Her vocation was a ministry of quiet participation

Published February 1, 2004

Dorothy Peers

Our primate’s recent retirement has generated many tributes to his years of gifted and dedicated ministry to our national church, our worldwide Anglican Communion, and to other churches. Less public but no less important has been the ministry of his wife, Dorothy.

As the daughter of the late Archdeacon Wilfred Bradley of the diocese of Ottawa, Dorothy was aware of challenges that awaited her when she married the young curate of Holy Trinity, Ottawa, in 1963. Two years later, Dorothy, Michael, and infant daughter Valerie moved to St. Bede’s parish in Winnipeg, where sons Richard and Geoffrey were born. In 1972, they moved across the city to the River North Anglican Parishes. Dorothy soon made her mark by opening a day-care centre in partnership with Mary Wallace, wife of Duncan Wallace, now bishop of the diocese of Qu’Appelle.

In 1974 the family packed up once again and moved to Regina, where Michael was installed as dean of St. Paul ‘s Cathedral. Dorothy quickly became involved in cathedral activities and continued to be active at St. Paul ‘s following Michael’s election as bishop of Qu’Appelle in 1977.

“Dorothy had clearly established herself as her own person at St. Paul ‘s by the time I arrived there as Dean in 1978,” Bishop Wallace said in a recent interview. “She was a power in the parish and organized a large parish fair by herself.”

As the bishop’s wife, Dorothy “set the tone and character of diocesan life,” said Bishop-elect Jim Cowan of the diocese of British Columbia, who began his ordained ministry in Qu’Appelle. Bishop’s Court became the site of many parties and barbecues.

“Dorothy had a warm, informal style,” remarked Mary Wallace. “She made sure that all were invited and made welcome.” Every Jan. 1, Dorothy opened the doors of Bishop’s Court to the public for the Bishop’s New Year’s reception, which departed radically from the traditional levee. Instead of a formal reception line and uniformed dignitaries, it was a gathering for families, with children tearing around the stately old home.

Outside the church community, Dorothy served as president of the Regina Philharmonic Society for many years. She accepted a job with the law firm of Morris Schumiatcher and remained an employee of the firm until Michael was elected primate in 1986.

Soon after the primatial election, Michael told the General Synod: “My family does not rise up and call you blessed.” The move to Toronto was not an easy one. Dorothy left behind two of their three children, her friends at St. Paul’s, her job and her involvement in the community to take up a new life in Toronto, where she knew few people and had no parish or diocesan community base. Michael’s new position demanded travel for weeks at a time. Soon after her arrival, however, she was hired by CBC-TV, where she quickly proved her worth. She continues as an administrative assistant in CBC’s arts and entertainment division today.

At gatherings of bishops’ spouses and at the Lambeth Conferences she has attended, Dorothy was always a friendly and welcoming presence. In a group where few spouses had met one another, Dorothy could be seen moving about constantly, introducing newcomers to “veterans” and creating an instant sense of community among strangers.

Some readers of the Journal may not regard Dorothy’s 40 years as wife of the curate, rector, dean, bishop, metropolitan and primate as remarkable, but they represent a lifetime of sacrifice and service for the sake of the church. Her quiet participation has not been without cost to her marriage, her family, her friends, and her career. It has been, in the best sense, her vocation.

As we pay tribute to our primate, let us not forget that Dorothy, Valerie, Richard and Geoffrey have paid a price for his many years of able and gifted leadership among us. Thank you, Dorothy; our prayers and best wishes accompany you on this next stage of your journey.

Joan Bubbs ( Crawley) is a Kelowna-based lawyer. She is married to Archbishop David Crawley, the newly-appointed interim primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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