Two thumbs up for retired Calgary Bishop Frederick Henry!

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 19, 2017

Most Reverend Frederick B. Henry, the just-retired Roman Catholic Bishop of Calgary, is pictured here giving a thumbs-up to some of the young people gathered for the June 3, 2007 blessing of the new facilities for St. Mary’s Church, Cochrane. Photo by Warren Harbeck

Most Reverend Frederick B. Henry, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Calgary for the past 19 years, recently announced his retirement for health reasons. I’ve had the privilege of knowing him for most of that time. This week’s column is a tribute to this man who has been a Cup of Light in my life.

My camera’s first encounter with him was ten years ago when he blessed the new facilities for St. Mary’s Church in Cochrane.

I took many photos of Bishop Henry that day. But it was a quick informal shot following mass that best captures how I will remember him. He was chatting with some young people and really liked what they were saying. Smiling enthusiastically, he gave them the thumbs-up. (Click!)

He carried that same attitude into more liturgical moments. For example, every spring he would confer Confirmation at St. Mary’s. Typically before confirming the young people, he’d test them to make sure they understood what they were doing – but always with a twinkle in his eye. On one such occasion he asked some sixth graders to name one of the seven sacraments.

One boy responded immediately, “Marriage!”

“How very interesting that you thought of marriage so quickly,” Bishop Henry replied. “Do you have someone in mind?”

Bishop Henry’s wit and wisdom have greatly benefitted these columns.

Some years ago he asked me to represent the Diocese in two Calgary-area interfaith associations. Thus I became one of the directors of Abraham’s Tent (a dialogue among Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Baha’i leaders) and the Calgary Council of Christians and Jews (CCCJ).

Thanks to Bishop Henry, I’ve had the chance to meet some of the finest human beings I could ever hope to know. The bond of our common humanity that transcends religious and ethnic differences has enriched my life – and the pages of these columns – ever since.

Speaking of interfaith matters, Bishop Henry was a key motivator behind Calgary’s celebration in 2015 of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Roman Catholic Church’s declaration on its relation to non-Christian religions. The event brought leaders from the Jewish and Christian communities together to address a necessary change in human hearts as reflected in the history of Jewish-Christian relations.

It concluded with the signing of a letter of mutual respect promising “to journey, with God as our guide, toward greater understanding and collaboration in enhancing the quality of life for all who live in southern Alberta.”

“It was the right thing to do,” the bridge-building bishop said.

Two thumbs up for Bishop Frederick Henry!


© 2017 Warren Harbeck

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