AD LIMINA March – April 2017

Western Canadian Bishops visit Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The Western and Northern Canadian Bishops participated in their Ad Limina visit in late March to early April 2017. I take this opportunity to update you regarding highlights from our meeting with the Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Our visit to the Vatican included the celebration of Mass at several significant churches: i) the tomb of the Apostle and first Peter; ii) St Basil’s church at St. Peter’s Basilica at the chapel of the relics of St. Josephat; iii) St John Lateran Basilica; iv) St. Mary Major Basilica; v) the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls.  In addition to the audience with the Holy Father, we have a number of dicasteries (Vatican departments) whose officials form the Roman Curia.

The meeting with the Holy Father was on Monday morning, March 27, and lasted about 2.5 hours. Pope Francis was welcoming and fraternal, and after sharing his opening words, invited the bishops to share experiences and to raise any number of topics that we wished. We were all quite overwhelmed with the Holy Father’s openness and candour.

Highlights of topics included: the reality of migration and the encouragement to be generous to immigrants; the lived situation of our Indigenous peoples and our life and work with them; the challenges and response to secularization; exploring models for ministry for our church communities. The Holy Father listened intently to our comments and questions, and responded thoughtfully, and with a pastor’s heart!

The Holy Father encouraged us to stay close to our people, to accompany them with the truth and beauty of the Gospel, to enter into dialogue, including with people who are far from the Church, and to be men of prayer, attentive and open to the life the Holy Spirit, who moves us from any fear to a hope and enthusiasm for the mission of Christ. He emphasized the importance of listening to our people. Finally, he encouraged us to be see the great things that God is doing, to reflect joy, and to always have a good sense of humour!

I left my time with the Holy Father is the Pope – the one who is the present successor of St. Peter – with not only a strong sense of awe and respect, but also with a sense that he is a brother bishop among bishops who shares with us a common life and mission.

A visit and experience that will be with me for a long time!!

Entering St. Peter’s square in the early morning.

Mass with the Bishops at the Basilica of Tomb of St. Peter.

Meeting with the Congregation for Bishops – Cardinal Marc Ouellet in the foreground, left. Topics included: expression of gratitude for support of northern dioceses who have now moved out of the Congregation for Evangelization of Nations; “Synodality” as an opportunity to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to the churches, and the need for the capacity of LISTENING; strengthening of the belief in the grace of the Bishop; ‘Reconciliation’ is an important emphasis for Canada, and for the Church world-wide; religious life as founded by Jesus Christ existing as a gift to the Church; integrating consecrated life into the local church; the apostolate and charisms of religious life; ‘Vision’ vs. only practical ministry and administration; on ‘maturing’ and ‘suffering’; the call to go to the poor.

Pontifical Council for Culture. Topics included: understanding culture in a globalized world: the new phenomenon of “transhumanist movement”- ‘enhancing human beings’ – what is enhancement vs. perversion; ‘Glocalization’ – affirming local identity in global context vs. new forms of radicalization; the multi-form face of the Church; fostering healthy conversations and ‘growing in empathy’; the current emphasis on ‘heart’ and ‘experience’ and the Church’s mystical tradition.

Meeting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Topics included: Towards a good theology of human anthropology; finding the central place between the extremes of papalism and congregationalism; dealing with new forms of ‘kenosis’: mind vs. body issues; moving from documents to stories; “Religious Life exists in its own way as exclusively founded by Jesus Christ…and integrated as testimony and apostolate.

Meeting with Secretariat for Communications. Topics included: Communication and proclamation of the Gospel: is not only technology; the importance of ‘proximity’ to people and message; re-thinking our systems of communication.

Meeting with the Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Topics included: review of the Jubilee Year of Mercy; “Evangelization” as first a personal encounter; intensifying the grace of the moments of the beginning and end of life; focusing on pilgrimage for themes of the New Evangelization; new movements in the Church.

Dicastry for Life, Family, and Laity. Topics included: our post-Christian culture of today; the need to always focus on conveying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to God`s people; Teaching the Faith and pre-Evangelization; World Youth Days, including Panama 2019.

