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!

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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.

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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

Spiritual Pilgrimages, Summer Travels, MFS Diocese Welcomes New Pastors

Summer 2015 has featured familiar and new spiritual gatherings and events. This summer’s pilgrimages included:

  • PINE CHANNEL, Athabasca Region from July 5 to 12;
  • RUSSEL LAKE, Tlicho Region from June 31 to July 4;
  • LAC SAINT ANNE PILGRIMAGE, Lac St. Anne, Alberta from July 18 to 23
  • DELINE SPIRITUAL GATHERING, Sahtu Region from August 15-18

The spiritual gatherings feature prayer, celebration of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, and community events as the Dene peoples come together for retreat and the seeking of the Creator’s blessings.

This year featured the 25th Anniversary of the Pine Channel Spiritual Pilgrimage. This event of the Athabasca Dene Peoples received its inspiration from the MFS Diocesan Synod, which recommended spiritual events for families and communities.

This year featured the 25th Anniversary of the Pine Channel Spiritual Pilgrimage. This event of the Athabasca Dene Peoples received its inspiration from the MFS Diocesan Synod, which recommended spiritual events for families and communities.

However, this summer also featured some unique events. In Late July Deline First Nations hosted a ‘water conference’. People from across the Territories came together to discuss the need to be good stewards of the God-given gift of water, which is so essential for life of people and all of creation, and which is threatened today by the global mismanagement and abuse of creation. Encouraged by Pope Francis’s recent encyclical Laudato Si. The Great Bear Lake is sacred to the Sahtu Dene people, and has been important feature of the teaching of the Deline prophets, and especially Ehtsa Ehya.

‘Feeding the Fire’ ceremony at the graveyard.  Following the ceremony, Mass was celebrated and offered for all the ancestors who had died, and for their families and loved ones.

‘Feeding the Fire’ ceremony at the graveyard.
Following the ceremony, Mass was celebrated and offered for all the ancestors who had died, and for their families and loved ones.

A special Mass was offered on Sunday July 26, which marked the conclusion of the Dene National Assembly hosted in Deline, and also the beginning of the first ever ‘Water Conference.’  During the Mass, the Great Bear Lake was dedicated to God, the Creator of All, who gives us His gift of water to sustain all life.  At the end of the Mass, several elders joined with Bishop Mark in blessing themselves and thanking God for His gift of the Water of the Great Lake.

A special Mass was offered on Sunday July 26, which marked the conclusion of the Dene National Assembly hosted in Deline, and also the beginning of the first ever ‘Water Conference.’
During the Mass, the Great Bear Lake was dedicated to God, the Creator of All, who gives us His gift of water to sustain all life.

At the end of the Mass, several elders joined with Bishop Mark in blessing themselves and thanking God for His gift of the Water of the Great Lake.

At the end of the Mass, several elders joined with Bishop Mark in blessing themselves and thanking God for His gift of the Water of the Great Lake.

Dene Child ‘showing his moves’ at the evening Drum Dance.

Dene Child ‘showing his moves’ at the evening Drum Dance.

The house of the late prophet Ehya. The house is now available for personal and communal prayer and spiritual events. It is always open.

The house of the late prophet Ehya. The house is now available for personal and communal prayer and spiritual events. It is always open.

Cross on the top of St Theresa Of the Child Jesus Church, Deline.

Cross on the top of St Theresa Of the Child Jesus Church, Deline.


While the summer has been hot with many forest fires in the south of the Diocese, in our Arctic North East, summer has been long in coming. Sea ice is still visible on the area near Cambridge Bay – which is very unusual for early August.

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Before and After – Work completed to restore the Old Stone Church: the original Our Lady of the Arctic Catholic Church, built by OMI priests Fathers Lemer, Steinman, and Menez. Materials included whatever was on hand – seal oil, clay, and frost-shattered rocks. The church was originally opened on September 12, 1954.

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Mary Avalak and Thomas Kaohina are present at a blessing on August 6 – The Feast of the Transfiguration, and also the birthday of Mary’s grandson and Thomas’s friend who passed away this past year – Joanasie Avalak.

Mary Avalak and Thomas Kaohina are present at a blessing on August 6 – The Feast of the Transfiguration, and also the birthday of Mary’s grandson and Thomas’s friend who passed away this past year – Joanasie Avalak.

