Kings University College comes to the Diocese

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For the fourth consecutive year, a group of undergraduate students from Kings University College came to the 24th annual Pine Channel Spiritual Gathering in northern Saskatchewan. Located on the north side of Lake Athabasca, the site is an impressive sign of the faith of the communities of the Athabasca Dene peoples.

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Nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced at the Pine Channel – the pilgrimage site of the communities of Fond Du Lac, Black Lake, and Stony Rapids in the Athabasca region of northern Saskatchewan, on the traditional lands of the Chipewyan Dene people. The site is, well, out of this world …and yet …very much in this world. It is located half-way between the Fond du Lac and Black Lake communities on a long-extending island on the north side of Lake Athabasca. It is located in some of the most beautiful and pristine environment in this region. From the newly re-built dock, a long red wooden pathway leads to a freshly-painted large open-air permanent structure that is the main body of a church/ worship space. At the front end is a raised sanctuary where the altar and Blessed Sacrament in positioned.

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Upon my arrival I was greeted by the great gathering of people who warmly welcomed me to this special place of retreat and sanctuary! I was also immediately introduced to a team of talented and energetic students who seemed to be very devoted to their role and participation in this special spiritual gathering. Students were from the Catholic teachers program and social work program at Kings. Guided by their chaplain, Father Michael Bechard, the students participated in a range of activities for children and youth throughout the week-long pilgrimage. The students also joined along-side of the other pilgrims for rosary, Holy Eucharist, and the various liturgies throughout the week which featured a blessing ritual in support of married couples, and a blessing and commitment ritual for persons struggling with coming off of addictions.

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However, perhaps the most memorable image I have of the Kings students was how young people gathering around the Kings students – to simply ‘hang out’ with them and experience their warm hospitality. Many afternoons and evenings featured a large group of children and young people huddling around the cooking fire, being entertained and inspired through their interaction with individual students – who were inspiring examples of servant leadership and caring friendship. The diocese looks forward to building on the developing legacy of Kings at Pine Channel.

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CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE COMES TO THE DIOCESE

19 students and teachers from Corpus Christi College came to the diocese as part of a service-learning program, which featured a focus on Aboriginal culture and issues in northern Canada. The team was led by the capable leadership of John O’Brien, SJ; Aiden Wickey, and Krissy Chua.

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Upon their arrival on Monday June 16, the group enjoyed an orientation and summary of the major features and issues for the Catholic Church in the north by Emeritus Bishop Denis Croteau, OMI. The first week featured 2 projects: a) work and presence at the only youth outreach center in the NWT: “The Side Door”, which is located in downtown Yellowknife, and offers programs and a welcome facility for youth and young adults, and (b) restoration and painting of the church with members of the community from St. Kateri Tekawitha Church in Dettah, in the north-west shore region of Great Slave Lake. Later in the first week students also assisted with maintenance work at the retreat center at Trapper’s Lake.

The weekend of June 21-22 featured “Aboriginal Days” in the NWT. This provided a unique opportunity for the group to experience much of the Dene culture at events in Yellowknife, Behchokho (in the Tlicho region), and Fort Providence (in the Decho region). Presentations were also provided by Patrick Scott of Yellowknife, and John B. Zoe of Behchokho.

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The second week featured participation at the Decho Assembly in Jean Marie River of the Decho Region – about one hour south of Fort Simpson and 6 hours NW of Yellowknife. The Assembly provided the opportunity to observe the annual assembly with included chiefs and delegates from the member Decho communities. The students provided the meal service for the event and assistance with set up of events – a large undertaking which was handled by three teams. Two of the students were also called upon to take and write up resolutions for the Assembly, except for during the in-camera sessions.

Their 2-week stay in the diocese concluded with a final day at Trapper’s Lake, in order to reflect on the experiences and learnings which were extensive over such a short time.

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I must say that I was very proud of the students, and also grateful – along with many others in the communities of the Diocese – for not only such hard work and service, but alos the great energy and enthusiasm the group brought to everything they did. The Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith looks forward to further opportunities to receive more Corpus Christi College service-learning students in the future.