Meeting with the Vatican Secretary of State. Topics included: Supporting “Freedom of Conscience and Religion;” concern in the world for persecuted Christians, & Human Trafficking; building relationships with our Aboriginal peoples; relations with the Holy Sea and Canada.

A fresco from the Redemptoris Mater Chapel built for John Paul II, dedicated to the bringing together of the eastern and western Christian churches.

View early evening from the Vatican, following meeting with the Secretary of State. The Bishops cannot stop taking pictures!!!

Celebration of Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran: Archbishop Don Bolan, celebrant.

Session with the Congregation for Divine Worship. Topics included: “inculturation”as helping people, cultures grasp what is the Gospel and the Catholic faith; culture and catechesis; the need for “humility” as we approach issues re: catechesis, evangelization, relationship with culture and faith.

Meeting with Congregation for Clergy. Topics included: relationship of clergy with their dioceses and religious congregations; seminary formation that addresses current social and cultural context of seminarians; seminary candidates and the family of origin; ongoing formation of clergy; training and helping “formators;” the need for “community” in the clerical life.

Bishops gather outside of the Offices of the Congregation for Evangelization of Nations.

Topics for Meeting with the Congregation for Evangelization of Nations Topics included:  the meaning of ‘missionary presence’ and evangelization; inviting all the People responsible for Faith; ‘dialogue’ and announcing the Gospel; ways of ‘listening’; foreign clergy and ‘the missions’; the ‘2 Lungs’: Mission & Communion; ‘transparency’ as capacity to administer well & accountability.

Msgr. Brian Ferril speaks to bishops at Meeting with Congregation for Christian Unity. Topics included: building the relationship between the Latin and Oriental churches; Sacraments and mixed marriages; issues with Evangelicals: documents on ‘proslytism’ and ‘the new charismatic mega-churches’.

Bishop Tony Krotki raises an issue at the Dicastry for Integral Human Development. Topics included: issues related to Migration: sponsorship; concern re: racists and xenophobic reactions; developing an enlightened response to challenges re: human anthropology.

Group of bishops prepare to celebrate Mass.

Western Bishops gather each evening for informal meeting to review the day.

Visit to the Congregation for Oriental Churches.  Archbishop Lawrence Huculak, Eparchy of Winnipeg, raises several questions Topics discussed included: visit of Western Bishops Conference as occasion to communion; joint Eucharistic celebration at St. Basil’s altar at relics of St. Josophat at St. Peter’s Basilica by Western  Bishops; upcoming 100th anniversary of Oriental Congregation in Canada.

Preparing for the meeting with the Congregation for Catholic Education.  Topics included: Catholic schools in Western Canada: similarities and differences re: fully and partially public funded schools; Catholic colleges and universities: features and current priorities.


Congregation for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Topics included: responding to religious communities whose charisms are either being born  or seem to be dying; God has plans for the charisms of communities: they are not only the community’s charisms;  “Christian Witness’ is move important than even vocations or dogma; ‘Diminishment’ versus ‘Promotion’; the call to ‘community’ for religious and consecrated life; the need for evangelical HOPE: even when something seems to be dying; towards a better structure for the lay sharing of the religious charism; structuring civilly and canonically new juridic persons to carry on the religious charism.

Redemptoris Mater Seminary Chapel: Tabernacle with Holy Scriptures.

Bishops Krotki (Churchill-Hudson) and Hagemoen at St. Mary Major Basilica.

Archbishops Pettipas and Chatlain before Mass; Bishops process into sanctuary.

Western Canadian Bishops with His Honor, Denise Savard and his wife -Canadian diplomatic envoy to the Vatican – co-hosts a dinner at the Canadian College, on the last evening of the Ad Limina.


Fall 2016 – Winter 2017 in the Diocese of Mackenzie

The Fall began with the gathering of the Diocesan Clergy, Religious, and Lay Leadership for our Fall Study Days, which this year featured focus on the Truth and Reconciliation “Calls to Action.” Various regions of our Diocese reflected on pastoral priorities that addressed these, and planned how these would be approached in the various communities in these regions.

