Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith diocese moving on after 4 years

The head of the Mackenzie-Fort Smith diocese in the Northwest Territories, Bishop Mark Hagemoen, is moving on to the Diocese of Saskatoon.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen has been appointed the Bishop of the Saskatoon diocese

Bishop Mark Hagemoen at St. Patricks Cathedral in Yellowknife. Pope Francis has appointed Hagemoen as the eighth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. (CBC)

After four years of service, the head of the Mackenzie-Fort Smith diocese in the Northwest Territories, Bishop Mark Hagemoen, is moving on.

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Mark Hagemoen to serve the diocese of Saskatoon beginning at the end of November.

"I was very surprised," Hagemoen said about the news of the move, which he called bittersweet.

Hagemoen, who was born and raised in Vancouver, serves on several committees of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, including the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council and the Northern Bishops Council.

Hagemoen dealt with many sensitive issues during his four-year tenure in the North, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report on Canada's residential school system, assisted death legislation, and the onset of an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Hagemoen calls the aftermath of the TRC's report a "time of challenge and blessing."

"My hopes for the diocese is that we can continue to realize many of the calls to action that focus on raising up Indigenous leadership," he said.

Among its calls to action, the TRC called on the Roman Catholic Church to apologize for the abuse students suffered at church-run schools, as well as educate new clergy and congregations about the role it played in colonizing First Nations, Inuit and Métis children.  

"I think the timeline and way we come at it needs to involve the Indigenous people at their pace and in their way and we can't jump to conclusions about that," Hagemoen said.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen, centre, is leaving the Mackenzie-Fort Smith diocese in the Northwest Territories after four years. (Submitted)

Bishop hopes northern projects continue

Hagemoen was among a number of clergy who rejected Canada's new assisted dying legislation.

"For me, one of the big issues with the assisted dying issue is continuing to build on what the TRC said to do about Indigenous health care," he said.

"So number one is hearing and respecting the traditions of Aboriginal people here around death and dying."

He said the North is well suited to do that.

"It's an issue that I think is prophetic for Canada actually because the Indigenous approach to death and dying involves community and a spiritual sensitivity that I think it can teach us a lot."

Hagemoen hopes that projects and initiatives the northern diocese has been developing will continue in his absence.

"There's all sorts of church restoration projects that we're into and healing programs that people are really asking for," he said.

"I really hope those continue cause they're very important and I think they will."

Hagemoen will officially become bishop in Saskatoon on Nov. 23 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family.

It could be several months before the Catholic Church names Hagemoen's replacement in the N.W.T.

With files from Randy Henderson