Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

From His Grace to Father Jim

Retiring archbishop helped strengthen bond with aboriginal community

  • Print

Some call him brother, others call him doctor, but Archbishop James V. Weisgerber would really prefer to answer to a simple "Father Jim."

Sometime this fall, the Saskatchewan-born Roman Catholic Archbishop of Winnipeg will get his wish when he hands in his mitre and robes and moves back to Regina.

"I worked for 30 years as a priest in Regina and I'm anxious to reconnect with people," says Weisgerber, who will take on the title of Archbishop Emeritus.

"Everyone in Regina calls me Father Jim."

In May, Weisgerber celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest as well as his 75th birthday, the official retirement age for priests and bishops. Although he's submitted his resignation to the Pope, Weisgerber is still awaiting word about when he will officially step down from his official duties.

"At some date, the Pope will accept my letter and begin a process of searching for a replacement," explains the sixth archbishop of Winnipeg, who has held that position for 13 years.

On May 29, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Manitoba, prompting the nickname of Dr. Grace. Archbishops are often addressed as His Grace.

The freshly minted doctor of laws jokes about the new title, but a longtime colleague says it describes the attributes he's brought to his ministry and his work with the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops, first as general secretary and later as president.

"He has a common touch and is able to engage with and collaborate with many, many people," Archbishop Albert LeGatt of Saint Boniface writes in an email.

"He has a particular affection for First Nations people and a personal commitment to their full and rightful place and contribution within the church and within the Canadian fabric as a whole."

In April 2012, he was adopted into the aboriginal community by two sets of brothers -- Phil and Bert Fontaine, and Fred Kelly and his brother, Tobasonakwut Kinew, who died later that year. The ceremony was intended to recognize the role Weisgerber played in facilitating a 2009 meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Canadian residential school survivors.

"What we want to do is address the issue of reconciliation and to address the issue of racism in Canada and to demonstrate to the Canadian public and the world that if people want to work together, they can work together," Kinew told the Free Press prior to the adoption ceremony.

In addition to his work in building relationships with the aboriginal community, Weisgerber is proud of his role in establishing Micah House, the archdiocese's social justice centre located in Winnipeg's North End.

As one of three Catholic archbishops in the city, Weisgerber, the son of German immigrants to Vibank, Sask., demonstrated insightful leadership of his own Catholic flock and a commitment to work with other faith groups, says the archbishop and metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

"He was a good friend to the Ukrainian community as well, and personally, I will miss his wit and friendship as he returns to his native province of Saskatchewan," says Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg.

Once he's freed from the busy schedule of an archbishop, Weisgerber plans to live a quieter life in Regina, enjoying the freedom to choose his activities. He's renewing old allegiances with his purchase of season tickets to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but plans to return to Winnipeg to catch the performances of the Manitoba Opera.

Despite his imminent departure from Winnipeg, Weisgerber still has a strong pastoral sense for the more than 100,000 Roman Catholics under his watch for the last 13 years.

"I would want people to have a very clear identity as disciples of Jesus, which would make us different from other people, but not set apart from society."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 D15


Updated on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:45 AM CDT: Fixed cutline, minor editing of story.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Best of Jets sound bites following Saturday's 2-1 loss to Ducks

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young gosling flaps his wings after taking a bath in the duck pond at St Vital Park Tuesday morning- - Day 21– June 12, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060710 The full moon rises above the prairie south of Winnipeg Monday evening.

View More Gallery Photos


Do you think the Jets will win Game 4 on Wednesday?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google