The beginning of freeze-up at Trapper’s Lake near our Retreat Center.

Following the September 2016 CCCB Fall Plenary in Cornwall, Ontario, Bishop Mark visited St. Michael’s High School in Stratford as part of a Catholic Missions in Canada Catholic High School awareness project.

Pastoral visits to the north Tlicho

October 2016 featured visits to the Tlicho communities of Whati and Gameti. The weekend visits included community meetings with members of the communities, as well as celebration of Holy Eucharist.

Meeting and Sunday service with the NORTHERN RANGERS outside of Gameti

Visit by CARNEY High School in Coquitlam, B.C. October 2016

Teachers Reg and Laura Clichos led a team of grade 11 and 12 students for a service learning trip, which included visits to Yellowknife, Ndilo, Dettah, and Bechokho.

Gym night with youth of Dettah.

Carney Team gathers for Dinner at Trapper’s with Rene Fumoleau

Fall Visit to Fort Good Hope – Celebration of CONFIRMATIONS!

Mackenzie River Freeze-Up on Banks of Fort Good Hope Mission House

Confirmands and Sponsors – October 2016

Rectory in Norman Wells moved behind St. Anthony’s Church Spring to Fall 2016.

In early November the Colville Lake community gathered for the Funeral of the revered elder, Marie Kochon. The community mourned a woman who had a colossal spiritual impact on all of the community. The funeral was one of the most moving I have ever celebrated!! The people say that the blessings of Marie’s life are only beginning to be felt by all of the members of the community.

Visit to Deline to Celebrate and Pray for New Self-Government

Visit to Deline in November 2016 to celebrate and pray for the recent achievement of Deline Self-Government and to pray with elders, self-government leadership team, and members of the community.

Members of the Yellowknife Catholic School Board attending the Alberta-NWT-Yukon Catholic Schools Trustees meeting in Edmonton, November 2016.

New SACRED HEART CHURCH in Fort Simpson – DECHO Region

Foundation work on new Church site began in early September 2016.

New Sacred Heart Church during construction – November 2016.

Old Bell Tower on Sacred Heart Church site.

Fall season also featured completion of newly-erected yellow cedar log tee-pee mega-structure over papal site where Saint John Paull II celebrated Mass in 1987.

Blessing on the New Bechkoho YOUTH CENTER – November 26, 2016

After many years of work and waiting, the Tlicho community celebrated the completion of the new youth sports and recreation facility. The center promises to provide children and youth the opportunity for various sports and physical activities, as well as provide a center for other community, social, and service opportunities.

Chief Daniel Clifford and Michele Rabesca address the assembly for the official blessing and opening, followed by a drum prayer.

Sunday Banquet following Sunday Mass on the weekend of the Opening.

Visit with Myra and Eric Hagemoen (parents), and brother Dan with wife Lori, at a 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration in December 2016.

Sr. Celestine Giertych, CSSF and Sr. Margaret M. Padilla, CSSF, members of the Felician Religious Sister Leadership Team visit in December 2016. The team came to visit our Felician Sisters working in our Diocese: Sister Celeste Goulet in Tulita, Sahtu Region; and Sr. Mary Lee Przybylski in Yellowknife.

Road to Fort Liard & Nahanni Butte to celebrate Christmas 2016

Peter Dai Nguyen, having returned for the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission for Christmas break, joined Bishop Mark on the road trip to the western Decho to celebrate the Christmas season. The trip featured the ‘capture’ of road chickens, which were the main course the Christmas Eve evening meal.

Midnight Mass at Fort Liard

Lay Formation Training in Norman Wells – Sahtu Region January 2017

Crucifix at St Patrick’s Church in Yellowknife.

Fiery Winter Sky outside Fort Good Hope.

Update from Our Lady of Victory in Inuvik

February 6, 2017

Dear Confreres, Associates, Family and Friends

The last time I wrote I was waiting ardently for the sun to show after returning from her long December hiatus. I am please to say that more recent days have been clear, sunny and relatively mild for this time of the year with the thermometer hovering around -15 degrees. The hours of daylight increase significantly each day by as much as 10 to 12 minutes so a month’s time has made a huge difference and it can be felt both physically and psychologically. Less sleep is needed, appetite decreases and people sure seem to be smiling more when I pass them in the street or see them at the grocery store (maybe because I am smiling more as well).