CELEBRATING A NEW RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN 2 WESTERN CANADIAN NORTHERN DIOCESES

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On July 2 Archbishop Richard Smith, along with Deacon Patrick Hessel and Roger Plouffe, visited Yellowknife to join in a Eucharistic liturgy which featured the formalizing of a Covenant agreement between the Archdiocese of Edmonton and the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.

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This partnering initiative has come out of the invitation by Pope John Paul II to the Church in America (i.e. Western Hemisphere) to look for opportunities for dioceses to work together in support of our common mission in Christ. Concelebrating with Archbishop Smith and Bishop Hagemoen was Emeritus Bishop Dennis Croteau, Father Joseph Daley (Vicar General), and Father Ben Ubani (Pastor of St. Patrick’s).

Grace Blake (left) and Mary Louise Bouvier-White (right) holding the drums.

Grace Blake (left) and Mary Louise Bouvier-White (right) holding the drums.

At the end of the liturgy at St. Patrick’s Church in Yellowknife, the partnership was done by a signing ceremony of a covenant statement. An exchange of drums with painted representations were given to each bishop. Both drums included a picture of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, model of the New Evangelization.

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Both diocesan communities look to the Holy Spirit to lead us forward in this new common initiative.

Spring Travels Eastern Arctic Part I of III – Uluhaktuk

VISIT TO THE ARCTIC REGION—LAND OF ICE & SUN!!!

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The Spring season has featured my first visit to the vast and wondrous Arctic region. This is the land of sun, ice, and snow! The Inuvialuit people are a robust people, who are also warm-hearted and welcoming.

There are two major regions of the Arctic in the Diocese: the eastern region, which include Ulukhaktok, Kugluktuk, and Cambridge Bay, and the western region, which includes Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, and Tsiigehtchic.

The Easter season has been an appropriate time to experience the glory of the great Arctic region. The sun is relentless in its brilliance and intensity—even in late April and early May, the sun was bright well after midnight in Ulukhaktok on Victoria Island.

This is clearly a land that most of the world would find hard to relate to unless they have been here. Food, clothing, and artifacts are almost entirely derived from the animals and fish native to the area. All is put to use!

Given the rugged and austere life of the area, the quality of the early Oblates who arrived here and established the Church’s mission in the north is especially impressive. The men had to be hearty and innovative. They also had to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually capa-ble of living in a harsh and very austere environment. I am convinced that amoung their ranks were several heroes and saints, that are known only to God and the elders who fondly remember these faithful and energetic souls.

ULUHAKTUK, NWT — is on the southwestern end of Victoria Island. The area is a vast land-scape of ice, snow, rock, and bright sun. It also is swept by constant strong winds that make this part of the earth a harsh but wondrous land-scape. Life here is beautifully picturesque, and harsh.

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The old town of “Holman” later took the Inuit name “Uluhuktuk.” it sits at the head of an inner harbor between two sets of mountain cliffs, and is the major community from which are launched various hunting expeditions for muskox, polar bear, seal, and wolf.

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Oblate missionaries settled here over 70 years ago. Many supplies for establishing and building the church presence in what was known as “Holman” came aboard the “Mary”, which is now nestled on the inner shore of the old harbor.

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The boat brought all sorts of supplies, including wood and other building materials, food-stuffs, supplies, and liturgical wares and resources for the work of the mission. The mission was established by the late Father Roger Buliard, OMI in 1939 and dedicated to Christ the King to recall Jesus’ command to His disciples to establish the kingdom of God through-out the whole world and “to be my witness … to the ends of the earth.” Fr. Henri Tardy O.M.I. (1917-2004) became the long-standing and dearly be-loved pastor, serving the people of this community for decades.

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“Inukshuks” line the cliffs that overlook the Beaufort Sea shoreline, and also the high mountain cliffs north of the town site.

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Mary Uyaraktek, at the far left of the photo, has overseen the Catholic mission presence for the last many years. She is joined by her daughter, her grand-niece, and friend for the celebration of Mass at her home on April 25, 2014.

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The steeple of Christ the King Mission Church

The steeple of Christ the King Mission Church

Inuit Madonna and Child

Inuit Madonna and Child

Inuit rendering of the Stations of the Cross

Inuit rendering of the Stations of the Cross

The Altar for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

The Altar for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist