On Monday, December 3, 2018, Pope Francis united the Diocese of Moosonee with the Diocese of Hearst. Such was the surprising news awaiting the faithful gathered in Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption cathedral, in Hearst, for the mass celebrating the 80th anniversary of the diocese, which was canonically-erected by Pope Pius XI, on December 3, 1938.


The former Diocese of Moosonee had 14 parishes and missions, with a Catholic population of 3,830 served by five priests, members of institutes of consecrated life. The former Diocese of Hearst had 18 parishes and missions, with a Catholic population of 20,045 served by 21 diocesan priests, two permanent deacons, and three religious Sisters.


The Most Reverend Robert O. Bourgon, Bishop of the Diocese of Hearst and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Moosonee since April 25, 2016, was appointed Bishop of this new circumscription of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ottawa.


The Bishop of the new Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee hails from Sudbury. After studying at St. Peter’s Seminary, in London, he obtained a Master’s degree in theology from St. Paul University, in Ottawa, as well as a Master’s degree and a Doctorate in Canon Law. He has exercised his pastoral ministry in several parishes of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and has held various positions at the diocesan marriage tribunal. In addition, he was appointed Episcopal Vicar, Canonical Affairs, in 2000, followed by Vicar General of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie in 2012.


According to Mr. Jean Beausoleil, permanent deacon and chancellor of the newly-created diocese, there had been talks of unification for a few decades, given the constant decline of population in the two dioceses “There had been mention of uniting the Diocese of Hearst with the Diocese of Timmins, but circumstances rather favoured this merger”, he explained.


Asked about the implications of this unification, Mr. Beausoleil commented: “This new diocese spreads over an immense geographic area, almost two million square kilometres. However, the two dioceses get to share their resources, both financial and human. Now, there will only be one chancellor, one diocesan financial administrator, one vicar general, etc. Bishop Bourgon was quick to make appointments to those positions as well as to appoint parish priests to ensure the diocese ran smoothly. Other appointments will be made shortly, upon consultation and taking into consideration the entire territory”.


The chancellor added that although Bishop Bourgon will still need to travel throughout the territory of the two former dioceses, he will not have to spend as much time in Moosonee, where was also an espiscopal see. The bishopric and cathedral will both be located in Hearst.


Mgr Bourgon’s appointment as Bishop of the new Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee became effective on the very day the announcement was made.