Keewatin-Le Pas archbishop resigns for health reasons
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA (CCN) — Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the
resignation of Keewatin-Le Pas Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie, OMI, and named
Rev. William Stang, OMI, as apostolic administrator.
Stang, who has been serving as vicar-general and chancellor
of the diocese, confirmed Lavoie had resigned for health reasons.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) news
release cited Canon Law 401 (Sec. 2) as the reason. This section says:
A diocesan bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason,
has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office is earnestly requested
to offer his resignation from office.”
Born in North Battleford, Sask., in 1947, Lavoie was ordained
a priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1974. After serving with
the Oblates in various capacities, he worked in many parishes in the
diocese that includes parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Lavoie became
the coadjutor bishop of Keewatin-Le Pas in 2005 and then archbishop a
In 2006, Novalis published Lavoie’s devotional Drumming from Within:
Tales of Hope and Faith from Canada’s North, in which was revealed
some of the lessons he learned in 30 years of ministry among Canada’s
Métis and Aboriginal peoples.
At the book’s launch in October 2006, Lavoie said he wrote the
book not only to express thanks to the many individuals he met in the
North who had triumphed over adversity, but to inspire others to make “the
sacred journey” to minister to Aboriginal peoples as a priest.
Lavoie said he joined the Oblates “to see the world,” but
his first assignment was Beauval, Sask. It was only 300 kilometres north
of where he had been studying, but he described that distance as a passage
into “another world.”
In this world, everything was sacred, he said. Attitudes toward time,
money, work and funerals were different.
His book describes how difficult he found the transition. “I was
left feeling uncomfortable, vulnerable and tense — rather unpleasant
feelings,” he wrote.
He reacted by keeping himself busy and working long days, but reached
a point where he experienced depression and felt like quitting.
Instead of processing what was going on, he reacted “energetically” by
pouring himself into ministry, keeping busy and working long days. But
he began to find his “priestly vocation harder than I expected.”
Lavoie wrote that eventually he realized he was “trying to do the
impossible, under my own power and on my own terms.”
“I realized that I was doing my will in God’s name and carrying
everything on my shoulders,” he wrote. “God didn’t’ seem
to be doing much, so I had to.”
“And I had failed miserably at something,” he writes. “I
couldn’t love the people I was sent to serve.”
He wrote that he “cracked,” as his state is referred to in
the North, and was eventually able to let go of his “cultural baggage.” More
importantly, he became able to receive love as well as give it.
He wrote that his former spiritual director, Bishop Adam Exner, had told
him he had to “fail miserably at something and still be accepted
by his people.”
The archbishop said going North had been an “enriching experience,” and
he said his book was “a way of trying to give back to the people
what they gave me.”
Keewatin-Le Pas serves approximately 37,000 Catholics in 45 parishes
and missions. The diocese has 15 diocesan and religious priests and seven