03 August 2010
Posted By PETER DOWNS, QMI AGENCY
Nearly four months after his abrupt resignation as bishop of St. Catharines Roman Catholic Diocese, James Wingle has finally broken the silence on his whereabouts and what he’s been doing since April.
But Wingle, who offered only vague reasons for leaving the diocese at the time of his resignation, provided no further insight into what was behind his departure in a brief e-mail message read to worshippers at services across Niagara Sunday.
The four-paragraph message, dated Saturday, was addressed to Monsignor Wayne Kirkpatrick, who has been named administrator of the diocese until a replacement bishop is selected.
Kirkpatrick provided QMI Agency a copy of the note, which was also posted on bulletin boards of churches throughout the diocese Sunday.
Wingle, 63, says in the e-mail he has completed the first part of his sabbatical in Jerusalem “in a time of prayer and rest.” However, he doesn’t say if he’s still spending time in Israel or anything else about where he’s currently located.
He indicates he will continue his sabbatical later in the summer, writing and researching a catechetical-pastoral project (a work of instruction in the Catholic faith).
“I would be grateful if you would extend my sincere thanks and assurances of my well-being to the clergy and faithful of the diocese,” he writes. “I am deeply appreciative of their expressions of concern and for their prayers.”
Wingle goes on to say he’s praying for the diocese and Pope Benedict XVI and his advisers as they determine who will replace him as bishop in St. Catharines.
“As I continue my sabbatical, I would be grateful to have the ongoing support and assistance of your prayer,” he says.
Wingle sent the message to the diocese the day The St. Catharines Standard ran a front-page story detailing a reporter’s trip to the bishop’s hometown of Eganville, Ont. in search of answers about his whereabouts and sudden resignation.
The e-mail is Wingle’s first formal communication with parishioners in the diocese since he quit in the spring.
Wingle offered only that he no longer had the stamina required to properly fulfill the duties of a bishop and that he wanted to take a sabbatical focused on prayer and “personal renewal.”
But the dearth of details and secrecy fueled widespread rumours and speculation, coming at a time when the Catholic church has been left reeling by numerous sex scandals. Others questioned whether Wingle’s health was in decline.
Through it all, the diocese and Wingle have remained silent — until the bishop’s brief missive Saturday.
Parishioners were pleased to hear from Wingle, Kirkpatrick said.
“I can’t speak for other parishes, only the one I’m in. But I think there’s a sense of being reassured, relieved, every-thing’s OK, he’s OK,” said Kirkpatrick, rector at Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria on Church St.
Kirkpatrick acknowledged the email doesn’t make it clear if Wingle remains in Jerusalem.
“This is all I know. I heard the rumours like everyone else that he was in the Holy Land, but I did not know that,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve heard from him personally, and he’s confirmed that he was in the Holy Land — whether he still is, I don’t know.”
Kirkpatrick said he read Wingle’s message personally to the congregation at the cathedral Sunday and provided it to all parishes in the diocese.
“It’s been a while and everyone wonders, ‘Well, what ever happened?’
“And so it’s good to hear from him and good to hear he’s OK,” he said.
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Bishop Wingle’s letter
July 31, 2010
Dear Monsignor Kirkpatrick,
With this letter I send you my good greetings. I pray that all is well with you and with the Diocese.
This is to inform you, that as I had announced in the letter that I sent to the Diocese last April, at the time of my resignation, I have now completed the first part of my sabbatical which I spent in the Holy Land in a time of prayer and rest. Later in the summer, I plan to continue my sabbatical doing some writing and research on a catechetical-pastoral project.
I would be grateful if you would extend my sincere thanks and assurances of my well-being to the clergy and faithful of the Diocese. I am deeply appreciative of their expressions of concern and for their prayers.
With you, I am praying earnestly for the needs of the Diocese and for the Holy Father and his advisors in their important work of choosing a new bishop for St. Catharines. As I continue my sabbatical, I would be grateful to have the ongoing support and assistance of your prayer.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend James Wingle
Bishop Emeritus of St. Catharines