Prince Albert is getting ready to welcome a new Catholic Bishop.
For the past 13 years, the diocese has been served by Albert Thévenot. Bishop Thévenot, though, has recently turned 75, the maximum age for a bishop in the Catholic Church. As such, he’s retiring as the Bishop for the Diocese of Prince Albert.
Thévenot hails from Somerset, man, and entered the missionaries of Africa as a brother in 1964. He was ordained as a priest in 1980 and began his pastoral ministry by serving in churches and missions in Africa.
He spent years promoting the missions in Western Canada before returning to Africa.
In 2008 he was appointed to Prince Albert, previously serving as the National Secretary for the French Sector of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith (Missio-Canada) and was later chosen as the provincial superior for North America of the Society of Missionaries of Africa.
The 82 parishes and missions, 39,200 believers and 35 diocesan priests who have been overseen by Thévenot since 2008 will soon turn to Father Stephen Hero. Hero is set to be ordained as a bishop and take over the Prince Albert diocese in June.
Hero hails from Lachine, Quebec.
He comes to Prince Albert from Edmonton, where he has worked since becoming ordained as a priest in 2000.
He served as a member of the formation team at St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton and lectured at Newman Theological College. In 2012 he was appointed as the seminary’s rector.
“It’s a big change in life. I’m looking forward to it,” Hero said in an interview Friday.
“It’s an act of faith. I trust that this is what God wants for me and He’s given me this call to serve. It starts with gratitude. I know that I come with confidence in God.”
While he has spent much of his pastoral career in Edmonton, Hero has connections in the region, including seminarians who are now priests or laypeople who were once students of his.
“I feel very welcome already in the few days that I’ve been here. I’m just excited to get to know people and visit.”
Hero will be working alongside Thévenot for the next few months as the role transitions from one to the other.
“I can’t really pass on wisdom, but we can show (Hero) what we have done,” Thévenot said.
“He will decide with his wisdom if we continue, and which way we go. He will come in listening to people and seeing where the people want to be led, or how they should be led, and seeing how we can guide them towards what he really wants to realize. I hope that he will be able to take up the flag and keep on the journey of the church here in the Prince Albert area.”
Thévenot said he’s enjoyed working in the diocese for many reasons, including working with many young priests who had just been ordained and helping them grow in their faith and be happy in their faith.
‘We have to be happy in our faith and growing in our faith. That’s how we are witnesses of Christ,” he said.
‘That was my whole idea … to help the people to become people that go out and meet thy neighbour.”
Thévenot’s retirement will take place in June. As things currently stand, there can’t be a big celebration, which is, Thévenot said, somewhat disappointing.
“This celebration would be a cornerstone of my life and of the life of the new bishop taking over,” he said. “We hope that COVID will be better and we’ll be able to have more people come and join us.”
The celebration will also be streamed online so people can watch from wherever they are and join the celebration.
While he’s retiring from his duties as bishop, Thévenot said he hopes to remain in the area. He does have some family in Manitoba, but he’d love to remain near Prince Albert. While he won’t be a serving bishop, he’ll still likely preside over mass, as is tradition for retired clergy in the Catholic Church. Being a clergyman is a calling, a life, not a job, he said.
As for Hero, he expects to spend the first year or so travelling to as many parts of the diocese as possible to meet the people he’s been called to serve. He’s also looking forward to working with Prince Albert’s strong interfaith community. Many leaders of other denominations have already reached out to Hero to welcome him to the city.
‘They were so welcoming of me and looking forward to working with me,” Hero said.
“I look forward to working together. We share a lot of things in common, to see how we can serve together and come closer together.”
Hero said he’s excited to go out and meet people and visit all the communities, parishes and missions in the diocese.
“I want to get to know people … and meet people, find out their history, their lives, their struggles, what are ways that the church can help so that we can support them and minister to them,” he said.
“It’s probably going to be about a year or so of just visiting and learning and listening to people.”
Hero’s travels will also take him to the city’s Catholic school division.
Prince Albert Catholic School Division education director Lorel Trumier said she’s excited to work alongside the new bishop.
“We are so blessed to have Father Stephen Hero be the bishop-elect,” she said. We are looking forward to meeting him and welcoming him into our diocese and we are looking forward to working with him closely.”
Trumier also expressed thanks for Bishop Thévenot, who was “extremely supportive” of the education system.
“He has certainly served his flock well. He was our shepherd in that process and we are so fortunate to have had him. He was a bishop of the people and was willing to spend time with people and talk to people and listen and support. We have been so fortunate — he was God-given to us and it was evident as we worked through (God) working with him.”
— With files from Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Daily Herald