Two Years!

I served under a wonderful bishop in British Columbia, Canada, 1971-73. I remembered him in my prayer this week when news of the bad weather across North America came through. My first Christmas day with him saw us 40 below zero!

Bishop O’Grady was appointed to Prince Rupert in 1956. Find the port by following the west coast of Canada about 500 miles north of Vancouver: from there the Yellowhead Highway runs inland as far as Prince George and on to the Rockies. From Prince George, a road runs north to the Peace River country (Dawson Creek, Fort St John, Chetwynd): these two roads became the Diocese of Prince George in the early 1960’s.

The diocese is 147,000 square miles – one and a half times the size of Great Britain! It is forest, lakes and mountains. The people were spread out in small townships and native reservations and there were only about 30 priests, but Bishop O’Grady had a vision of a diocese based upon the work of the lay apostolate. He invited people to give two years of
their lives to God and promised them “long hours, hard work, no pay”. He believed the human heart longs to give and love generously. He was right.

People from around the world asked to be involved in the wonderful vision of Church that the bishop inspired, and the diocese of Prince George at that time offered magnificent witness to what is possible when someone is inspired and touches the hearts and lives of others. Schools and churches were built by volunteers, parish and schools staffed by volunteers (all fully qualified), and generous men and women followed the call in helping in all the diocesan work: administration, finance, legal, etc.

There were 147 of us in my two years with Bishop O’Grady and I met people who had come out as volunteers in previous years and who had stayed, making home where they had intended only to help! I was at the Bishop’s side at the 50th wedding to take place between these lay apostles.

I have lived with his vision all the years I have served God and the Church, and I know others privileged to be involved feel the same. We are still in contact, grateful to have known him.

We pray for all those longing to serve God,

Fr John
(6th January 2018)