May 18, 2015
AGNIESZKA KRAWCZYNSKI
THE B. C. CATHOLIC

WINNIPEG – Archbishop Emeritus Raymond Roussin, archbishop of Vancouver from 2004 to 2009, died here April 24 at age 75.

Roussin, who had been tasked with closing down one diocese, pulling another out of debt, and handling his own struggle with depression and illness, was known as a courageous leader.

"Bishop Ray was the good shepherd," said Bishop Gary Gordon of Victoria. "He never complained. He was never angry or bitter or resentful."

Born June 17, 1939, in St. Boniface, Man., Raymond Roussin wasn't sure if he wanted to be a priest and entertained the idea of becoming a teacher.

One day, during an exam, a teacher asked Roussin if he'd thought of entering the Marianist order. The question stayed in his mind all summer, and in the fall of 1955, Roussin entered the Society of Mary in St. Louis, Mo.

He completed undergraduate studies at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, and earned a licence in theology in Fribourg, Switzerland. He was ordained a priest in Fribourg in 1970.

Ten years later, Roussin was appointed superior of the Marianists in Canada. He was ordained bishop of the Diocese of Gravelbourg, Sask., in 1995.

The population of the mostly francophone diocese had long been in decline, and Roussin had the task of closing the diocese.

"When you close down a diocese, it isn't just like turning a key and turning out the lights," said Gordon. "It's a very hard thing to do."

In 1998 Roussin was appointed coadjutor bishop of Victoria and became bishop of the diocese in 1999 when Bishop Remi De Roo retired.

SOLVED FINANCIAL PROBLEM

"Victoria had some very difficult financial problems when he arrived," said Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon who was ordained a bishop by Roussin.

The diocese had racked up $5 million in debt due to bad investments and had guaranteed a $12-million mortgage in the hopes of recovering its losses.

Roussin handled the issue with a successful campaign of parishioners buying debentures to help with the debt.

"He was a gentle man who was given many difficult assignments in his life as a bishop," said Gagnon. "He bore them with faith and firmness of heart and great joy."

After Archbishop Adam Exner retired from Vancouver in early 2004, Roussin was appointed his successor.

One mark of Roussin's service in Vancouver was his struggle with depression, which he spoke about openly.

Gagnon called him a "figure of hope and solidarity" for other Catholics who face depression.

Roussin also worked toward reconciliation with aboriginal people and issued an apology for the abuses students suffered at residential schools.

Because of a neurological illness, Roussin resigned in 2009 and moved to Winnipeg to receive care from his sister, Lucille Lang.

Roussin's funeral was held May 2 in St. Boniface Cathedral in Winnipeg.