By Glen Argan
Western Catholic Reporter
Caption: Bishop-elect Paul Terrio. Ramon Gonzalez / CCN.
He’s studied in Rome, been a teacher of philosophy and theology, and lived on three continents.
But Bishop-elect Paul Terrio says he loves being a pastor. “Being a priest with people, being a pastor, that’s what it’s all about.”
Terrio, who only months ago left his job as pastor at one of the largest parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese to become president of Newman Theological College, will now get a flock of 56,000 Catholics in northeastern Alberta.
Pope Benedict appointed Terrio Oct. 18 to be the seventh bishop of the St. Paul Diocese.
The new bishop will be ordained and installed as bishop Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in St. Paul Cathedral. Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith will preside at the liturgy.
“I thought I was at an age when I’m getting too for this sort of thing,” the 69-year-old Terrio told reporters, aware that bishops are required to submit their resignations when they turn 75. “It might be a short run for me.”
Terrio said he received a phone call on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day inviting him to come to Ottawa to meet with the apostolic nuncio.
Familiar with what likely meant – an appointment to be a bishop, Terrio said he spent his time on the airplane working on a way to say “no.”
“I was really surprised. I didn’t expect this at all,” he said.
However, the nuncio, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana was wearing his slippers when he greeted Terrio at the door. “He spoke of prayer first,” Terrio said. “The witness of a man of prayer you take seriously.”
“He said, ‘This is what the Church is calling you to and there are real needs at this time.’ I said, ‘I’ve been ordained to serve God’s people.’ I
made the sign of the cross and then I said ‘yes.’”
So it was that Terrio, a native of Montreal and a priest who has served in the Edmonton Archdiocese for the past 18 years, accepted his appointment as bishop.
The St. Paul Diocese has been without a bishop since February when Bishop Luc Bouchard was appointed bishop of Trois Rivieres, Quebec.
Father Peter Tran, diocesan administrator of St. Paul since Bouchard left in March, said the people of the diocese are happy to learn of Terrio’s appointment. “We are excited to receive the news.”
Tran said he has met Terrio on a few occasions, first when the new bishop was on the formation team at St. Joseph Seminary in the 1990s and Tran was overseeing seminarians for his diocese.
So he is personally pleased to have Terrio as the diocese’s shepherd. “I really enjoyed the appointment of him as the new bishop of St. Paul.”
Terrio, currently archdiocesan vocations director as well as president of Newman College, came to Edmonton in 1994 to serve on the seminary formation team. He has also been the pastor of St. Peter’s Parish in Villeneuve and Holy Trinity Parish in Stony Plain-Spruce Grove.
“It was with them that I learned the best lessons of being a priest and serving. My deepest gratitude will always be with them,” he said of his former parishioners.
Following his ordination in 1970, he was associate pastor at the Montreal cathedral and a religious education professor at the College de Montreal.
He joined the Sulpician Fathers, an order which specializes in the training of seminarians. The Sulpicians sent him to serve at a seminary in Brasilia, Brazil, from 1983 until 1994. He also studied at the Gregorian University in Rome from 1986 to 1988.
Although he expected he would receive an episcopal appointment at the end of his flight to Ottawa, he was surprised to learn that it was to St. Paul.
“I thought they would want someone younger for St. Paul and there are other dioceses that would require both languages,” said Terrio, who is fluent in English, French and Portuguese as well as being able to function in Italian.
He goes to the St. Paul Diocese, which includes the major centre of Fort McMurray, with no preconceptions. “I am going there to serve as I learn and learn as I serve.”
Although he has not had a ministry in the diocese, he has had some indirect connections. At the seminary, he was a mentor and spiritual advisor to seminarians from St. Paul.
While pastor in Villeneuve, he became friends with Msgr. Robert Poulin, then the pastor in nearby Morinville, which is in the St. Paul Diocese.
And when in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, he had many parishioners who commuted to work in Fort McMurray. “The pastor in Fort McMurray says, ‘Yeah, they’re up here, but they go down there to get married.’”
Terrio said he will go to St. Paul with “open ears.”
“I will try to listen and welcome and learn from all these good people.”