My friend and temporary roommate Hart, who I introduced briefly in my last letter, finally made his way to Tuktoyaktuk where he had a good few days visiting with Sr. Fay. His troubles were not over however as he continued to battle rough weather on the way home and finally, south of Eagle Plains on the Dempster Highway, he developed some serious car trouble due to the cold temperatures. Paradoxically his car overheated when the radiator fluid froze in minus 40 temperatures. With no heat in the car and having to stop every two kilometres to let the engine cool down, he limped to Dawson City over the next 12 hours where he finally managed to get the vehicle repaired. Now, able to rest, he discovered that he had severely frostbitten his hands during of the ordeal. When I next heard from him Hart was in Whitehorse getting specialized medical treatment so he wouldn’t lose any fingers, a reminder to all that winter driving in the north can be a dangerous endeavour and you can’t be too prepared. The last I heard Hart was down south again heading towards his home in Ontario and healing well. It was a trip that he won’t soon forget and will give him plenty of stories for the years to come.

Two very important parish events took place during the past month. First, Gerri Fletcher, Religious Education coordinator for the diocese, and Roger Plouffe, pastoral leader in Fort Good Hope, came to Inuvik to offer the second of our annual Lay Formation workshops. This time the theme was on the bible and sacred scripture. We had a great turn out with nearly a dozen zealous learners from Inuvik, Tsiigehtchic and Tuktoyaktuk taking part. Roger spent time talking about biblical history, liturgy, translations. interpretation and many other fascinating topics. The input was great but perhaps even better were the conversations that were sparked and the sharing that took place among the participants. We are already looking forward to the next gathering.

The second event and a real highlight of the month was our parish mission which began at the end of January and is concluding as I write this letter. Our mission preacher is Dr. Megan McKenna a scripture scholar, author and story teller from New Mexico. Megan is a friend of the Redemptorists and our Provincial, Fr. Mark Miller, invited her to come to Canada and preach in our parishes with Inuvik being her first stop. Megan has a passion for sharing the Good News and people first become aware of her familiarity with the scriptures when she proclaims the Gospel without a word of text in front of her.

The theme for the first night of the mission was baptism and Megan shared with the small, but enthusiastic, group the Gospel from Mark about Jesus’ own baptism. She talked about how, when God spoke, he revealed how delighted he was in Jesus. Megan asked us to place ourselves in the story and to hear God saying how delighted he is in us and to know that the purpose of our being is to be God’s delight. Do we really experience the joy that we are called to at the baptismal font of living water?

The second evening brought out even more people than the last as word was getting around. Our theme for the evening was “Who is Jesus?” Megan asked us think about who Jesus was to us and how that image of Jesus has, or at least should have, changed through the years as we grew in faith. In the call of the disciples from Mark’s gospel we find that those who Jesus approached each had their own idea of who it was they were talking to as they listened and watched. Some called Jesus rabbi (teacher) others called him Messiah, the long await one foretold by the prophets. Jesus refers to himself as, “The Son of Man”, a title that we don’t normally think of when we think about the Son of God. Megan helped us to realize that Jesus saw his mission as one of bringing justice and compassion to the oppressed and that those who followed him were going to be challenged, as never before, to care for their neighbour and for the vulnerable ones who could not care for themselves.

The last night was about forgiveness and reconciliation. We took pause to look at our shadow side, which everybody has. Through stories we learned that our shadow was there as a reminder of past wrongs we have committed or have experienced, but it was not without hope. The shadow of the cross falls over us and erases our shadow, setting us free. But God’s forgiveness is not cheap grace. It comes with the cost of the hard work of forgiving others as God has forgiven us. The parable of the lost sheep, in which the shepherd leaves 99 good sheep in the field to go in search of the one who went astray, was used as an example of Christian community and how we must never be apathetic towards those who have left the fold. Perhaps they have done so despite our best efforts but more likely they have left because of our lack of care and support. It was certainly food for thought and a challenge to live what we say we believe.

