Bishop Gary Gordon: 'My responsibility is to be there and bring the message.'

Spirit and grace

Bishop Gary Gordon installed as the new head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria

  • Aug. 29, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Bishop Gary Gordon, who was installed as the new head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria last night, didn’t think he would ever become a priest, never mind a bishop.

Growing up in Burnaby, Bishop Gordon and his family attended church regularly. He was even enrolled in Catholic schools. But the thought of being a priest seemed foreign to him.

“I think being a priest was a little beyond me,” the bishop, 57, told the News during a recent interview at the diocese offices in Saanich.

“I didn’t really want to be a priest. I did want to be a missionary. The idea of letting people know the good news, I thought this was a really good idea.”

Bishop Gordon believes every Catholic boy thinks about the priesthood at some point, but in his case he thought it was asking too much of him and he wasn’t exactly enamored with school. “Priests go to school a long time,” he chuckled.

His life changed in his early 20s when he was walking down a dark road, looking up at the stars one night, and he heard what he believes was an affirmation from above.

“It was like I heard this big ‘yes,’ and I’ve said yes every since: yes to becoming a priest and yes to becoming a bishop,” he said.

Bishop Gordon was ordained as a priest in 1982 after studying at Seminary of Christ the King in Mission; at St. Jerome College at the University of Waterloo in Ontario; and at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont.. He served several parishes throughout B.C., including Vancouver, Chilliwack and Mission.

He was named Bishop of Whitehorse in 2006.

With his new role in Victoria, he’ll be the spiritual leader of more than 94,000 Roman Catholics on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands – 10,000 of whom attend church regularly, and while that will be a much larger workload than in the North, Bishop Gordon maintains the approach is the same.

“It’s kind of a universal ministry,” he said.

“The approach gets directed by listening to the people. The ministry, in a sense, is the same anywhere, but when you listen to the people in the different (cities) then you kind of get the culture of the place which gives (you) the language to use to communicate the good news.”

Unlike leaders of other religions, Bishop Gordon isn’t concerned about declining church membership. Roman Catholics remain the single largest Christian religious group in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

“It’s not a number’s game, that’s for sure. I’ve done ministry in places where no one has shown up. That’s not my responsibility. My responsibility is to be there and bring the message,” the bishop said.

“Whether anybody shows up or not is in God’s hands.”

Bishop Gordon prefers to take the long view on the future of the church. He points out at one time the church was flourishing in North Africa. Now there is almost nothing there, but it is growing and thriving in the Philippines and in other areas of Africa.

As for being a bishop and a priest, he says he’s honoured to be in such a “noble profession.”

He’s been able to travel the world and see and do things he would never have done otherwise. He’s been part of prison ministry, missioned in Peru and Haiti and worked with First Nations people.

“You’re deeply involved with people in life’s trenches. It’s amazing and very privileged.”

Just Posted

Project provides barrier to suicides at hospital parkade

VIHA budgets $650,000 for work at Royal Jubilee Hospital parkade

Pandora supervised consumption site has busy first month

Site whose aim is to save lives takes on a new client-driven name: The Harbour

BC Nurses Union calls for decriminalization of opioids

BCNU president wants the federal government to do more to reduce preventable deaths

Pedestrian struck on Quadra Street

A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on Quadra Street at Hulford… Continue reading

Victoria airport workers rally on Tuesday

Food service workers call for improved working conditions

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

Greater Victoria prices continue to rise as market shows signs of cooling

A survey shows the aggregate price of a home in Victoria increased… Continue reading

Wildfires erupt in B.C. Okanagan forcing evacuation orders and a highway closure

Check out a list of up-to-date information on blazes happening within the Kamloops Wildfire Centre.

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Island man convicted of 1999 sex assault at Fraser Valley music festival

James Allen Redden, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty of three charges

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Former Vike returns to lead women’s rowing program

Williams rowed for UVic, Oxford and Canada

Most Read