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November 7, 2002 Theologian Sean harty named episcopal vicar of Montreal



Rev. Sean Harty

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Julie Demers

Theology professor Rev. Sean Harty received an early Christmas present this year when Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte named him episcopal vicar for the English-speaking community of the Montreal archdiocese.

In the Roman Catholic church, an episcopal vicar is an assistant to the archbishop, in this case Cardinal Turcotte. Father Harty is now responsible for the 190,000 anglophone Catholics of the Montreal region. Even though this is a full-time job, he will continue to teach at least one course per semester. “I will make time,” he insisted in an interview.

Harty has been teaching at Concordia for five years and he enjoys it. “I love Concordia and I love teaching,” said the 52-year-old priest, who earned his BA in theology at Concordia in 1978.

He started his new duties at the archdiocese’s office on Dec. 2, but will be back in January to teach THEO 404, Practicum in Pastoral Ministry, which is his specialty. He will also continue to work with a master’s student under his supervision.

In the past few years, Harty has seen a remarkable increase in the number of theology students. “We’re up about 15 per cent in the department,” he said.

He believes that this increase is due to the questions that the students are asking themselves about the value system in a consumer-oriented world, and where they fit into it.

He believes that we live in a time where answers are usually easily accessed, but in terms of ethics, ideologies and values, these questions are more difficult to address.

Harty believes that theology should be taught in dialogue with other sciences, like economics or sociology, and that is the way it is now done. It was quite different when he was a theology student. “There has been a change not just in the theory of theology, but also in the praxis [practice] of it,” he said.

Pamela Bright, chair of the Theological Studies Department, said that Father Harty is an extraordinary communicator. “He also helps reinforce the Department’s links with many religious communities in Montreal,” she added.

Since he was also the associate pastor at St. Edmund of Canterbury parish in suburban Beaconsfield, he will continue to live there.

Because of the shortage of priests and the large number of anglophones attending that church, he will assist the priest in this parish whenever he has a week-end off from his duties as episcopal vicar.

Before teaching at Concordia, Harty was chief executive officer at St. Mary’s Hospital. He managed this hospital at different levels for 15 years, and he believes that might be one reason why Cardinal Turcotte named him episcopal vicar.

“A lot of people ask me if I had to apply for that job, but that’s not how it’s done,” said Father Harty laughing. He thinks the cardinal wanted someone with management experience.
Harty also feels he has benefited from his teaching experience at Concordia. The Theology Department is both energizing and fulfilling for him.

“I often refer to my students – without naming them – when I say mass, because they raise such good questions,” he said. They help him to reflect on certain issues and he passes these thoughts on to his parishioners. That kind of insight might be another reason he was appointed to his new position.