This year’s winner of the Distinguished Catholic Alumni Award is Bishop Christian Riesbeck. An alumni of St. Pius X High School, he was born in Montreal on February 7, 1970. Over his lifetime, he’s earned several degrees: a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Ottawa, a Master of Divinity from St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto, and both a master’s degree and a licentiate in Canon Law from Saint Paul University in Ottawa. He also speaks English, French, Spanish, and German.
Bishop Riesbeck has selflessly served the Catholic church for over 20 years. He was ordained to the priesthood as a member of the Companions of the Cross on October 12, 1996, by the then Archbishop of Ottawa, the Most Reverend Marcel Gervais. After doing pastoral work in the Archdioceses of Ottawa and Kingston for brief periods in the late 1990s, he served as pastor of Queen of Peace parish in Houston, Texas from 1999 to 2008. After obtaining his degree in Canon Law shortly afterwards, he was appointed Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Ottawa in January 2011. Then, on January 7, 2014, His Holiness Pope Francis appointed the Reverend Christian Riesbeck, C.C., as Auxiliary Bishop of Ottawa. At the time of his appointment, he was the Chancellor of the Archdiocese and the Assistant General Superior of the Companions of the Cross – a priestly society of apostolic life founded in Ottawa.
Bishop Riesbeck takes his responsibilities as a Catholic leader seriously. Before taking up his duties at Queen of Peace parish in Texas, he spent seven weeks learning Spanish so he could better serve the area’s large Hispanic community. Under his committed leadership, the parish was revitalized: the number of parishioners, religious education classes, and the parish school enrolment all increased significantly.
His nominators describe him as a kind and approachable leader, and say he stands out as a young member of the Church who has chosen to dedicate himself to religious life at a time when ordinations are in decline. Despite always being very busy, he always finds a way to make time to assist with school and board activities. His kind presence is always welcomed by teachers and students, and he has been known to join student hockey games while visiting schools.
For all these reasons and more, Bishop Riesbeck is an inspiration to everyone he comes in contact with, and an exceptional role model for all graduates of the OCSB. There is no one more deserving of the 2016 Distinguished Catholic Alumni Award.
Kelly McKibbin is the Board Website Coordinator with the Ottawa Catholic School Board’s Communications Department, and manages all aspects of the Board’s district website. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts, Major in Communications, from the University of Ottawa, and is the recipient of a United Way Ottawa Community Builder Award.