Archbishop Weisgerber Farewell
December 17, 2013
Archbishop James Weisgerber greets Carol Maynard of St. John Brebeuf Church, one of many well-wishers at Weisgerber's farewell celebration Dec. 11.
By James Buchok
A celebration of thanksgiving and farewell was held for Winnipeg's sixth prelate, Archbishop James Weisgerber, Dec. 11, but in typical Weisgerber fashion, it wasn't all about him.
"We come together to thank God for the way he builds up his church," Weisgerber said at Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral.
Weisgerber resigned as archbishop May 1 having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 for bishops. His replacement, the Most Reverend Richard Gagnon, at the time of his appointment Bishop of the Diocese of Victoria; will be installed Jan. 3, 2014.
Weisgerber said he hasn't given much thought to what he plans to do in retirement. "I will have time to read, to study, to pray and reflect. I want to deepen my relationship with Jesus."
Weisgerber said when he hears someone speak of growing closer to Jesus, "I always envisage people going into a room, isolating themselves, to find a place with Jesus. But Pope Francis has said a million times that prayer is only part of the equation. A relationship with Jesus comes from encountering others, especially those who need our help. We encounter Jesus in prayer and in service."
Weisgerber said he discovered God's love "in the middle of the church, of this church. There have been countless meetings with people of goodwill and expertise and I was always moved by that." He said his work as archbishop took him to church after church. "I encountered all kinds of wonderful people who keep the Gospel alive. And I saw families. To live in love and faithfulness with another person is at the root of the church. I have seen people raising their children and they do it wonderfully. We hear so much about dysfunction but there are so many wonderful marriages and families."
Weisgerber spoke of the many Catholic organizations in the city and province that provide help to the most vulnerable people in the community.
He also expressed gratitude for those who take time to truly listen. "When I speak, I see the attentiveness of the people, I see their desire to learn. It is the word of God being proclaimed and received."
"I thank all of you for your support and affection," Weisgerber said. "I thank you for being the sign and presence of God in my life. I count on your prayers as I go into the next phase of my life. You will receive a new archbishop and I am proud to hand off this church to him. We have done well. We are what we are and we are that by the grace of God. The love of God is behind everything we are and do."
Following Mass, Sr. Susan Wikeem, president of St. Mary's Academy grades 7 to 12 girls school, the oldest Catholic school in Manitoba, brought words of thanks and appreciation on behalf of the people of the archdiocese saying that when Weisgerber came to Winnipeg, after living and working his whole life in the province to the west, "Saskatchewan's loss was our gain. For thirteen years you have been our guide, our teacher and our leader, and the sign and source of our communion with the universal church."
"I have seen first-hand your collaborative approach," Wikeem said. "You are a tireless builder of community, always seeking common ground, and above all, compassionate." Wikeem spoke of Weisgerber's commitment to creating relationships with the aboriginal community and his "leadership in reconciliation with our aboriginal brothers and sisters and that continuing journey."
"Being a leader is a daunting task," Wikeem said. "We are grateful you said 'yes' to God when God called you to Winnipeg. We hope that you will remember us with the same fondness that we will remember you."