During the week in Inuvik Megan also took the time to share her wonderful repertoire of tales with the young children at the day care and elders from the Long-term-care home. Now, we are waiting for the plows to clear the road to Tuktoyaktuk so that we can drive up and share the mission once again with the faith community there. It has really been a gift and an experience the community will reflect upon and remember for a long time.

End of summer update from Our Lady of Victory in Inuvik


Dear Confreres, Associates, Family and Friends

It has been far too long since I last wrote to you about life here in the Arctic Missions. Summer has come and gone, all too quickly I might add. So much has happened that I am not sure how to adequately share it all in these couple of pages but I will do my best.

With the arrival of Spring I resolved to plant a garden and produce some of my own vegetables. I joined the local garden society and rented a small, raised bed in the community green house, an old hockey arena that has been converted for the purpose.


The greenhouse is one of the top visitor attractions in Inuvik (second only to the Igloo Church) and it is also the center of many social events for the town during the summer months. People gather for; potlucks, hot yoga and even some impromptu concerts all in the presence of the glorious flora and foliage.

While the vegetables were growing in the greenhouse we were pleased to experience Spiritual growth in the local faith communities as we celebrated many Sacraments this spring and summer. We had classes for First Communion with five young people Inuvik and twelve in Tsiigehtchic.


Along with the first communicants, the Steiner family in Tsiigehtchic also journeyed with several other young people and one 70 year old as they prepared for confirmation in the Church. Bishop Mark came to lay hands on those being confirmed and we continued our celebration afterward with a picnic on the bluff overlooking the two rivers on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

It has been such a joy working with the Steiner family and it is sad to say that the time has come to say farewell as they return to their home in Fraser Lake, BC after their year-long mission experience in Tsiigehtchic. In a profound show of support for the relationships that have been built over the past year, nearly the entire community along with several parishioners from Inuvik, turned out at the school gymnasium for a great feast. Many community elders and leaders spoke on the community’s behalf and thanked the Steiner’s for their presence and hard work.

Summer in the Arctic is short but intense and temperatures fluctuate widely. One week in particular, around the end of July, I recall an uncomfortably warm 32 degree afternoon followed the next day by a full-fledged blizzard. The snow did not stay around long but it was a stark reminder that one is always at the mercy of the elements that it’s always good to have a jacket close at hand.

The long summer days allowed time for outdoor projects close to home such as remodeling a donated tool shed and installing clothing shelves in one of the sea-cans for the St. Vincent de Paul thrift sales. There was also plenty of time for community celebrations and I, along with our Diocesan Youth Director Thomas Tyrrell, had the privilege of being in Paulatuk for their annual Arctic Char Festival, a weekend full of entertainment and activities for everyone.

Paulatuk is on a different time zone then the rest of the world. The day’s events would typically not begin until 3 or 4 in the afternoon and the day never ended until about 5 o’clock the next morning. It took a bit of adjustment but was well worth the effort. While I enjoyed watching the Char Filleting and Goose Plucking competition I did join in for the nail hammering contest and, with the unfair advantage of being a former carpenter, handily took first prize.


With the end of August, while most people were lamenting heading back to work after summer break, I began my own summer holiday. I traveled first to Niagara Falls, ON for a gathering of young Redemptorists (60 years old and under) followed by a drive down the Dempster Highway with Grande Prairie, AB as my destination. The fall colors were already well established and it was breathtaking scene for the entire journey.


In Grande Prairie the Hansen family had an unplanned family reunion as all the children ended up in town at the same time. It was also a chance to help our Dad move into his new home in a senior’s apartment building where he is now living, quite content. I continued on to Edmonton to visit my brother Colin and his family and then a wonderful side trip to Saskatoon where I was able to reconnect with many of my old parishioners over the course of weekend Masses. The final stop before returning home was Yellowknife for study days. This annual gathering of the Diocesan leadership was jam packed with great discussions on many important topics but I think I will have to leave that for my next letter.

