Local Catholic community welcomes new bishop with ordination and installation ceremony Friday

Bishop Albert Thévenot, left and Father Stephen Hero pose for a photo at their Prince Albert office on March 26, 2021. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The 40,000 Roman Catholics in the Diocese of Prince Albert welcomed their new leader Friday as Stephen Hero was ordained and installed as the eighth bishop in diocesan history.

Bishop Hero was announced as the incoming bishop earlier this year. On Friday, a special mass was held at Sacred Heart Cathedral, attended by clergy from across Saskatchewan and beyond, to welcome Hero to his new post.

The ordination of Hero fell on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a feast day in the Catholic calendar that also marks the solemnity of the principal patron of the Prince Albert Diocese.

Hero succeeds Albert Thevenot, who served as bishop for the past 13 years. He submitted his resignation after reaching the church’s mandatory retirement age for bishops of 75.

Hero’s ordination and installation was celebrated by Archbishop of Regina Most Rev. Donald Bolen, with assistance from Most Rev. Richard Smith, the archbishop of Edmonton who has been Hero’s bishop for the past several years.

Hero comes to Prince Albert after serving at St. Joseph Seminary on the formation team since 2005. He was rector of the seminary from 2012 up until his appointment to the Diocese of Prince Albert. As rector, he got to know many of the seminarians who went onto the priesthood, including priests now serving in the Prince Albert Diocese.

“You are being ordained a bishop in a tumultuous time, amidst great and challenging circumstances,” Bolen said to Hero during the Mass. “Our Lord communicated his love for us in suffering, self-giving love. You are at home in these most challenging circumstances.”

Many gave homilies, including Archbishop Smith.

He spoke of the importance of love, and of letting one’s heart be pierced in order to serve one another.

“Our very good and beloved bishop (Thevenot) will be succeeded by another who will also be a very good bishop and who you will all grow to love,” Smith said.

He said Hero was called to serve and sent to the Prince Albert diocese “by his own faithful service, by the unwavering fidelity of our God.”

That assurance is needed in the present moment, Smith continued.

‘While it’s accurate to say that our hearts are full of joy while we greet our new shepherd, we also know they are simultaneously filled with deep sadness as the country still reels in sorrow and in anger at the discovery of Indigenous children’s remains in Kamloops,” he said.

“We find ourselves in shock yet again by the news of the murder this week of a Muslim family in London. Words fail us as we strive to capture what we’re feeling in response to the tragedies. In my estimation, what we’re each experiencing is the pain arising from a pierced heart, a heart pierced by sorrow and by pain.”

Smith drew parallels to the pierced heart of Jesus, injured by a soldier’s lance but also, he said “by an ineffable sorrow” of sin and suffering of humankind.

Anyone hoping to lead a faith community, Smith said, must allow for his own heart to be pierced by the community’s cares, concerns, hardships and struggles.

“Anyone familiar with Stephen Hero will have long recognized that pastoral heart that is necessary for all ministers of the gospel,” Smith said.

“The people in this diocese can know with certainty that their new shepherd, like their previous bishop, is one that conforms to the heart of the good shepherd. Moreover, you will find a trustworthy spiritual guide eager to help you all in the formation of your hearts.”

Hero was welcomed to the Prince Albert diocese by Rev. Maurice Fiolleau.

“I’m honoured to be the one to welcome you ars the bishop of our diocese. It is truly a historic event,” Fiolleau said.

“You take o the role of chief teacher and pastor. Our diocese is geographically vast and culturally diverse, and you will be spending many hours travelling from one parish to another.”

Fiolleau said he knew Hero from his own studies at the seminary.

Hero spoke last. He was given a bouquet of spiritual gifts from the diocese parishes and greeted after the mass by a drive-past parade welcoming him to the area.

Hero kept his comments brief, thanking everyone who supported him so far in his life, including God, the Canadian conference of bishops, his students, teachers, family and fellow clergymen.

He also thanked Thevenot, for his  “tireless help and patience” as Hero began to orient himself to the ministry here.

“I will try to build on all the good you have accomplished here in the Lord’s name in Prince Albert over the last 13 years,” Hero said.

He added that he’s eager to get out and start visiting the 40,000 or so parishioners spread across 87 rural and urban parishes located from Manitoba to the east, Alberta to the west, Prince Albert National Park to the north and the Wakaw area to the south.

He spoke in English and in French and took the time to share a special message for the diocese’s Indigenous population.

“You were the first inhabitants of this great land,” Hero said.

‘We gather at a difficult time, when painful and traumatic memories have been reawakened for all of us, but especially for you. I am here for you and I know you are the bearers of a rich culture and experience and have so much to give. I look forward to listening to and learning from you. We cannot change the past, but I will do all that I can to be a friend now, a messenger of peace and an instrument of God’s healing.”