ST. PAUL – The Diocese of St. Paul will be welcoming a new Bishop starting December, following the Vatican’s acceptance of Bishop Paul Terrio’s resignation.
According to a Sept. 15 news release, Msgr. Gary Franken, Vicar General of the Vancouver Archdiose has been appointed as the new bishop. In the meantime, Bishop Terrio, who has been a bishop for 10 years, has been appointed as Apostolic Administrator of the St. Paul Diocese until the installation of Bishop-Elect Franken on Dec. 12.
Terrio told Lakeland Today that Franken will have to become acquainted with traditions, the local parishes, and many other things unique to rural Alberta, once he arrives. “So, his first challenge is just to get to know and to circulate through the territory, and then from parish to parish,” said Terrio.
When asked of Terrio’s retirement plans, he told Lakeland Today that he is still in relatively good health and will be available to help with the parishes and churches under the St. Paul Diocese. He said his title will be Bishop Emeritus which means “former Bishop.”
Terrio reflected on his time as Bishop of the St. Paul Diocese. Among the many memories, he recalled the dramatic moment of the 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray, remembering how people helped each other out.
“The outpouring of support and people helping people was an outstanding experience for me in my time here as Bishop,” he said. Terrio said he will never forget how one of the school principals in one of the elementary Catholic schools in Fort McMurray improvised as a bus driver for children and evacuated them from Fort McMurray.
“She was driving through the tunnel of flames with all these little kids and in some places, she didn’t know where she was going to find their parents,” said Terrio, still touched and impressed to this day by the brave action of the principal. “She did this just because she cared, and they were their students... it was very moving.”
Challenges and secularization
Terrio also shared the biggest challenges he faced as Bishop, which he said applies to all Bishops in North America - the increased secularization of people. Secularization, he explained, is the dissociation of people from their religious heritage and background. He explained there is no bad will about secularization, because it is the product of the “shifting of the gears of big social processes,” and individuals become caught in it.
He said he remembered when he visited a Catholic school in the past, and during a question and answer, one student asked about Jesus. Terrio, among his responses, included the Old Testament as the writings before Jesus was born. On the other hand, the New Testament “tells us Jesus’ gospels and the events after Jesus.”
According to Terrio, as he was bidding farewell at the door of the school, the principal said they never knew that there were two parts of the Bible.
“So, secularization – there’s no bad will there and it’s just what’s happening,” said Terrio. “It’s sort of an innocent and practical agnosticism or atheism where people don’t necessarily say they don’t believe in God – but, practically live as though there is no God.”
Personal Relationship with God
“Our identity as individual Catholic believers depends on a personal relationship with God – with Jesus,” said Terrio, when asked of the successes of the Diocese during his term as Bishop. “That personal relationship is strengthened and nourishing in something called prayer.”
Terrio said people need prayer and the community needs prayer. He said often, in a society where a lot of things happen in a daily basis, including the “wonderful interesting things” and the obvious problems in society, “we can quite instantly forget to speak to God or give some time to God.”
The church has among its resources, religious people or “contemplatives” whose vocation is to pray for people have a hard time praying, according to Terrio. “So, we’ve recently been able to bring to the St. Paul Diocese the contemplatives called the Poor Clare Sisters.”
Terrio said the Poor Clare Sisters are inspired by St. Clare who worked with St. Francis of Assisi in the 1200s Italy. “The ongoing future of the Church depends on people who believe in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“Therefore, prayer is very important and what these Poor Clare Sisters have to offer us is very important for the future,” he said. “So, I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to do that in my time here.”
Relationship with the Indigenous Community
Terrio also touched on the St. Paul Diocese’s relationship with Indigenous communities. He said, “We are on a good beginning of a good journey of dialogue where we are learning and growing in reconciliation.”
On Sept. 30, 2021, when Sept. 30 was named as a federal statutory day and first observed as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Terrio said the Church, Diocesan offices and representatives of Indigenous communities met for open prayer, dialogue, and shared a meal together.
Terrio said this helped create a network as ideas, comments, and ideas circulated with people who attended, “and we’ve been doing that every couple of months throughout the year.”
“For the first time this September, we held it in a teepee... so we sat and watched the presentations to celebrate the [National Day for Truth and Reconciliation],” said Terrio. While money and programs are necessary – it’s not the solution for true reconciliation.
“Reconciliation has to be from person-to-person, from heart-to heart,” he said. “That starts with people listening to each other and listening from each other and finding ways together to grow in reconciliation as we journey forward together.”
With Terrio’s upcoming retirement, he said Alberta has become his new home. “I’m now very much an Albertan,” said Terrio, with laughter.
“I have a relationship and know many of the people in this area and it’s a wonderful place, and a good place to be in today’s society,” he said. “I’m very grateful that I was sent here, and this is now my home. So, I’m making arrangements to stay here.”