That all seems a bit abbreviated but will have to do for now. Many of you have remarked that you missed receiving my updates which was very gratifying to hear. I will do my best to continue writing and keep you up-to-date of what is happening here.

Until next time, Peace

Fr. Jon

Summer 2016 – Spiritual Gatherings, Confirmations and Church Repairs


The summer here in the Diocese has featured attending the various spiritual gatherings throughout the North, celebrating Confirmations in several communities, and of course – attending to greatly need Church building renovations.

12 students and teachers from KINGS University College, London, Ontario returned to the diocese in July 2016 as part of their Aboriginal inculturation and service-learning program. Father Michael Bechard and “Deacon Dennis” led a fine group of students, who provided various youth and family activities during the week-long pilgrimage. The local Athabasca regional pastor, Fr Cornelius Ngurukwem, SMMM, was also in attendance.


Confirmands at Pine Channel Spiritual Gathering on July 7, 2016.



Zach Fitzmaurice meets new friends!




The Russell Lake pilgrimage was held on July 9-13. This year, Emeritus Bishop Denis Croteau preached the pilgrimage. The celebration on Sunday July 10 featured a focus on Pope Francis’s message for the Year of Mercy.



St. Michael’s Behchokho Pastor, Fr. Wes Szatanski, OMI – proclaims the Gospel preceding +Emeritus Croteau’s homily.




Feeding the Fire ceremony following the Sunday Eucharist.






For the first time in 33 years, Holy Heart of Mary church community in Tsiigitchic celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation for 12 Candidates, on Sunday, August 7. Candidates were prepared for their Confirmation by Fr. Jon Hanson, Ray and Therese Steiner, and Thomas Tyrrell.


Confirmands from Holy Heart of Mary, Tsiigitchic, with Pastor, Fr. Jon Hanson, CSSR.


Candidate Joel Arey answers question during homily.


First Communion candidate Austin Vanloon following Mass





Work continues on the greatly needed renovations. Following completion of the timber bracing in the basement, work has now begun on the exterior,
including the roof and bell-tower.





This Cony fish is as big as a 4 year old kid, as Theresa-Rose proves!


Thomas Tyrrell with Therese, Kathleen, May, Theresa, and Daniel Steiner.


“Wow, still lots of work to do yet! Good thing the view is nice!!” … muses Thomas!



Taking a day in the Richardson Mountains on the Dempster Highway near the NWT- Yukon border.



The pastoral teams throughout the Diocese are very grateful for the hard work and generous service of the many local lay leaders, visiting ‘church workers’ – families and students – as well as other supporters. We appreciate the great energy and enthusiasm, and deep hope and faith that is shared through working and sharing with the people of our faith communities.

We look forward to further opportunities to hear and follow the Holy Spirit blessing on the people of our Diocese.




11 students and teachers from Corpus Christi College returned to the diocese in June 2016 as part of an Aboriginal inculturation and service-learning program. Focus of the course is on Aboriginal culture and issues in northern Canada. The team was led by the capable leadership of Christiana Dumont; Jimmy Lam, and Danielle Gannon. Upon their arrival on Sunday June 12, the group enjoyed an orientation and summary of the major features and issues for the Catholic Church in the north by Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Patrick Scott, Emeritus Bishop Denis Croteau, OMI, and John B. Zoe of Behchokho. The two week visit featured visiting two communities in the Decho region of the Diocese: Fort Liard and Fort Simpson, NWT. Students also visited the community of Dettah near Yellowknife, Behchokho, and Fort Providence.

CCC students and Diocesan team members at Dettah RC Church near Yellowknife

CCC students and Diocesan team members at Dettah RC Church near Yellowknife


CCC Team Celebrates Mass with Diocesan Staff in Yellowknife

CCC Team Celebrates Mass with Diocesan Staff in Yellowknife

Austin Vaz finds a new friend!

Austin Vaz finds a new friend!

