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New Catholic bishop for Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador ready to call Newfoundland home

Bishop-elect Bart von Roijen
Bishop-elect Bart von Roijen - Contributed

Being named bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador came as a bit of a shock to Rev. Bart van Roijen.

The current pastor of St. Charles Garnier Parish in Kelowna, B.C., van Roijen had no idea he was being considered for the position that became vacant when former bishop Peter Hundt was named archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s.

While candidates may suspect their consideration for a bishop position, van Roijen said the process is conducted in secrecy.

The bishops in the church regularly update a list of potential candidates for promotion. When a vacancy occurs, the list is referred to and five candidates are selected.

The Pope’s papal nuncio in Canada then compiles information on the five. It is then sent to Rome where a committee reviews the information and a shortlist of three candidates is given to the Pope, who makes the final decision.

Van Roijen was quite surprised to get the call from the papal nuncio.

“I kind of looked twice at my call display.”

Having already picked up the phone, he first thought he misread the display. The call happened very quickly and, at the end, he accepted the appointment.

He then learned his post would be in Corner Brook, somewhere he admits he knows nothing about. It may be a good thing, he said, as he can get to know the diocese through fresh eyes. 

Van Roijen said priests are trained to trust the process

“I’ve always said yes to all my appointments.” 

Some have been more difficult than others. He has also questioned accepting certain assignments. 

“But, there’s no future in no,” he said

He’s been at St. Charles for two years, but has never been at one posting for very long.

“I tend to be the person that there always seems to be another assignment they want me to do.”

He’s lived in six provinces and feels he’s easily moved because of his skill at bringing consistency and peace to parishes.

His average time anywhere has been three years.

“I hope to do better than the average,” he said with laugh, because at age 54 he’s getting tired of moving. 

“I’ll make my home in Newfoundland.” 

Still, he did struggle with feeling worthy of the role of bishop and questioned his own qualifications for the job.

“I’m a pastor. I guess in the end that’s really what it comes down to, my pastoral skills have been recognized,” he said.

“As a pastor, you’re out in the field and you’re with the people.”

It’s something he’s done for 22 years and loves to do.

Those skills will be put to good use in the diocese as the Pope wants him to be a missionary, to reach out to the smaller communities, to be a presence for people in need of healing and an awareness that the church cares.

Van Roijen said the toughest part of the job will most likely be the administrative role where he figures he’ll have a steep learning curve as he takes on running the diocese.

Van Roijen will visit the diocese Oct. 21 for a few days to meet with Archbishop Hundt and diocesan staff. 

His episcopal ordination and installation as bishop will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Redeemer and of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 12, the day marked by the church as the Feast of Guadalupe. 

Who is Bishop-elect Bart van Roijen?

- Born in Diemen, The Netherlands, on Aug. 4, 1965 

- Immigrated to Canada in 1973

- Received a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan in 1986 and a master’s degree in divinity from St. Peter’s Seminary in London in 1989

- He took teacher training at the University of Calgary from 1990 to 1992

- Was the diocesan director of religious education for the Diocese of Gravelbourg from 1992 to 1995

- Was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Nelson on April 25, 1997

- Presently, he is the pastor of St. Charles Garnier Parish in Kelowna, B.C. and is the director of the Permanent Diaconate Program, the diocesan vocation director and the vicar general of that diocese

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