Group of Cambridge Bay community members who are responsible for carrying out the restoration work on the Church.

Group of Cambridge Bay community members who are responsible for carrying out the restoration work on the Church.

An Inukshuk at sunset stands on the shore between the Church and the ocean bay.

An Inukshuk at sunset stands on the shore between the Church and the ocean bay.

The visit to Cambridge Bay also featured the blessing of a new “Retreat & Healing Center” located about 20 minutes outside the community. The center will be provide an opportunity for members of the community to come away for retreat as they seek healing, God’s blessings, and growth.

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Members of the staff from the Wellness Center present for the prayer and blessing of the Retreat House.

Members of the staff from the Wellness Center present for the prayer and blessing of the Retreat House.

View of Kugluktuk and area, early August 2015.

View of Kugluktuk and area, early August 2015.

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The wild and beautiful summer weather of the Arctic, near Kugluktuk.

The wild and beautiful summer weather of the Arctic, near Kugluktuk.

 


Summer Workers, New Priests & Lay Ministers

 This summer featured very helpful assistance from several visitors to the Diocese. They provided assistance at Trapper’s Lake Retreat Center, where important maintenance must be done during the short and important summer season in order to maintain the facility through the rigourous long winter period. They also assisted with some ministry support tasks, such as updating Sacramental preparation resources, and working in our Archives and Finance offices.

Several young men assisted at the Retreat Center this summer, including:  Douglas Pham; Austin Vaz, Sebastien Pacteau. Peter Dai Nguyen is our candidate for seminary studies.

Several young men assisted at the Retreat Center this summer, including:
Douglas Pham; Austin Vaz, Sebastien Pacteau. Peter Dai Nguyen is our candidate for seminary studies.

Sebastien and Douglas work on a new garage at the Retreat Center.

Sebastien and Douglas work on a new garage at the Retreat Center.

Peter showcases his great catch of fish from a nearby lake.

Peter showcases his great catch of fish from a nearby lake.

Maria Wilson and Brenna Maduro assist in a youth program with  young people in the northern Decho community of Wrigley.

Maria Wilson and Brenna Maduro assist in a youth program with young people in the northern Decho community of Wrigley.

Ray and Teresa Steiner and family of Fraser Lake, BC are coming to Holy Name of Mary in Tsiigehtchic for one year beginning in early October 2015. They visited in July 2015 to meet the people and do some preliminary repairs on the church residence.

Ray and Teresa Steiner and family of Fraser Lake, BC are coming to Holy Name of Mary in Tsiigehtchic for one year beginning in early October 2015. They visited in July 2015 to meet the people and do some preliminary repairs on the church residence.

Matthias Steiner checks out the ‘fit’ of the water tank for the residence.

Matthias Steiner checks out the ‘fit’ of the water tank for the residence.

Ray and Cathleen Steiner get ready with Bishop Mark to take one of several loads to the local dump.

Ray and Cathleen Steiner get ready with Bishop Mark to take one of several loads to the local dump.

Blessing the graves at the Church cemetery.

Blessing the graves at the Church cemetery.

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New Clergy Orientation at Trapper’s Lake Retreat Center:  Fr. Marek Pisarek, OMI; Fr. Bernie Black (long-serving Pastor);  Fr. Jon Hansen, CSSR; Fr. Michael Nwuagwu, SMMM.

New Clergy Orientation at Trapper’s Lake Retreat Center:
Fr. Marek Pisarek, OMI; Fr. Bernie Black (long-serving Pastor);
Fr. Jon Hansen, CSSR; Fr. Michael Nwuagwu, SMMM.

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Melody McLeod assists with the orientation.

Melody McLeod assists with the orientation.

Douglas Pham and Peter Nguyen enjoying the Island … before the ‘splash’ !!

Douglas Pham and Peter Nguyen enjoying the Island … before the ‘splash’ !!

The Midnight Moon over Trapper’s Lake, mid-summer

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We continue to be blessed in the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.

