Weisgerber receives Order of Canada
December 30, 2013
Winnipeg's Archbishop Emeritus James Weisgerber was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston Dec. 30.
"It was a very big surprise, it's very humbling," Weisgerber said.
Weisgerber was Archbishop of Winnipeg for the last 13 years and retired in May having reached the age of 75, the mandatory retirement age for bishops. He recently moved to his native Saskatchewan and his new home in Regina.
His appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada cites his work "as a champion of reconciliation and social justice promoting deeper understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people."
In April 2009, Weisgerber, who was then president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, organized a meeting at the Vatican between Pope Benedict XVI and a delegation of Canadian First Nations people during which the Pope expressed his sorrow, and that of church leaders, for abuses suffered by aboriginal children in Canadian residential schools.
The delegation included Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine, representatives of a number of Catholic dioceses and religious communities and former students of residential schools and First Nations elders.
In April 2012 Manitoba's Anishinaabe elders and community leaders adopted Weisgerber as their brother in a traditional ceremony at Thunderbird House in Winnipeg, the first event of its kind in the reconciliation between Indian residential school survivors and missionary churches.
As for the future, Weisgerber said he will "take a page from aboriginal culture and learn to be an elder. Their role is extremely important in many ways. They're the wisdom and experience of a society and a community. I have 50 years of pastoral work as a priest in the Catholic Church -- I'm hoping to find ways to use that so I can continue to serve society."
The 90 new appointments to the Order of Canada will receive their insignia at a ceremony in Ottawa in the coming months.
The Order of Canada is one of the highest civilian honours available in this country. It was established in 1967 to recognize the lifetime achievements, dedication to community and service to the country of great Canadians. More than 5,000 people have been invested to the Order to date.
Between 400 and 600 nominations are considered each year and about 150 new awards given.