Bishop Bittman ordained in a joyous celebration

Edmonton’s Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bittman blesses the congregation in St. Joseph’s Basilica at the end of his ordination Mass September 3.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Edmonton’s Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bittman blesses the congregation in St. Joseph’s Basilica at the end of his ordination Mass September 3.

September 10, 2012
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

In a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, Catholics from across the Edmonton Archdiocese gathered at St. Joseph’s Basilica Sept. 3 to witness the ordination of Gregory Bittman as auxiliary bishop.

Nearly 1,500 people, including the apostolic nuncio to Canada, a cardinal, the primate of the Church in Canada, a total of 23 bishops, 138 priests and 18 deacons, attended the ceremony. Bittman’s mother, two brothers and many other members of his family also attended.

Speaking to the Bittman family, Archbishop Richard Smith said, “I know it’s a very proud day for all of you and I assure you that everyone here this evening shares your joy.”

The congregation erupted in cheers and applause when Smith introduced Bittman, calling him the man of the hour.

Long ago, he said, God promised to the prophet Jeremiah to select for his people shepherds after his own heart.

“It’s our particular privilege to witness God’s fidelity to that promise in the choice of Bishop-elect Bittman, who chooses to pattern his life in the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.”

Bittman was born March 5, 1961 in Edmonton, the oldest of three boys. The holder of a diploma in nursing from the Misericordia School of Nursing and a bachelor of science in nursing degree from the University of Alberta, Bittman worked as a nurse for several years before becoming a priest in 1996.

Since 2000, he has served as chancellor, overseeing the work of the pastoral and administration offices of the archdiocese.

Archbishop Richard Smith prays over Bishop Bittman during the laying on of hands.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Archbishop Richard Smith prays over Bishop Bittman during the laying on of hands.

In his new role as auxiliary bishop, he will assist Smith, who is currently president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Most of Bittman’s first month as bishop will be spent outside the archdiocese, attending an 11-day “school for bishops” in Rome and the annual assembly of the CCCB.

Bittman is a pianist, an organist and an avid runner. He also holds a black belt in karate and enjoys scuba diving and home renovation.

HOLY SPIRIT

At a press conference earlier in the day, Bittman said he was looking “for a heavy, heavy dose of Holy Spirit tonight.

“I’m counting on it that the Holy Spirit is going to fill me with everything that I’m going to need to do in order to be a bishop.”

Bittman admitted he was feeling “a pile of mixed emotions” as the ordination approached.

“Sometimes I’m excited. Sometimes I’m actually sick to my stomach,” he told reporters. “Sometimes I’m scared stiff; other times I feel a bit overwhelmed.”

However, Bittman said he is looking forward to working with the people in his new capacity as auxiliary bishop.

Smith told reporters, “This is a day of great joy for all of us.

“And as this archdiocese grows and I assume other responsibilities in the country, it’s a particularly good moment to receive an auxiliary bishop.”

Hundreds of family friends and fans of Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bittman lined up to greet the new prelate and receive his blessing following his ordination Mass Sept. 3 at St. Joseph’s Basilica.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Hundreds of family friends and fans of Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bittman lined up to greet the new prelate and receive his blessing following his ordination Mass Sept. 3 at St. Joseph’s Basilica.

Smith said Bittman would serve in an assistant role.

“I may delegate to him certain administrative roles but there is also a sacramental aspect as well,” he said. “He is a bishop so he is able to do ordinations, he is able to do Confirmations; he is able to do pastoral visits in the name of the Church as a bishop to various parishes, which people really appreciate.”

Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, the apostolic nuncio to Canada, brought personal greetings from Pope Benedict to Bittman.

In his homily, Cardinal Thomas Collins, who appointed Bittman as chancellor during his tenure as archbishop of Edmonton, said it is not enough that bishops look like bishops but they also have to be bishops.

“We bishops need to learn how to be faithful servants of the servants of God,” he said. “We need to learn from daily experience how to be a faithful servant.”

Collins said bishops are not called to fulfill their mission of service on their own, using only their individual talents, but must use the abundant diversity of gifts God has showered upon every parish and diocese.

Archbishop Smith hands the new bishop the crozier, a symbol of his episcopal office.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Archbishop Smith hands the new bishop the crozier, a symbol of his episcopal office.

“A well-oiled machine the Church is not, so we really do rely on the grace of God and on the gifts and talents of others.”

The common point for all faithful servants of God’s people is to surrender to God’s will in order to grow in holiness day by day, Collins said. “A bishop needs to be sensitive and attentive to those whom he serves. He is truly to be a gentle server of the servants of God.”

Smith was the main consecrator of the sacrament, assisted by Collins and Archbishop-emeritus Joseph MacNeil as co-consecrators.

QUESTIONING

In the ordination ceremony, Smith questioned Bittman about his resolve to fulfill his responsibilities of bishop. Minutes later he asked the Lord to anoint Bittman with the fullness of priestly grace and to bless him with spiritual power in all its richness.

In silence, the archbishop imposed his hands on Bittman, conferring the power of the Holy Spirit. The co-consecrators and all bishops present did the same, signifying that the ordination of a bishop is a collegial act of the Order of Bishops.

ANOINTING

Following his anointing with chrism, Bittman was presented with the Book of the Gospels and then with his bishop’s ring, mitre and crozier. He was then invited to take his place among the concelebrant bishops.

At the end of the Mass, Bittman went around the cathedral blessing the people. Then he headed downstairs to meet the people in person and to give them his blessings.

His brother Dave Bittman said it is an honour to have a bishop in the family. “Now I’ll have to live like a bishop’s brother,” he laughed.

MOM IS HAPPY

“This is great blessing: God is so good!” exclaimed his mother Fran. “Tomorrow I will realize what happened. Today I’m numb. I’m very happy.”

The ceremony marked the first time a bishop has been ordained at St. Joseph’s Basilica for service in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

It is the first episcopal ordination in the cathedral since December 1958 when Bishop Emmett Doyle, also a priest of the archdiocese, was ordained for service to the Nelson, B.C., Diocese.