Mahsi-cho. In Our Lord,
+Mark

Bishop Mark A. Hagemoen
Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith

Catholic Colleges return to MFS Diocese in 2015

CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE, VANCOUVER, B.C.
KINGS UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON, ONTARIO

11 students and teachers from Corpus Christi College returned to the diocese in June 2015 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 Christina Dumont. Upon their arrival on Monday June 4, 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, and Emeritus Bishop Denis Croteau, OMI. The two week visit featured visiting two communities in the Decho region of the Diocese: Fort Liard and Wrigley, NWT. Students also visited the youth outreach center in the NWT, named “The Side Door”, located in downtown Yellowknife, and the communities of Dettah, Behchoko, and Fort Providence, and Fort Simpson.

image01CCC students with Principal Liz Baille at Weledeh and St. Patrick’s Schools

image02Visit to the NWT Museum in Yellowknife

image03CCC Team with Diocesan Staff following Mass

image04CCC Team with Fr. Joe Daley, Martina Norwegian, and Dolly T’sella at Pope John Paul II site in Fort Simpson, NWT

image05CCC Students participate in “Hand Games”

image06Austin Vaz carries a Dene lad

image07Youth from Wrigley gather with CCC students in preparation for the evening celebration of Mass

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image09Team sets to work on Wrigley Church

image10Brenna hard at work!

image11CCC group & the repainted Our Lady Heart of Mary Church

 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 service-learning students in the future.


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For the fifth consecutive, a group of undergraduate students from Kings University College came to the 25th 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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The pilgrimage site of the communities of Fond Du Lac, Black Lake, and Stony Rapids in the Athabasca region of northern Saskatchewan is on the traditional lands of the Chipewyan Dene people. The site is out of this world …and yet …very much in this world. 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.

The site features a dock, a long red wooden pathway leading 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 is positioned.

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This year Archbishop Murray Chatlain from the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas, also attended. +Murray is well know to the Athabasca peoples – he served as their local pastor for about 5 years, and then was the Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith from 2007 to 2013. +Chatlain’s visit was also the occasion to propose the transfer of the Athabasca region from the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith to the Archdiocese of Keewatin- Le Pas. This proposal has become a major consideration because of the greater connection of the Athabasca peoples with the Dene communities in Keewatin-Le Pas, and the greater and more costly distance between the Athabasca region and Yellowknife.

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The visiting students from King’s University College this year again featured a team of talented and energetic students who were 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 the annual blessing ritual in support of married couples, and a blessing and commitment ritual for persons struggling with addictions recovery.

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A vivid memory of the Kings students was the regular gathering of Athabasca youth and young adults around the Kings students – to ‘hang out’ with them and to share stories and life-experiences. The students were inspiring examples of servant and caring leadership. The Diocese looks forward to building on the developing legacy of Kings University-College service at the Pine Channel Spiritual Pilgrimage.

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From TRUTH to RECONCILIATION: Concluding the Truth and Reconciliation Events in Ottawa May 2015: The Journey Continues

The last of the Truth and Reconciliation Events concluded in Ottawa from May 31 to June 4, 2015. The event featured the release of the final report from the Commission, which featured 94 recommendations for change in policies, programs and, “…the way we talk to, and about, each other.” The stated goal of the report is to repair the relationship between aboriginal people and the rest of the peoples of Canada.

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EVENTS IN OTTAWA AND YELLOWKNIFE

The Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith had several representatives attend the event in Ottawa. Celebrations of solidarity were also held in Yellowknife, as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples celebrated at a gathering followed by a “Walk for Reconciliation” in downtown Yellowknife.

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At the Ottawa event on June 2, following the presentation featuring the release of the TRC report and its 94 recommendations by Justice Murray Sinclair, Archbishops Gerald Pettipas, CSsR, and Terence Prendergast, SJ, made presentations on behalf of the Catholic Entities Party to the Indian Residential School Settlement Process and the Archdiocese of Ottawa.

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Members of the Aboriginal Commission of the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops & Tlicho Dene representative at the closing Ottawa TRC Event May 31, 2015.

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The following text was presented by Archbishop Pettipas:

I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today to represent the over 50 Catholic dioceses and religious communities that were in some way a part of the Indian Residential Schools System. While the legacy of the schools challenges the whole church, the government and the whole of Canadian society, in a particular way it involves us who are party to the Settlement Agreement and to the work of the TRC.

