as one of the major issues he faces.
The new bishop said he finds himself moving in many different worlds within Yellowknife - from the native peoples of the North, to those who frequent the Racquet Club, or the ones who might attend the local flea market.
Each of the six different aboriginal groups have their own distinct dialect, history, culture and geographical location. Added to the mix, are "southerners" from other parts of Canada. More recently, immigration has brought peoples from around the globe - Filipinos, African, Chinese and Japanese among them.
Where there were previously only "two worlds" to deal with, he observes, there are now more, which adds to the complexity facing the Church in the North. But there is an upside, as well as a downside.
"Embracing the complexity of the Church is definitely different here. I don't have any illusion I can control things, or put on programs in the same way as in other dioceses.
"But, at the same time, there is more 'relaxedness' - a small family type of feel, a sense of being a heart kind of people more.
Chatlain is conscious of being new to the region, which has a lot of history and a lot of stories, that he has not had any part in. The word he hears from the older people in dealing with everything he is facing is patience.
"The difficulty with being in a new role, or a new job, is people keep asking, 'What are you going to do?' There is a pressure to accomplish something, to change things quickly, and I have to resist that a lot.
"Real power or wisdom is not going to come from Murray. God is in charge. I can be part of it, connected to it. If I am stubborn and insist on doing my own thing, it isn't going to work."
Despite the challenges of being a bishop, the former Saskatchewan priest retains his casual, informal style.
Asked about the biggest change he has faced in the transition from priest to bishop, he cites the change in his personal prayer life.
"There are many more demands placed on me. The problems that are brought to me are not easily solvable - or they would have been solved. There aren't easy solutions and I don't have the answers, so my personal prayer life has become more important than ever."
While living in Yellowknife has challenges, it is not the trial some might imagine, nor is it as isolated as the location would suggest.
"Yellowknife is very cosmopolitan. It is the hub of travel on your way to anywhere in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
"It's also the destination for shopping throughout the North. Prices are not absurd, though things might be a little more expensive. Still, they are not as high as in the really 'isolated' communities where I lived in northern Saskatchewan."
He finds his prayer life is more important in determining the things that need to be dealt with, and finding the place of surrender. He also sees his role as being a bridge between cultures and peoples.
"Some of us are called to be bridges, which is a very lonely place to be. We are not in our own world, and not completely in the others world. It is an important vocation, and I see it as a big part of my vocation - to be a bridge. And, there is a lot of bridge work to be done."
As he considers his future leadership in the North, the choice for him is to get out, to be in the middle, in the places where he can encounter the other, but to always be rooted in prayer.
"As bishop, I don't have answers. I want to be part of the discussions and prayer looking for ways to change. That's why my prayer life has become more important than ever. I want to be part of the dialogue that will help us discern what God is asking of us and see where we are going together."
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