Last Friday evening Sacred Heart Catholic parish hall was packed full of people from all over this territory, wishing Bishop Gary Gordon the best as he moves on to his new diocese in Victoria, B.C. The evening was a celebration and show of thankfulness for the time Bishop Gary has spent in Whitehorse. There are things that many Yukoners do not know about our bishop. His modest ways have kept much of his meaningful work out of the public eye. But it is important to share what his time has meant for many of us.
Arriving in Whitehorse eight years ago, Bishop Gary became his own secretary and learned how to use a computer (for the first time.) He did much of the administrative work that most bishops have support for in other dioceses. He was not just our bishop but is a Bishop of Canada and was often called to serve in other ministries across the country, co-ordinating these responsibilities from his computer here at home. Bishop Gary dedicated most of his weekends to serving the spiritual needs of the small communities in this vast territory as well as those small Catholic parishes in northern B.C. A typical weekend for Bishop Gary might have included driving to Dawson, hitting Mayo and Faro on the way, and then heading back down to Watson Lake for a mass Sunday evening.
Christ always highlighted the importance of the little sheep who seem beyond the shepherd’s care – emphasizing that every unique soul needs care and love. Taking this calling seriously, Bishop Gary was determined to bring mass to whoever needed it, no matter how far it would take him in the diocese, and even if it was just for one person, or a small family. He was able to make everyone feel welcome, even those who had not stepped inside a church for years. In the communities he made all the sacraments a priority: baptisms, weddings, as well as funerals. Conscious that he would need help, Bishop Gary has brought in over 20 priests, some for short periods and others for 6 months or more to fill in the gaps. He is a bishop more interested in serving than being served.
His work in prisons, local and nation-wide, has quietly garnered the admiration and recognition of religious and secular leaders alike. During our most festive holidays, Bishop has spent hours in the prisons with inmates, and most recently helped co-ordinate bringing in a Filipino Catholic choir as well as a Canadian singer-songwriter to the prison to add that special touch of care and joy. The poor, not only in spirit but in material wealth, have been his priority, and Bishop has opened up the conversation around using diocesan land for future low-income housing.
Bishop has spent the last year as the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Whitehorse, providing regular weekend masses and offering Reconciliation (confession) more regularly than ever offered before. This has been a special time for many parishioners, who have been able to know their bishop on a more personal level. Many are now proud to know a bishop who turns pomp and circumstance upside down in favor of good old-fashioned pastoring, full of love, integrity, humour and truthfulness.
On behalf of several members
of Sacred Heart Cathedral,