In their name I want to express our appreciation to the Commissioners who have worked tirelessly to lead us all in a profound examination of conscience in regard to a painful period in our history. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission thousands of former students, their families and communities have given voice to their experience and we have been forced to confront the great harm and depth of suffering so many experienced. Through them we have had to face the pain of our past and that work has not finished. We have heard stories of resilience and some have also offered forgiveness and expressed a desire for reconciliation. In this way they have held open a door of hope.

The Commission has now presented all Canadians with Calls to Action. On behalf of Catholic entities, I receive these challenges and encourage others in our community to do so as well. In the next few months, I will be presenting these Calls to Action to all of the Bishops of Canada and to the Canadian Religious Conference as direction posts and milestones on the way to a reconciled future.

In the many events that I have attended it has become apparent that the road will be long but the end point is more than a faint hope. In Northern Alberta, where I come from, people are strengthened by the prophetic words of Chief Poundmaker: “We all know the story of the man who sat beside the trail too long and then it grew over and he could never find his way again. We can never forget what has happened, but we cannot go back, nor can we just sit beside the trail.”1 His Prophetic words join with the encouragement of Pope Francis who reminds us that “God is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew”.2

As the work of the TRC is coming to a close, we can say with humility that, while we may have not done enough, neither have we been sitting beside the trail. Through the TRC, Reconciliation Canada, Kairos, Returning to Spirit, the Oblate Justice and Peace Committees, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs of the Western Catholic Bishops and many other ways we have been seeking and finding our ways of healing and reconciliation with the aboriginal peoples.

While the schools no longer exist we have been learning how these former institutions are connected to the rupture that still exists in our relationships. We are learning that reconciliation is not only about the past but is about our present need for justice and is about our capacity together to build a better future.

As we look to that future we will continue to be committed to remembering the past, to working in the present for healing and justice and to animating our work with the hope of a reconciled future.

+Archbishop Gerald Pettipas, CSsR

1 Petocahhanawawin (Chief Poundmaker), 1842-1886
2 Evangelii Gaudium #3

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Inspired by the words of Archbishop Pettipas, we continue to hope, pray, and work towards a future of reconciliation and healing that faces the past, and seeks new ways in the present to support healing, restorative justice, and renewed vision as Aboriginal peoples join other Canadians on the path of deepening respect and honour of all peoples of our country.

Mahsi-cho. In Our One God,
+Mark

St. Patrick’s ENCOUNTER #1

ENCOUNTER #72 MEETS ENCOUNTER #1!

On April 17-19, about 26 students and teachers from the senior grades of St. Patrick’s High School in Yellowknife gathered for the first ever SAINT PATRICK’S ENCOUNTER RETREAT, held at Trapper’s Lake Retreat Center.

Assisting with the retreat were 2 Vancouver College Grade 12 students – Nicholas Gomez and Ambrose Chu. They were joined by their VC teacher and Campus Minister, Mr. Kevin Belleveau. 4 students had visited Vancouver in the Fall of 2014 to join in and experience a similar Vancouver College retreat. They were joined by their St. Pat’s teachers, Jeffrey Dineley and Kali Brasseur. Providentially, at the same time Vancouver College High School in Vancouver was holding their own Encounter Retreat – Encounter 72.

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The rector-leaders of Encounter #1 were Thoriso Mahlatsi, Grade 12 student from St. Patrick’s, Yellowknife, and Nicholas Gomez, grade 12 student from Vancouver College, Vancouver.

They were assisted by: Hansika Jhankur, Northwyne Remigio, and Dana Hildebrandt from St Patrick’s, and by Ambrose Chu from Vancouver College.

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The retreat involved a series of presentations and sharing by the student leaders, and other creative activities designed to help students personally reflect on the life journey. The retreat assumes a perspective of faith and belief in our One God. However, amoung the participants were students who do not practice a particular faith. They were also able to participate and share in the retreat experience.

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Mike Hartmen of the NET Team, creates a fire on an island at Trapper’s Lake, for an evening activity.

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St. Patrick’s students enjoy time together. Also present are: Adele Costanza – youth ministry coordinator, and Peter Nguyen – seminarian.

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A “pensive pose”!

