Franken looking forward to living his motto: ‘Love Truly Edifies’ as new bishop of St. Paul, AB

Bishop-elect Gary Franken spoke recently at the Archbishop's Dinner in Vancouver. The shock of being named the next bishop of St. Paul in Alberta has worn off but “the reality won’t hit me until I am there,” Franken says. (Photo by Laura-Anne Smid - The B.C. Catholic, CCN )

By Nicholas Elbers, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – It’s been a month since Fr. Gary Franken received the news that he will be the new Bishop of the Alberta diocese of St. Paul, and he says he is starting to get used to the idea of wearing the bishop’s mitre.

“The shock wears off, but the reality won’t hit me until I am there,” Franken told The B.C. Catholic.

As the Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, his work has centred on priests and lay leaders, helping them to develop their ministries.

As such, he has always enjoyed the human element of his work and is looking forward to keeping the people and priests of his new diocese at the centre of his mission.

“One of my favourite things is spiritual direction,” he said, “or working one on one with people to see how the spirit of God is helping them move forward.”

In keeping with this love of spiritual direction, Franken has chosen the Latin phrase Caritas Vero Aedificat as his motto. It means “Love Truly Edifies.”

“To edify someone is to build them up,” he said, adding the word edify “speaks to the fact that the role of a minister is bringing the good news that God builds us up into the saints we are meant to be.”

Fr. Gary Franken iblessing pets at Immaculate Conception Church in Delta in 2013. (The B.C. Catholic file photo – CCN)

In addition to a motto, a new bishop much come up with a coat of arms, and while it isn’t quite finished, Franken has the core design planned out. The coat of arms will contain a sword symbolizing God’s “message of truth that pierces our hearts,” and the shield will be quartered to represent the four Gospels.

Additionally, Franken has chosen a rose, in honour of the Virgin Mary, which does double duty representing Holy Rosary Cathedral as a homage to his home town of Vancouver. The rose will be flanked by two tulips in honour of his parents’ Dutch heritage. While it is normal for a coat of arms to reference a bishop’s heritage, Franken said the tulips are a non-traditional choice.

Franken said he will especially miss his 92-year-old parents when he leaves British Columbia. During the pandemic he had been their primary caregiver. He was only able to accept the position in Alberta because pandemic restrictions started to ease up and his parents were able to transition to residential care.

“I am quite interested that God has given me the grace to do this,” he said.

Now he is “looking forward to a new adventure” and has already visited his new diocese. He said he is thankful for the warmth and hospitality he was shown by retiring Bishop Paul Terrio and the parishioners of St. Paul diocese over his two-and-a-half-day stay.

“What struck me was the warmth of the people,” he said, “and the cosmopolitan nature of the diocese’s priests, half of whom are from the Philippines.”

Almost all of the diocese of St. Paul’s 20 parishes have at least one mission, and Father Franken is looking forward to working with the diverse laity of the diocese that includes members of the Cree and Dene First Nations, as well as of the Metis nation.

Franken adds that while he will miss Vancouver and British Columbia, he is making sure to bring his cross-country skis so he can enjoy the natural beauty of his new diocese.