On Wednesday, August 5, Bishop Dennis Drainville of the diocese of Quebec, announced that he will likely retire in 2017.
An August 6 statement posted to the diocesan website said that a co-adjutor bishop would be elected at the synod scheduled to take place on November 26-29, that this bishop would be ordained in March 2016 and that Drainville would finalize a date for his retirement by Dec. 1, 2016.
Because a co-adjutor bishop has the right of succession, upon Drainville’s retirement in 2017 that individual would automatically become the 13th diocesan bishop of Quebec.
When asked why he had laid out this somewhat longer than usual timeline for retirement, Drainville, 61, said this arrangement would help his successor get a sense of the challenges and issues facing the diocese.
“I hate to say it, but there’s nothing that prepares you for the job of bishop,” he said in an interview. “There are so many aspects to it.”
Speaking of the highlights of his own episcopal ministry, he was quick to point out that a bishop is only one part of the church body.
“I see myself as having worked within the context of a community of faithful believers who are trying against incredible odds to keep the church alive and responding to God’s call to mission,” he said. “And I think if there is anything I am happy about, it is that we have been faithful and we have enlarged our hope, and we have deepened our faith.”
Drainville felt, however, that it was time for new leadership.
“[By] June 2016, I will have been in administrative leadership for 10 years in the diocese-first as missioner, then as co-adjutor bishop, then as diocesan bishop-and 10 years is a good chunk of time, in terms of my working life,” he said. “So it’s time to move on.”
Earlier this year, Drainville ran in the Montreal episcopal election on a platform of merging the two dioceses but lost to Bishop-elect Mary Irwin-Gibson. He said his decision to retire was not related to the result of that election.
“I had spent four to five years speaking with the bishop of Montreal and people in Montreal about the whole issue of a possible merger, and I was disappointed that things didn’t really seem to move forward on that,” he said. “I still believe that it would have been to the betterment of both dioceses for us to have moved on this now…in my estimation, it is a foregone conclusion that there will come a time when Quebec will have to be one diocese.”
Drainville, who is married to the Rev. Cynthia Patterson, a deacon in the diocese, said that his retirement plans include trying to get a series of medieval novels he has been working on published, but also mentioned that he had had “invitations to do a number of things,” declining to say what these things are.
Drainville’s 32-year career as a priest has been a colourful one. He completed a BA in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College in 1978, completed an MDiv at the same institution in 1982 and was ordained to the diaconate in the same year. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1983, he served in various capacities (from parish priest to executive director of an anti-poverty initiative to university chaplain) in the dioceses of Ontario, Toronto and Montreal.
In 1990, he ran in the Ontario provincial election and was elected as part of Bob Rae’s NDP government, only to leave provincial politics three years later after splitting with the Ontario New Democrats over bringing casinos into the province. He switched over to federal politics in 1993. Although he lost to the Liberal candidate, his participation in federal politics continued with the NDP in Quebec, where he moved in 1994.
He spent most of the next 15 years as a parish priest and later archdeacon in the Gaspé region of the diocese of Quebec and as a teacher at the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des iles in Gaspé. In 2007, he was elected co-adjutor bishop, and became diocesan bishop in 2009, after the retirement of Archbishop Bruce Stavert.