When Bishop Claude Champagne approaches the podium at the Catholic Education: A National Conversation conference in the nation’s capital next month, he will hit on a topic that he says he could talk about all day: the New Evangelization.
Bishop Champagne will kick off the keynote speakers for the three-day event, which will take place at the Marriott in downtown Ottawa. His presentation, “The New Evangelization: Our Common Responsibility” will act as an introduction to the conference’s theme: Witnessing to the Hope Within Us.
Serving as a priest for nearly four decades, Bishop Champagne brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the conference. Born in Lachine, Quebec, he studied philosophy and theology in Ottawa before earning a doctorate in mission studies at the Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained a priest on August 9, 1975 and subsequently, he served as professor at Saint Paul University, Ottawa, as well as being involved in youth ministry and vocation work and also with French language Cursillo groups in the Archdiocese of Ottawa. He has done pastoral work in eastern Ontario and was provincial superior of the Ontario and western Quebec province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1996 to 2003.
Following his episcopal ordination on June 11, 2003, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Halifax. On Jan. 5, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Most Rev. François Thibodeau, C.J.M., as Bishop of Edmundston and appointed as his successor Most Rev. Claude Champagne, O.M.I.
On March 25, 2009, Bishop Champagne took official possession of the Edmundston Diocese as its sixth bishop.
Champagne says he looks forward to returning to Ottawa for the October conference.
“I am impressed to see the work that’s been done with this conference,” he says. “It’s important to look at how to offer the good news within our schools and help the young people in these schools to perceive Catholic education as a treasure that’s offered to them. We need witnesses to do so.”
Acting as witnesses to the Christian faith is exactly what Bishop Champagne plans to address in his keynote. He will speak about how educators can bring the New Evangelization into our schools and demonstrate the Christian faith to each student.
“The transmission of faith is not done automatically in this generation of students,” he says. “Young people may grow up in a Catholic family, but it doesn’t mean they will follow the path of their parents.”
In order to show clearly what the faith is about, Bishop Champagne says schools need leaders who proclaim the good news.
“We need a group of teachers where the faith is present and they live it,” he explains, adding that when he was a young boy, he could identify the teachers in his Catholic school whose faith was genuine.
He adds that it’s then all about the delivery.
“We need a language that is able to reach our young people today,” he says. “The way we present faith is important. It should be in a language they can understand, which means we still have to renew our way of expressing the mystery so people of this generation can understand. We have to work on that.”
Showing our faith to students can be delivered in the smallest of ways.
“Could the student perceive that you really care for them? Even in the way that you welcome students it says something about the God in your life.”
Bishop Champagne will present on Friday, Oct. 4 as the first keynote speaker in the morning.
To learn more about the Catholic Education: A National Conversation conference, visit the website.