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Ambrose Chu leads a session, as the two rectors look on.

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The two St. Patrick’s teacher leaders – Jeffrey Dineley and Kali Brasseur – join in at a session in the ‘Tee-pee Room’ at Trapper’s Lake.

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The panel of tough judges at the Talent Show.

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Kevin Belleveau – teacher and Campus Minister from Vancouver College – proclaims the Word of God at the Celebration of the Eucharist.

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Our guests from Vancouver College are welcomed at the Retreat Center.

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The Retreatants celebrate a closing session together, and receive their certificates.

A great collaborative first effort between the two Catholic High Schools.

We look forward to building on our first St. Patrick’s Encounter Retreat next year!

A UNIQUE EASTER 2015 IN DELINÉ, SAHTU REGION

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Early in 2015, Mark Hagemoen, Bishop of McKenzie-Fort Smith Diocese, invited me to carry out healing ministry in the Sahtu region involving the communities of Fort Good Hope, Deliné and Tulita. While sharing the hospitality of Sr. Joan Liss and Pauline Girodat in Fort Good Hope and Sr. Celeste Goulet in Tulita was very interesting and inspiring due to their commitment and example, my stay in Deliné coincided with Holy Week, which is what I want to share in this article.

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My intention was to conduct a three-day Lenten/Easter mission in each community, plus a two-day addictions awareness workshop entitled Living Life to the Full. The mission, with its focus on the Great Triduum, fit right in with the Holy Week liturgies.

As Chief Leonard Kenny was present for Holy Thursday, I invited him to join me in the washing of feet and he started by washing mine. Others wanted to do likewise, and soon everyone was washing someone’s feet, so I sat down and watched it all unfold. What was very impressive was watching the elders washing the feet of youth, and vice-versa.

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Good Friday began with a Feeding the Fire Ceremony in the cemetery (a traditional drumming ritual thanking God for all God’s blessings and honoring the ancestors). Those carrying the big wooden cross in the procession to the church stopped and knelt three times for a short prayer en route.

The community has a tradition of writing out pages of intentions that are read out during the Eucharist, often taking up to half an hour. The intentions for 2014 were saved in a decorative box that was brought out to the Easter fire and reverently burned.

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At a baptism on Easter Sunday, I invited people to come up to make the sign of the cross on the child to be baptized, expecting a few to respond. Instead, the whole community came forward. What was particularly touching was the elders also kissing and caressing the child.

Easter Monday and Tuesday were taken up with the workshop in the old church built by former Oblate and renowned artist Bern Will Brown. The sharing took place in men and women’s groups. It seemed that the community was poised for something like this to happen, just needing a nudge and a safe environment to break through to a deeper level of fellowship.

The community of Deliné is known for the presence of four deceased holy men they call prophets, whose wisdom and deep faith guided the people over the decades. The house of the first main one, “Grandfather” Joseph Ayha, was rebuilt at the far end of the community as a sacred place for pilgrimages. We decided to have our closing sharing circle in the prophet’s house all together, which went on well past 11 pm. Both a men’s and women’s group have started as a follow-up. Attempts are being made to start a bible study group as well.

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It struck me that there are three sacred places in the community – the cemetery and arbor at one end, the new and old churches in the middle, and the prophet’s house and arbor at the other end, and we made our way to them all as part of the whole Easter celebration and workshop. That seemed so appropriate, especially after someone mentioned that the comment about the sacred spaces had also come from one of the prophets. It seemed a fitting note on which to bring my rather unique Easter experience in Deliné to a close. After paying $220 for over-weight luggage, I left with gratitude to Bishop Mark for the invitation and to Catholic Missions In Canada for the generosity that makes this costly northern ministry possible.

On The Winter Roads – Winter/Spring 2015!

The adventure continues in the Winter and Spring seasons in the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. The early New Year’s season began with the annual Western Canadian Bishops’ Retreat at Westminster Abbey. This year’s retreat leader was Emeritus Bishop James Weisgerber. The retreat was an opportunity to be renewed with the assistance of helpful reflections by Bishop Weisgerber, and to reconnect with the Bishops at what is always the wonderfully ascetic environment of the Mission Benedictine monastery.