CCC Team in Fort Providence above Mackenzie River

CCC Team in Fort Providence above Mackenzie River


Celebration of 1st Communions during visit to Fort Simpson

Celebration of 1st Communions during visit to Fort Simpson

"Community Days" Cookout, Aboriginal Days

“Community Days” Cookout, Aboriginal Days

Painting Project at Sacred Heart Parish in Fort Simpson - BEFORE

Painting Project at Sacred Heart Parish in Fort Simpson – BEFORE

Painting Project at Sacred Heart Parish in Fort Simpson - AFTER!!

Painting Project at Sacred Heart Parish in Fort Simpson – AFTER!!


Jeremy, Tina, and Jessica take an “ATV” break

Jeremy, Tina, and Jessica take an “ATV” break


Team takes break on Mackenzie Highway en-route back to Yellowknife

Team takes break on Mackenzie Highway en-route back to Yellowknife

Corpus Christi College & the Decho Dene Community Project.

The pastoral staff here at the Diocese was very grateful for the hard work and generous service of the students. We also appreciated the great energy and enthusiasm the group brought to everything they did. We look forward to further opportunities to receive more Corpus Christi College students in the future.


Update from Ray and Therese Steiner

Just wanted to back track a little to when we first arrived here….

The church in Tsiigehtchic has been a focal point of the community for over one hundred years, the first church built here in 1896. As you travel toward the village, the church stands out on a point, known locally as Church Hill. There are 2 churches here. The current “old church” was built in the early 1920s and needs repair. It is used occasionally for weddings, but it mostly used now after a death to keep the body until the funeral. The new church is smaller and is joined on to the rectory, our house. In the picture below, our house is to the left. Unfortunately, the house and new church sit on a full basement… in the permafrost, which is causing some foundation movement issues.

Taken from down on the beach of the rivers

Taken from down on the beach of the rivers

Soon after arriving, we decided we probably brought too much stuff!


The days after we arrived were busy unpacking and trying to get organized and clean. The local people were busy hunting caribou. The people of the village were very thankful as the caribou were migrating through about a 2-3 hour drive away. It is the Porcupine herd of caribou, and they had not migrated through the area for about 4 or 5 years. We’ve heard estimates of the herd from 100,000 to 200,000. Daily, we would see pickups leaving the village in the morning with a snowmobile in the back, and returning in the evening or the next day with their caribou.

While we were busy unpacking one evening, a local lady called and invited us over for soup so we could keep unpacking. She said her son had brought her caribou and she was making soup…come around 8 pm. So we did. She was so thrilled to have caribou again. She was very tired that evening since her son and his group had brought 9 caribou the night before and she had been up til 2 in the morning get 5 of them skinned and cut up. This day her husband had been out hunting, but he had come home and didn’t seem to have any luck this time. As we went to leave, we thanked her for the soup and said maybe she would catch up on her sleep as there was no caribou to do tonight. We opened the door to leave and to our surprise, there was a dead caribou on the doorstep. Her quiet husband had actually been successful in his hunt. She accepted our offer of help to cut it up. We dragged it over to the snowbank under the streetlight and skinned it, then cut it up on the hide. Nothing wasted – from the organ meat, to the hooves, to the head (a delicacy for the elders)…all saved and used. We got home before midnight.


Around the village, hides hang on porches, and the dogs happily chew on fresh bones. Many kitchens have thin strips of meat hanging to make dry meat. Dry meat is like beef jerky, but it isn’t cooked, just dried – those with woodstoves praise the stoves in their homes for making good dry meat.

Down at the beach prior to freeze up, checking out the dog food

Down at the beach prior to freeze up, checking out the dog food

Mostly whitefish and some innconu for dog food

Mostly whitefish and some innconu for dog food

The fish is either fed straight as fish or made into a mash with grains, and tallow.

The branches are to keep the ravens away. Many people have dogs here, but not too many dog teams left any more.

One afternoon when Matthias was out sliding, he met some paddlers from Montreal. They had spent 6 months, paddling from Montreal to Tsiigehtchic (not that Tsiigehtchic was their original destination). There were 6 of them, with 3 canoes, and they were hoping to make it to Inuvik. Unfortunately, by the time they reached Tsiigehtchic, they found that the last stretch of the river to Inuvik was frozen, so their trip ended here. They had paddled 7000 km, starting in April in Montreal and ending here in October. Their longest portage was 24 km. They stayed a night or so in Tsiigehtchic, then travelled by truck to Inuvik. They stayed in the church hall in Inuvik until it was time for their flight home.

