The Force Behind CNEWA Canada: Remembering Marcel Gervais

The death of Archbishop Marcel A. Gervais, archbishop emeritus of Ottawa, on 6 August, has left the worldwide CNEWA family reflecting on his great life and accomplishments. The archbishop entered eternal life at the Bruyère Palliative Care center in Ottawa. He was 91 years old.

In 2003, Archbishop Gervais accepted an invitation from the Holy See’s Congregation of the Eastern Churches to consider establishing a national office of CNEWA in Ottawa, Canada. Working closely with the leadership of this papal agency in New York and Rome, he established its Canada office and served as its first chair until his retirement in 2007. During his retirement years, Archbishop Gervais continued to share in the mission and hope of CNEWA Canada, whose staff remembered him for his good sense of humor, which brought joy to all those around him.

“We could not be more grateful to Archbishop Gervais for accepting the call to set up a CNEWA office in Canada and for his witness to Christ’s love for the universal church, which he clearly demonstrated to everyone he met,” said Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, CNEWA’s president.

Then CNEWA’s national secretary in Canada, Carl Hétu, and Archbishop Marcel A. Gervais, visit the Pontifical Mission Library and Community Center in Bethlehem. (photo: Steve Sabella)

“He saw the need for Canadians to pray, to learn more about and provide practical assistance to those served by the Eastern churches throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.”

Archbishop Gervais was ordained to the priesthood on 31 May 1958. He served as a diocesan priest in London, Ontario, before his appointment to the episcopacy in June 1980. Having served as an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of London, he went on to serve as bishop of Sault Ste. Marie in 1985 before his appointment as archbishop of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, in September 1989. As per canon law, he submitted his resignation on his 75th birthday to Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

During his tenure as chair of the board, Archbishop Gervais recruited a dynamic staff dedicated to the mission, led by Carl Hétu, which raised consciousness of the humanitarian and pastoral needs of the Eastern churches and launched campaigns to support them. 

“Archbishop Gervais’s passing is an incredible loss for CNEWA Canada as well as the Canadian church,” said Archbishop Marcel Damphousse, archbishop of Ottawa, and chair of the CNEWA Canada board. “We give thanks to God for the gift of his life and ministry and for the important work he did in supporting our sisters and brothers from the Eastern churches. In his name, we will continue our important mission in bringing hope, peace and prosperity to those in our world who so desperately need it.”

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