"Bishop Albert LeGatt's Ad Limina visit with Holy Father"
Ad limina visit connects diocese to universal church By Kiply Lukan Yaworski Bringing news of the Saskatoon diocese to the Holy Father in Rome this fall was a powerful experience of the universal church for Bishop Albert LeGatt. “There was a profound sense of unity, of the reality of the communion between the diocese of Saskatoon and the universal church,” he said of his private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI which was part of the ad limina visit of the bishops of Western Canada to the Vatican in October. It was LeGatt’s fourth visit to Rome, but his first ad limina pilgrimage, a visit with the Holy See undertaken by every bishop, every five years. Before the ad limina visit, each bishop prepares a detailed report about life and faith in his diocese, describing strengths and challenges, programs and initiatives. “I was bringing the whole of the diocese to the Holy Father,” LeGatt said. 1 The morning of the meeting with Pope Benedict, the bishop spent time preparing, going over the summary of the report and spending time in prayer “that the Holy Spirit would really help both of us, in an expression of this one common faith and life.” LeGatt described the Holy Father’s warmth and his attitude of careful listening. “What struck me very powerfully was both the genuine look of welcome and the warm and genuine interest in his eyes,” said the bishop. “I thought the meeting would consist of him talking to me, but instead, he was asking me questions and expressing a profound interest in our diocese, and in all that was happening in the life of the church and the people here.” Topics of conversation during the brief meeting included the Saskatoon diocese’s move to restore the order of the initiation sacraments (in which children will be confirmed before receiving first Eucharist); ongoing efforts at adult faith formation (such as Lay Formation, Foundations programs, and the creation of Small Christian Communities); efforts to meet the needs of immigrants and newcomers to Saskatoon; the importance of Native ministry in the diocese; and some ongoing challenges facing the faith community in Saskatoon. “We talked about our society being a very secular society, and, given that, how do you invite people to come to the faith, to know Jesus Christ? How do you strengthen the baptized and call forth their participation in that mission?” At the meeting’s end, LeGatt asked the Holy Father for a blessing upon the diocese. “It was a moment of bringing before him the people of the diocese, and all of our efforts to live out the faith. I asked for his personal apostolic blessing upon my ministry, upon all the people and upon the entire life of the diocese – it was a very powerful moment.” 2 The day of the meeting had further personal significance for LeGatt – it was the fifth anniversary of his ordination as bishop. That day, he was also able to celebrate Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of the great ancient churches of Rome and the burial place of St. Paul, patron saint of the diocese of Saskatoon. In addition to the meeting with the Holy Father, the ad limina visit also included visits by the Western Canadian bishops to all the different congregations of the Vatican – concerned with areas such as liturgy, doctrine, relationships with clergy and religious, pastoral care of the sick, ecumenism, and care of immigrants and refugees. “It provided a real overview of all that the church is and does and an overview of all that the faith is about in the world today.” Most of the visits were very positive, LeGatt said. “There seemed to be an overall desire to understand our realities across all the dioceses of western Canada, and what our efforts are to help the church grow, to evangelize and to deal with the challenges in our modern society.” The visit was also a time of retreat for the bishops, who were able to spend time reflecting upon their ministry. “It was also a really good moment of friendship and fraternity between the bishops of Western Canada, who spent two weeks together, meeting every night to celebrate Mass together and to discuss what they had lived during the day and to prepare for the meetings of the next day,” LeGatt described. In his address to the entire group Oct. 9, Pope Benedict focused on the gift of reconciliation, in light of the parable of the prodigal son and in the face of a secular society. The tone of that meeting was “very much demonstrating a role of being an elder brother in the episcopacy – encourag-ing us and supporting us,” said LeGatt. Although manifestations of sin abound in our world – including greed and corruption, betrayed relationships and exploitation of persons – the recognition of individual sinfulness has waned, the Holy Father told the bishops. “Behind this weakening of the recognition of sin, with its commensurate … need to seek forgiveness, is ultimately a weakening of our relationship with God.” With God excluded from the public forum, the sense of sin dissipates, and the absolute value of moral norms is relativized, Pope Benedict said. “The categories of good or evil vanish, along with individual responsibility … When the need to seek forgiveness and the readiness to forgive are forgotten, in their place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness arises.” The Holy Father said he was encouraged by efforts in Canada to deepen reconciliation and understanding, particularly with First Nations communities. He noted the work of the Catholic Aboriginal Council for Reconciliation, and encouraged the bishops to continue “to address with compassion and determination the underlying causes of the difficulties surrounding the social and spiritual needs of the Aboriginal faithful.” 3 The reports brought to Rome from the dioceses of Western Canada include “much from which you can draw encouragement,” Pope Benedict told the bishops. “In particular, I have been heartened to note the zeal and generosity of your priests, the selfless dedication of the religious present in your dioceses and the increasing readiness among the laity to embolden their witness to Christ’s truth and love in their homes, schools, places of work and in the public sphere,” the pope said. 4