Vice-regal spouses join bishops

By on June 1, 2001

Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and husband John Ralston Saul at St. Mark’s church.

Niagara Falls, Ont.

Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and her husband, writer John Ralston Saul, stimulated lively discussion at a weekend-long retreat in late April attended by Canada’s bishops and their spouses.

Every three years, the bishops are encouraged to bring their spouses to a so-called “house (of bishops) and spouse” retreat, designed to stimulate frank exchanges of issues and problems faced by the episcopal couples.

Among the topics Ms. Clarkson and Mr. Saul introduced: “what we’ve been learning across the country,” “faith and public life,” “what is community?” and “odds and ends.”

In the discussion of community, Mr. Saul described the church as a “corporation” in the way it operates, a point of view that “got everybody going,” said Lois Hutchison, who is the wife of Bishop Andrew Hutchison of the diocese of Montreal. “There was a lot of back and forth on that,” she recalled, as the definition of “community” and “corporation” were explored.

Ms. Clarkson told the group that she doesn’t think of her faith and public life as separate things. “I need help and that is why I go to church ? The Anglican liturgy and the music of western Christian traditions help me to understand at a not particularly rational level what it is to believe,” she said.

Ms. Clarkson and Mr. Saul attended the Niagara Falls, Ont. retreat on Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28, and went to church on Sunday, April 29 at St. Mark’s church in nearby Niagara-on-the Lake, Ont.

They unveiled a coat of arms given to the parish by Bishop Ralph Spence of the diocese of Niagara and his wife Carol. A painting on wood, it replaced the historic parish’s original coat of arms, lost decades ago. St. Mark’s congregation was founded in 1792.

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