Bishop Greg Bittman has served as chancellor for both Archbishop Richard Smith and Cardinal Thomas Collins.

September 10, 2012
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

When Edmonton's new archbishop, Thomas Collins, went looking for a priest to serve as chancellor more than 12 years ago, Father Greg Bittman was probably not an obvious choice.

A priest for less than four years, Bittman had just become pastor of Christ-King Parish in Stettler the previous summer.

But Collins, now the cardinal-archbishop of Toronto, saw something special in the young priest. His personal qualities and his devotion "led me to believe he would be very fine" as chancellor, he said in an interview.

Bittman had done "wise work" on the priests' personnel committee. "He very much impressed me with his great concern for the common good and his kind, but clear, way of serving people."

Collins never regretted making Bittman the chancellor, a decision he said "was justified day after day after day."

"I always had tremendous confidence that he would handle issues with wisdom and charity and prudence."

When Bittman would go away to study or take a holiday, issues he had dealt with would end up on the archbishop's desk. "I realized how many things he was handling very wisely," Collins said. "It increased my already existing gratitude for him."

Collins made time in his busy schedule to participate in Bittman's Sept. 3 ordination as auxiliary bishop of Edmonton, an appointment the cardinal called "eminently wonderful."

A NEW ARCHBISHOP

When Collins left Edmonton for Toronto in early 2007, he was soon replaced by Archbishop Richard Smith.

Smith said when he came to the archdiocese he chose to wait a year before deciding who he would appoint to important positions.

"It didn't take me long with Bishop Greg to realize that Cardinal Collins had chosen very well. I was glad to ratify that particular appointment.

"He's been my right arm ever since I got here."

Bittman, said Smith, "is a man of God and a man of the Church. He has a deep faith and a commitment to serve the Lord's people."

The new auxiliary bishop is also "an incredibly hard worker." He has "a pastoral heart" – a sensitivity to the needs of the poor, the weakest and the suffering "and to let other decisions flow from that."

HOSPITAL CALLS

As well, Bittman has never hesitated to take his turn among the priests to respond to hospital calls regarding the sick, he said. "Day or night, he drops everything to meet the needs of the sick."

Further, as administrator of the Catholic Pastoral Centre, he is the man on call to deal with maintenance issues with the building or on the grounds. Often, said the archbishop, he has to drop everything and run. "He does that without hesitation and very willingly."

Smith said Bittman is a true leader. "He's not afraid to make a decision and run with it."

Yet, he also knows when the decision is not his to make and he should refer it to the archbishop.

Bittman is already over-worked, Smith said. "He does it extremely well, with great efficiency and equanimity and joy."

NEW RESPONSIBILITIES

But while he will receive new responsibilities – including serving the wider Church through the Alberta and Canadian conferences of bishops – some of his current tasks will be lifted, he said.

Looking to the future, Smith said that, as a bishop, Bittman faces a busy life full of challenges, but also filled with blessings and consolations.

"If you're a person who is open to the will of the Lord and ready to say 'yes' and understand that what happens is the result of God's grace – not dependent on your own abilities – that leads to a very fulfilling and happy life.

"I suspect that's what is in store for Bishop Greg."