Chatlain surprised to be named an archbishop

Bishop Murray Chatlain

Bishop Murray Chatlain

December 17, 2012

Bishop Murray Chatlain of Mackenzie-Fort Smith is leaving the Northwest Territories despite his desire to stay.

To Chatlain's surprise, Pope Benedict has appointed him archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

"I think it is kind of sad in a way," Chatlain, 49, said of his imminent departure from Yellowknife. "I've developed a lot of deep relationships with the people in the area. I have been here just five years and I was certainly hoping to spend a lot more years here yet."

The bishop said he was "really surprised" when the papal nuncio told him of his appointment. "It was certainly not something I was really looking for."

However, Chatlain is honoured and humbled by the appointment, which he sees as an appreciation of the work he has done "but recognizing that any graces or effectiveness (on my part) come from God.

"So I am very aware that any success in life ahead is going to be by being rooted in God and depending on the help of the good people of the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas."

Chatlain replaces Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie, who resigned in July for health reasons. Oblate Father William Stang has been apostolic administrator of the archdiocese since then.

No specific date has been set for Chatlain's installation, "but we are thinking either February or March." He will remain apostolic administrator of Mackenzie-Fort Smith until a new bishop is named.

"Trying to embrace a new area and a new diocese, and still administrating the one I am presently in sounds like double duty to me," Chatlain laughed. "Hopefully I can do some good delegating and get some good help."

He is not entirely new to Keewatin-Le Pas. As a young priest, he studied the Dene language at La Loche, Sask., which is in the archdiocese.

"I think (the new diocese) is not dramatically different but a little bit warmer," Chatlain said. "However, we won't be growing bananas anytime soon."


He plans to follow his own advice when he gets to Keewatin-Le Pas. "It's just like I tell the priests that come north. I tell them, 'Come and don't do much in the first year – just listen and pray.' So I'm not going to try to do too much in the beginning. I'll go and listen, work on my prayer life and see what God has got in mind."

Chatlain, who will turn 50 in January, was born in Saskatoon and earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Saskatchewan before entering St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont.

Ordained a priest for the Diocese of Saskatoon in 1987, he ministered at parishes in the diocese as well as parishes in northern Saskatchewan that are part of the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.

Pope Benedict named him coadjutor bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith in 2007 and he became bishop of the diocese a year later.