Archbishop awarded doctorate

June 7, 2013

Archbishop James Weisgerber receives his honorary Doctor of Laws degree from University of Manitoba President Dr. David Barnard. Photo by Mike Latschislaw.

By James Buchok

Archbishop James Weisgerber received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Manitoba May 29, for what the university cited as "his visionary commitment to social change and justice."

The archbishop was praised for being "instrumental in bridging the divide between the Catholic Church in Canada and Canada's Aboriginal Peoples, a divide which developed because of the abuse of Aboriginal peoples in residential schools." Weisgerber was recognized for working "tirelessly to bring about the meeting in Rome in April 2009, when Pope Benedict XVI met with leaders of Canada's Aboriginal peoples at the Vatican to express his sorrow at the anguish caused by the conduct of some members of the Church."

The archbishop was also recognized for creating Micah House, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg's Catholic Centre for Social Justice It was also noted that Weisgerber was symbolically adopted by several First Nations Elders at a ceremony in 2012 that made him a brother to the First Nations community.

The archbishop called receiving the degree "an honour for me and for the community I serve."

He congratulated the hundreds of graduates receiving their diplomas that afternoon, one of six convocations over three days at the U of M. "This is the culmination of hard work and discipline for you and your families," he said.

Weisgerber spoke of how his 25-year involvement with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops gave him opportunities to see people throughout the world. "We met people where they live and it is heartbreaking to see how the majority of the people of the world live. There is violence, there is poverty, there is homelessness, especially for women."

"In Canada," the archbishop continued, "we are safe, we are secure, we are educated and we have unlimited possibilities. It is among the best places in the world to live. But what is very disappointing is that a great number of Canadians don't know that. They take it for granted with a sense of entitlement that it will always be like that."

Weisgerber said by the time the young graduates reach his age of 75 "the country will change in so many different ways. Will it be better or worse and for who?"

The archbishop said contemporary culture supports individualism and to be "really concerned with one's own private affairs, accompanied by an abandonment of society and public life."

"We need to be informed and conversant with the issues," facing the country and society, Weisgerber said. "You have an obligation to become informed and involved in the public life of the country. We need to become engaged and when we do we will find it very rewarding."

With the bestowing of about 1,000 degrees that afternoon, Weisgerber told the graduates that although the ceremony recognizes them "we have to remember the tremendous contribution of the university community, the province and all of us taxpayers. We have made a big investment in you," the archbishop said.

"If you step up to the plate we can be assured that this great country will not only survive but will flourish in unbelievable ways."

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