Encounters and Projects: Fall-Winter 2014

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The Fall and early Winter season has been full in the Diocese of Mackenzie- Fort Smith. The summer season, which featured one of the worst forest fire season in 40 years, was a thrilling time and had several features. The Diocese was blessed by the visits from Corpus Christi College in Vancouver and Kings University-College in London, Ontario for service learning visits. The annual ‘spiritual events-pilgrimages’ were a time of blessing and inspiration. These included: Pine Channel, Athabasca region; Russell Lake, near Betchakho; Lac St. Anne; the gathering at Deline in the Sahtu. The deep faith and desire to know, honour, love, and serve the Creator was inspiring, and revealed to me a people of great feeling and yearning for God. I was also blest by the visit of my own parents in the latter part of August.

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The Fall Season began with my visit to “Bishop’s School at the Vatican. From September 7 to the 20 I participated in several presentations from various prefects and secretaries from the various Vatican curia offices. Topics included: the mission of the Church today; ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue; the ‘fatherhood’ of the Bishop; working the priests and various religious and lay organizations; administration and finance; Catholic education; Church as ‘servant’. Highlights included: meeting with the various Bishops from Propagation of the Faith Diocese in Africa, Asia, India, and South America, including Bishop Anthony Krotki, OMI, from the Diocese of Churchill-Hudson, and the meeting with Pope Francis on the last day of the conferences.

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+Mark Hagemoen with several of the Sisters at the Felician Mother House, Rome.

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The Felician Sisters currently serving in our Diocese are: Celeste Goulet, CSSF, and Mary Lee Przblyski, CSSSF (see below, beside Fr. Donald Flummerfeld)

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The Diocese continues to be blessed in its youth ministry development by the presence of the first ever diocesan team from NET Ministries Canada. The NET Team will be in our diocese from October 2014 to May 2015. They are also assisting with support roles at our retreat center at Trapper’s Lake. The objective of the NET Team is to raise up youth leaders from the communities within our own Diocese.

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We were recently blessed to receive Peter Dai Nguyen, a young man from the Vinh Diocese of Vietnam. Peter is staying for a year at Trapper’s Lake Retreat Center, and is doing various work tasks for our Diocese as he improves his English, and discerns the call to priesthood. After a year with us in Yellowknife, we hope that he can go on to Seminary to begin his Philosophy studies in the pre-Arts academic program.

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Another recent highlight was the October Study Days with the pastoral team of the Diocese, held at Trapper’s Lake. This year featured two guest presenters: Emeritus Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, CSB, who focused on Pope Francis’ encyclical, The Joy of the Gospel. The other speaker, Sister Donna Ciango, OP, focused on the practical application of the encyclical on pastoral planning in our various faith communities. In addition to the wonderful presentations, a feature for all was hearing from representatives of the various communities, including their own hopes, concerns and challenges, and priorities moving forward.

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I presently write this posting while visiting the faith communities of the Sahtu. I have just left the community of Colville Lake, where I feel privileged and blest to be present during an important time in the life of this community. The passing of Bernwell Brown last July at the age of 93 represents a benchmark time for the people here in Our Lady of the Snows, Colville Lake, and perhaps also for the Sahtu region. The faith of the Sahtu people is very strong (!!), in part because of the heroic and treasured lives of the Oblate community, along with the deep faith and spirituality that has always been present in the lives and culture of the Dene people. This faith continues to be called deeper, as the Dene people of the communities call for a broadening of life and activity in their faith communities.

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I look forward to working together as we hear the Spirit’s blessing and ‘work’ in terms of the faith life of our communities, including worship and prayer; sacramental celebration; faith development; and healing and growth support.

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Celebration on Sunday November 9 of the Territorial victory by both the Grade 8 and Senior Volleyball Teams of Chief T’Selehye School in Fort Good Hope. Following the presentation of the team and the victory banners, the junior drummers led a drum prayer and dance.

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Indeed, it is a time of blessing and growth in the Diocese of Mackenzie-FSmith.

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Mahsi-cho. In Our Lord,
+Mark

The National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples

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The National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples – December 12, 2014 – has been celebrated since 2002 on December 12 by the Church in Canada. This year and next, as we join our Bishops in reflecting on the pastoral challenges for the family and its needs and role in evangelization, the members of the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council wish to honour elders who helped them develop their own faith.

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“My father was a spiritual leader, both traditionally and in the Church. His strong faith played a great role in building my personal faith. He provided foundation and preparation for ‘earth walk’, teaching a way of life following the seven grandfather teachings. Although these were never mentioned by name, I later learned their English names: Respect, Humility, Honesty, Compassion (Courage), Truth, Wisdom and Unconditional Love. The teachings shared by elders can help to discover a pathway for healing. It is in integrating them into our daily living that we can achieve balance, harmony and well-being. We can learn to use the gifts that will nourish, strengthen, give us direction, and help us find the meaning of the circle of life. This will enrich our spiritual life, leading to a deeper understanding, appreciation and respect for the richness of our native culture, and greatly enhance and strengthen our special relationship with God the Creator.” — Rosella Kinoshameg, Anishnabe, Wikwemikong First Nation

“I have been influenced by an Anishnabe Elder from Key First Nation in Saskatchewan. He provides an annual vision quest ceremony in the spring and leads a cultural camp in August of each year. I have been attending one or both of these events annually since 1994. If I were to capture the essence of his many teachings and talks over the years in a single sentence, it would be his statement, ‘Our ancestors left us a beautiful cultural and spiritual legacy’. His songs, prayers, ceremonies and stories all provide evidence of the truth of this statement, and provide us with the moral and ethical guidance to live our lives in a way consistent with Jesus’ life and direction.” — Dennis Whitford, Peace River

“I was greatly influenced in my younger days by elders who served our Lord at St. Paul’s Church in my community. I witnessed them serving the Lord in God’s House in many ways. There were those who greeted people coming into the church, with a big smile and warm handshake; those working at church fundraisers; and those who assisted at wake services and funerals, working to comfort families in difficult times. When I returned to the Church, I was encouraged by an elder to read at the lectern. There was no talk of residential schools from them. I only knew they loved their work in the Church and I wanted to be like them. Now I am studying to become a deacon in the Catholic Church.” — Rennie Nahanee, Squamish Nation

“My grandmothers were so very spiritual, both led by example in meaningful, yet different, ways. One was very quiet and soft spoken, she never ‘preached’ to us about being Catholic and spiritual. The other was more visible and involved; she led the church choir and we prayed at her house with her. I worshipped the ground they both walked on. To this day, whenever I think of them, the Blessed Virgin Mary comes immediately to me and I know they are watching over me. I owe much of who and what I am to their spirituality and to their humbling belief in Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and how we needed to live our lives so as to walk always with both. Everything else just falls into place for me after that.” — Melody McLeod, Métis, Northwest Territories

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Together let us pray: Thank you, God our Creator, for our elders, who through strong faith, spirituality, humility, teachings, and serving ways, gave us foundation and a deeper appreciation of our cultural richness, leaving us a spiritual legacy to help us be who we are today. We thank you through Jesus and with Mary. Amen.