Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 30, 2009
Toronto receives Canada's first non-white bishop
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER
TORONTO - Canada's first non-white bishop along with a man who has spent 20 years forming young priests are ready to share in the leadership of Canada's biggest, richest and most diverse diocese.
(Nguyen Manh Hieu), who came to Canada as a teenaged refugee in 1984 and is a great-grandson of one of 117 Vietnamese Martyrs canonized in 1988, will be ordained an auxiliary bishop of Toronto early in 2010.
The 43-year-old bishop-elect currently serves as the chancellor of spiritual affairs and moderator of the curia for the Toronto Archdiocese.
Father William McGrattan, 53, who followed Archbishop Thomas Collins as rector of St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont., in 1997, will be ordained in London, also in January.
McGrattan was among the first to praise the historic importance of an Asian face among Canada's bishops, particularly in Canada's immigrant capital - a city where more than half the residents were born outside the country.
"I think it's quite historic," McGrattan told The Catholic Register. "It's very symbolic for the Archdiocese of Toronto to receive his appointment."
Jesuit Father Terence Fay, author of the just-published book New Faces of Canadian Catholics: The Asians, said Asian Catholics have needed a bishop who understands their struggles and aspirations.
"Asians have been complaining for a long time that they have no voice to speak their words, their needs, their anxieties, their worries to the bishops. They've said, 'We need an Asian bishop,'" said Fay.
Over the last 20 years, 24 per cent of men ordained after studies at Toronto's St. Augustine's Seminary were Asian-born. That compares to 31 per cent Canadian-born, 25 per cent European-born, eight per cent African-born, eight per cent Latin American-born and four per cent from the United States.
Nguyen himself acknowledges the symbolic importance of being a non-white bishop in Toronto.
"I don't think having white leaders is a problem for us. But it's more comforting to the people, the non-white people, to be able to identify themselves in the leadership."
Nguyen earned a bachelor of applied science in electrical engineering before entering the seminary. He later earned a licentiate in canon law from the Angelicum in Rome.
He has two brothers in Toronto but most of his family is still in Vietnam. He's been back to Vietnam a number of times to preside at weddings for his nephews and nieces.
GOSPEL FROM PRISON
Nguyen was first inspired to the priesthood as a teenager by reading the late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan's The Road of Hope: A Gospel From Prison. At the time, he was living in a refugee camp waiting to come to Canada.
McGrattan holds a licentiate in fundamental moral theology from Rome's Gregorian University. He has also been thinking about the spirituality of the diocesan priesthood for more than 20 years.
In priests' retreats, as one of the primary authors of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' 1999 official program for priestly formation, and as a seminary instructor and rector, McGrattan has been working out how priests who don't belong to a religious order (the majority of Catholic priests) can claim a spiritual identity all their own.
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