Born 22 July 1947 in Lachine, Québec, Bishop Champagne is the eldest of the two sons of Roger Champagne and Gabrielle Jacques. His elementary school studies were in Lachine, and he followed his classical course at Chambly. He studied philosophy and theology in Ottawa before earning a doctorate in mission studies at the Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained a priest in the Très-Saint-Sacrement Church, in Lachine, on August 9, 1975, by the Most Reverend Albert Sanschagrin, O.M.I. Subsequently, he served as professor at Saint Paul University, Ottawa, as well as being involved in youth ministry and vocation work; he was also involved with the French-language Cursillo and R3 movements in the Archdiocese of Ottawa. He did pastoral work in eastern Ontario (Saint Albert and Marionville, both in the Archdiocese of Ottawa) and was provincial superior of the Ontario and Western Québec province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1996 to 2003.
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Halifax on March 25, 2003, Bishop Champagne was ordained by the Most Reverend Terrence Prendergast, S.J., in Sainte-Marie de la Pointe-de-l'Église Church, Diocese of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on June 11, 2003.
Bishop Champagne has been an active member of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and is currently serving as one of its two episcopal representatives on the Governing Board of the Canadian Council of Churches, as well as on the National Council of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. He was a member of the CCCB Commission for Christian Unity / Religious Relations with the Jews / Interfaith Dialogue, as well as of the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council. He is presently serving on the National Doctrinal Commission.
On January 5, 2009, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Bishop of Edmundston in New Brunswick.
Bishop Claude Champagne, O.M.I., becomes the 6th Bishop of Edmundston
His episcopal ministry was inaugurated on March 25, 2009, in the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, the Most Reverend André Richard, C.S.C., Archbishop of Moncton and Metropolitan, bishops, priests, Oblates confreres and deacons from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec and Ontario, members of his family, his friends and many faithful from the four corners of the Diocese of Edmundston attended, to welcome our new Bishop.
The processional at the celebration was the hymn « Peuple de prêtres » ("Priestly People"). Bishop Thibodeau offered Bishop Champagne the crucifix for veneration. The crucifix was Bishop Champagne's "Oblate cross" that was given to him at the time of his incorporation in the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Then Bishop Thibodeau greeted the assembly. In his address, he recalled the fifty-seven Oblates who worked in the diocese between 1946 and 1971, in retreat work. With the coming of Bishop Champagne, the Oblate community is once again present in the diocese, and the Bishop wishes him long life in the diocese.
Sister Ronilla Sirois, R.H.S.J., Chancellor of the diocese, read the French version of the Apostolic Letter that Pope Benedict XVI sent to Bishop Champagne, while Father Leo Grégoire, I.V.D., Vice-Chancellor and member of the College of Consultors, read the English version.
Our two Bishops Emeriti, Bishop Thibodeau and Bishop Dionne accompagnied our new Bishop to his episcopal seat. Archbishop André Richard of Moncton, gave the pastoral staff, and all the bishops shared the kiss of peace with Bishop Champagne. During this time, Father Robert Lebel, member of Voluntas Dei Institute, sang the song he composed for Bishop Champagne's ordination, bearing on his coat of arms: "You have the words of eternal life."
Words of welcome and joy were addressed to the new Bishop. First, His Excellency Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, and the Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., Bishop of Corner Brook and Labrador, Newfoundland, representative of the Bishops of the Atlantic Region, and today representing the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops; Father Roger Dionne addressed a few words on behalf of the priests of the diocese; Sister Irène Pelletier of the Congregation of the Filles de Marie-de-l'Assomption, and diocesan catechetical coordinator, spoke on behalf of the religious sisters and brothers and the diocesan personnel; Mrs. Patricia Cyr, Faith Education coordinator, spoke on behalf of the lay people, and His Worship Mayor Jacques P. Martin of Edmundston and Chairman of the Forum of Mayors of the North West, also spoke a few words.
Symbols and gifts meaningful to our life were presented to our Bishop, along with prayer intentions. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishops, Bishops and Priests then joined Bishop Champagne at the altar for the concelebrated Eucharistic prayer.
After communion, to help us continue our thansgiving, the children youth from the Upper Madawaska, the "Troupe des Anges" of the Dance Reflection Studio, directed by Mrs Naomi Dionne, did a liturgical dance interpretation of the song « Avec la foi » ("With Faith").
Bishops Gérard Dionne and François Thibodeau
congratulate Bishop Champagne, O.M.I.
The celebration closed with the "Magnificat" and Bishop Champagne's solemn blessing. The faithful then had the opportunity to meet and congratulate the new Bishop at the reception that took place in St. Peter Hall, in the basement of the cathedral.
As he engages in his new ministry, Bishop Champagne undertakes the pastoral visitation of parishes, and will be pleased to meet the faithful, to get to know them so as to have a better grasp of the diocesan pastoral challenges to meet together.
Photos: Contributions, Digiphoto