‘A bridge builder and a very steady hand’

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Bishop Patrick Lee Photo: Contributed
Bishop Patrick Lee Photo: Contributed

Bishop Patrick Lee, who was bishop of Rupert’s Land from 1994 to 2000, died on Sept. 26 in Perth, Ont. at the age of 79.

Bishop Lee is remembered fondly in Canada as well as in Uganda, where he and his wife, Mary, spent six years working in the West Buganda diocese (part of which is now Central Buganda diocese).

Archbishop Michael Peers knew Bishop Lee when they were both parish priests in Winnipeg in the 1960s and 70s. “He was creative about ministry in the parish and in the community,” said Archbishop Peers. “He was adventurous, in the sense of being ready to go to Uganda, and also for bringing the Ugandan church and our church closer together. …He was a bridge-builder and a very steady hand.”

Archbishop Peers said that as a bishop, Bishop Lee “was very much a person trusted in the diocese. His roots in the diocese were deep.”

Bishop Lee was born in Winnipeg in 1931 and grew up in Gilbert Plains, Man. He completed a B.A. at the University of Manitoba in 1953. He earned a testamur from St. John’s College in Winnipeg in 1957, although he served as a missionary in Eriksdale, Man. in 1955 and 1956. From 1957 to 1959, he served as a missionary priest in Interlake Area, Man., and then as rector for St. Bartholomew’s Church in Winnipeg until 1967 and for St. Mary’s la Prairie in Portage la Prairie until 1975. He was district dean for the deaneries of Portage la Prairie and Pembina (1970 to 1975) and then dean of Cariboo and rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops, B.C. until 1984.

At this point, after their four daughters were grown, Bishop Lee and his wife Mary worked for six years in Uganda. Although their tasks sounded tame — Bishop Lee spent time as dean of a training unit, conducting seminars for clergy and leaders of the parishes — they were in serious danger on several occasions in the turbulent years following dictator Idi Amin’s regime. Bishop Lee later self-published a book about their time in Uganda titled Safari in Faith: Bats in the Attic, Cockroaches in the Kitchen. Bishop Lee summed up their Uganda experience this way: “Two privileged middle-class Canadians came to see God present in a suffering people of another continent and another culture – a privilege of eternal worth. Thank you to those people for reflecting God’s love and embracing us.”

After they returned to Canada in 1990, Bishop Lee served as the chaplain to the bishop of Rupert’s Land for a year and then as executive archdeacon until 1994. He was elected diocesan bishop on March 5, 1994 and consecrated as bishop of Rupert’s Land on May 24, 1994.

Archdeacon Godfrey Mawejje first met Bishop Lee when they worked together in Uganda and their friendship continued ever since. The two men worked closely together sharing a tiny office and travelling throughout the West Buganda diocese together in the same car. Archdeacon Mawejje describes Bishop Lee as honest and steadfast, a kind man and a true friend. “He was so dedicated to his work…. And he gave his heart to the places and the people he worked with.”

His outpouring of love was returned, says Archdeacon Mawejje. “I’ve been receiving calls here. It’s very expensive to call from Uganda…but I’ve received phone calls here with people saying how sorry it is to hear the news of Patrick Lee’s death, so he is still well-remembered, highly-respected, and people are missing him dearly there too.”

Archdeacon Mawejje said that Bishop Lee radiated his strong faith to others around him. “It is that faith which kept him coming back to Uganda and even staying in spite of the strife that was there…. He never ran home … [never] dropped his missionary work to go back home.” The diocese of Rupert’s Land is linked with Central Buganda diocese (carved out of West Buganda in 1995), and that connection is attributed to the hard work of Bishop Lee and Mary when they were there, he added. Today, Mawejje is the rector of St. George’s Wakefield and St. Clement-Mapleton and regional archdeacon for Selkirk-St. Andrew’s in the diocese of Rupert’s Land. He came to Canada first as a missionary in the ’90s, recommended by then-Executive Archdeacon Lee to the diocesan bishop at that time.

Bishop Lee is survived by his wife Mary, and their daughters Sharon Lee (Rama Mkakatu) of Perth, Sandra Lee of Pickle Lake, Ontario, Laura Anne Fink (Christopher Fink) of Calgary, Suzanne Wray (Jeffrey Wray) of Winnipeg, and six grandchildren – Amanda Wray, Katie Wray, Bryan Wray, Daniel Fink, Andrew Fink and Baraka Mkakatu.

Friends and family are invited to join for the funeral service to be held on Fri., Oct. 1st, 2010 at 11 a.m. in St. James Anglican Church, Perth, Ont. The interment will follow a funeral service to be held at a later date in Winnipeg. Memorial donations can be made to the elevator fund of St. James Anglican Church, Perth, the Perth & District Food Bank or a charity of your choice.

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Leigh Anne Williams
Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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