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There would be the opportunity to reconnect with the Bishops at the Annual Western Bishops Plenary, held in the Diocese of Victoria in late February.

Before the plenary, the January and early February period featured an 18-day road trip with the NET Canada Ministry Team and one of our Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinators, Adele Costanza. The trip took us along the winter road system through the Decho and Sahtu regions, and featured providing youth events and retreats at several faith communities, including Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, Nahanni Butte, Norman Wells, Tulita, Deline, and Fort Good Hope. The trip was not only a great opportunity to re-connect with people from the communities, but to also experience the deep faith, joy, and enthusiasm of members of the NET Team. They were truly inspiring, not only in terms of their youth ministry work, but also the witness of their own lives of seeking and living for the Lord.

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Photo games with Cameron Primeau of the NET Team in Fort Providence.

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Celebration of the Eucharist at St. Mary’s, Nahanni Butte.

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Sunday Mass and “feast” in Fort Simpson.

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“On the road” – Quick picture in the cold Wrigley Church

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“The Transportation:” – the Dodge….and…. the Ranger!!

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The road trip featured several celebrations of the Sacraments, including the wedding of Bernard Tutcho and Estelle Kochon in Colville Lake, and several Baptisms in Norman Wells.

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Celebration of ASH WEDNESDAY at Weledeh Elementary School, Yellowknife

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Following the Winter road trip, had a great 3 day visit to Saint Peter’s Seminary and King’s University College, London, Ontario to facilitate a Lenten weekend retreat. The sessions also provided an opportunity to promote King’s service learning summer project in Pine Channel, in the Athabasca region of northern Saskatchewan.

Early March began with our annual Pastoral Leaders Retreat at Trapper’s Lake. This year’s retreat was facilitated by Mary Lynn Murray of Madonna House, Combermere, and Melody McLeod of our own diocese, and former Chair of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Aboriginal Committee. The retreat featured a time of reflection of seeing ourselves in the quiet, peaceful heart of Our Lord where we are called to deepening intimacy and conversion, and reflecting on Aboriginal features of Catholic spiritual and ritual practice.


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The retreat was also a time to honour two long-time pastoral leaders of our Diocese, Sisters Joan Liss and Pauline Girodat, SSND. Both have been recalled by their order to return to their mother house this summer. Their ministerial service in our Diocese has featured placements in St. Joseph’s in Fort Resolution, and their present assignment in Our Lady of Good Hope, Fort Good Hope.

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I presently write this posting while visiting the western Arctic communities of the Inuvialuit region of the Diocese. The visit has featured an ice road trip from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk to join the community for the blessing of the newly-renovated Our Lady of Grace Church. The weekend blessing Mass featured the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion.

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It was a proud day for Sr. Fay Tremblay, SCIC, pastoral leaders Jean Gruben and Dorothy Loreen, and the entire community. The project featured three years of work, and included volunteers from both inside and outside the community- most notably from the French community in Whitehorse, Yukon.

I am presently in the community of Paulatuk, staying at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Marlene Wolki, local pastoral leader, and the community are extending their warm welcome, and are preparing to receive a guest priest, Fr. Michael Rosinski, SJ, who will be coming from Ottawa to celebrate the Holy Week and Easter Triduum. The blustery, wind-swept Arctic coast community is joyfully receiving the lengthening sunny days, as they prepare to celebrate what they describe as their most important season – the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord at Easter.

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Finally, a tribute to Peter (Dai Nguyen): Keep Going For It!!

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Mahsi-cho. In Our Lord,
+Mark

Bishop Mark A. Hagemoen
Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith

Mackenzie-Fort Smith Diocese Christmas Mass Worship Schedule

SOUTH SLAVE REGION

St. Patrick’s Church, Yellowknife
  6 pm Mass Christmas Eve (at St Patrick’s High School)
  11 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  11 am Mass Christmas Day

  5 pm Mass Feast of Holy Family – Saturday, Dec. 27
  9 & 11 am Masses Sunday, Dec. 28

  5:30 pm Mass New Year’s Eve
  10 am Mass New Year’s Day (Solemnity, Mary Mother of God)

Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, Fort Smith
  7 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  Midnight Mass Christmas Day
  11 am Mass Christmas Day

St. Joseph’s, Fort Resolution
  Midnight Mass Christmas Day

Assumption Parish, Hay River
  5 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  Midnight Mass Christmas Day
  10:30 am Mass Christmas Day

St Anne’s (K’atl’odeeche First Nation)
  7 pm Mass Christmas Eve.