The end of a long journey for some cross country paddlers

The end of a long journey for some cross country paddlers

At the time I took these pictures, things were winding down for fall. Most families had had the chance to get the caribou they needed. People knew that it wouldn’t be long until the Mackenzie River froze and the ice would be thick enough to start fishing for egg fish.

A local fisherman takes one last trip up the Mackenzie prior to freeze up

A local fisherman takes one last trip up the Mackenzie prior to freeze up

Hello again from the land of plenty.

The abundance of the caribou and the egg fish have been a great blessing for the people this year.
There is plenty of food from the land for those who have been able to get out, and those they share with.

Once the river ice was safe, the people started to set nets for the egg fish. The egg fish are the female whitefish that are filled with eggs. The eggs are eaten either cooked inside the fish, or raw. Some of the local fisherman say the best is just squeezed out on the ice, with a little salt on top.

Setting nets for egg fish on the Arctic Red River

Setting nets for egg fish on the Arctic Red River

It seemed counterintuitive to us to wait for the ice for the main harvest of fish, but of course the locals know what they are doing! With a couple holes in the ice, and a jig to move the net along, the nets are set under the ice and are checked a couple of times a day.

Father and son checking their nets

Father and son checking their nets

Ray offered to help one of the elders with his nets. They would routinely get 80, 90, 110 fish each time they pulled their nets which are about 75 long.

Theresa Rose by the whitefish from the net

Theresa Rose by the whitefish from the net

The fish are whitefish, though occasionally there is lingcod and inconnu in the nets.

The fish freeze on the ice. They are taken home in the big toboggans pulled behind the skidoos and shared or stored for the winter.

There are different ways to cook them, but a common way is to bake them whole – not gutted – the eggs are cooked inside the fish. The eggs and fish meat are eaten together, though there is not a lot of meat on the egg fish – maybe 1/3 eggs, 2/3 meat. Another favorite recipe of many people here are fish patties.

We enjoyed helping a local fisherman, George, with his net. He is very knowledgeable about the land. He is 80 years old and lives in a wall tent by the river. He has lots of stories and enjoys teasing us. He has about 1000 fish for the winter. He needs the fish for his family, and his dog team of 10 dogs. He saves the female egg fish to eat, and the male fish are for his dogs.

Helping check George's net

Helping check George’s net

Meanwhile on the river, the ferry continues to travel back and forth through a single channel in the ice to keep the highway from Fort McPherson to Inuvik connected.

An excavator works steady, all day, every day, pulling ice from the river and has amassed quite a pile of ice.

Tsiigehtchic has been cut off for a couple of weeks now, but the crew is out in all weather building the ice roads. Building the ice roads is very much manual labour with shoveling, chiseling ice, running pumps – basically building a big skating rink. The men are out there working from morning into the night, and may soon work 24 hours a day. Yesterday the temperature was -31C. They have pickups they can warm up in time to time. They all have to wear floater suits for safety working on the ice.

The ice bridge crew on the Arctic Red River ice bridge, with the ferry and excavators in the background keeping the Mackenzie River crossing open

The ice bridge crew on the Arctic Red River ice bridge, with the ferry and excavators in the background keeping the Mackenzie River crossing open

Yesterday, the Arctic Red River ice bridge opened, so now we can go by milk!

A week or so back, little Theresa was really wanting some milk. She still is not used to the canned milk or powdered milk, and we had run out of frozen milk. I went to our little store. They had long since run out of milk. I was pleasantly surprised when I found one lonely container of chocolate milk in the back of the cooler. When I went to pay they said “oh, this is really out of date…you can just have it”. It was still palatable and Theresa was thrilled.

As we settle in for the winter, we are enjoying getting to know the people here and learning the rhythm of life in Tsiigehtchic.

God bless,

Therese, Ray, Matthias, Kathleen, Mae Theresa Rose and little Daniel