Saint Kateri Tekawitha, Detah
  11 am Mass Christmas Day

BEHCHOKHO/ FORT PROVIDENCE REGION

Saint Michaels, Behchokho
  3 pm Mass Christmas Eve (Jimmy Erasmus Senior’s Center)
  8 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  Midnight Mass Christmas Day
  Noon Mass Christmas Day
  11 am Mass New Year’s Day
  – Confession before Mass

Our Lady of Providence, Fort Providence
  10 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  11:30 am Mass Christmas Day
  11 am Mass New Year’s Day
  – Confession before Mass

TLICHO REGION (North)

Saint Paul’s, Gameti
  11 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  11 am Mass Christmas Day
  7 pm Mass December 26
  7 pm Mass Vigil, Feast of Holy Family
  11 am Mass Holy Family

Saint Bruno’s, Whati
  11 pm Christmas Eve – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion
  10:30 am Christmas Day – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion
  10:30 am Holy Family – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion
  10:30 am New Year’s – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion

DECHO REGION

Sacred Heart, Fort Simpson
  7 pm Mass Christmas Eve (at Bompa’s School)
  11 am Mass Holy Family
  11 am Mass New Year

Saint Raphael’s, Fort Liard
  2 pm Mass Christmas Day

SAHTU REGION

Saint Teresa’s, Deline
  10 to noon Confessions
  1:30 pm Christmas Eve
  11 am Christmas Day – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion

Saint Teresa of Avila, Tulita
  10 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  11 am Christmas Day – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion

Saint Anthony’s, Norman Wells
  11 am Mass Christmas Day

Our Lady of Good, Fort Good Hope
  7 pm Mass Christmas Day
  December 19 – Confession:  4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. / 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

ARCTIC WEST REGION

Our Lady of Victory, Inuvik
  7 pm Mon Dec 22 Penitential Service & Confession
  7 pm Mass Christmas Day
  10 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  11 am Mass Sunday HOLY FAMILY
  11 am Mass New Year’s Day

Our Lady of Lourdes, Paulatuk
  11 am Christmas Day – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion
  11 am New Years – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion

Holy Name of Mary, Tsiigehtchic
  11 am Mass Christmas Eve

Our Lady of Grace, Tuktoyaktuk
  11 pm Christmas – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion
  11 am Christmas Day – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion
  11 am Holy Family – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion
  11 pm New Years Eve – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion
  11 am New Years – Liturgy of Word with H. Communion
  11 am Mass Epiphany Sunday

ARCTIC EAST REGION

Our Lady of Light, Kugluktuk
  5 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  11 am Mass Christmas Day
  – Confession 1 hour before Mass

Our Lady of the Arctic, Cambridge Bay
  5 pm Mass Saturday Dec 27
  11 am Mass Sunday Dec 28
  11 am Mass New Year’s Day
  – Confession 1 hour before Mass

ATHABASCA REGION

Our Lady of the Cape, Black Lake, SK
  10:30 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  11 am Mass Christmas day
  7 pm Mass New Year’s Eve
  11 am Mass New Year’s Day

  Confession begins at 23rd Dec. 10 am-12pm, 2 pm- 5pm and 7 pm- 9pm.
  Confession on 24th Dec. 10 am -12 pm, and 2 pm -6 pm.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Fond du Lac, SK
  11 pm Mass Christmas Eve
  11 am Mass Christmas Day
  11 pm Mass New Year’s Eve
  11 am Mass New Year Day

  Confession begins at 23rd Dec. 10 am.- 12 pm., 2 pm. – 5 pm., 7 pm.- 9 pm.
  Confession on 24th Dec. 10 am. -12 pm., 2pm.- 5 pm., and 6 pm.-8 pm.

Our Lady of Good Counsel, Stony Rapids, SK
  5 pm Mass Christmas Day
  5 p.m. Mass New Year’s Day
  – Confession 1 hour before Mass.