Participating team captains with Mayor Pat Perkins in the middle, present an honorary player jersey that will be sent North to Father Chris Rushton, O.M.I., pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption in Natuashish, Labrador, in the Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador. From left: Alain Lambert (Notre Dame Council), Fred Shady (St. John's Council), Mayor Perkins (Whitby), Michael Mullin (St. Leo's Council), and Martin Kerstens (Holy Family Council).
In 2009, as St. John the Evangelist Council 4895 in Whitby, Ontario, prepared for its 50th Anniversary, the Council thought that members should engage in meaningful work outside of their community.
For much of its history, the Council had dedicated itself to charitable works within the Durham region and with the Ontario State Council. A surge in new and younger members, however, prompted the Council and its 105 members to seek a new challenge to usher in their next 50 years.
The Council Recorder contacted Catholic Missions In Canada to see if churches in the North of Canada could benefit from some collaboration with a dedicated partner. CMIC’s National Director of Development Kathleen Ancker responded promptly and suggested that the Council establish a partnership with Father Chris Rushton, O.M.I., who was working in the Innu communities of Natuashish and Shetshatsui, Labrador. With the full endorsement of Grand Knight Len Ladouceur, Knights North was born.
The Innu at Natuashish had formerly been at Davis Inlet, a settlement that had gained attention for its poor living conditions, government neglect, and an air of hopelessness that had resulted in one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
The new settlement, inland at Natuashish, has offered the Innu a fresh start and Father Chris, a priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, has been present to them as a youth counsellor, guide, pastor, advocate, and friend. Father Chris has spent much of his life in Labrador and, with the help of Sister Sheila Fortune, C.S.J. (Hamilton), has journeyed with the Innu as they rebuild their lives and communities. (Please read Sister Sheila’s story under Mission Stories, Spring 2012).
For their part, the Knights North Committee has initiated projects to raise the needed funds for Father Chris’s work. Aside from sending textbooks for the local schools in Natuashish, the Knights have also organized dances, dinners, lectures, and community activities in Whitby to raise both awareness of the needs of First Nations peoples and to secure donations.
For the past two years, Knights North has honoured the founder of the Knights of Columbus and his favourite game, by sponsoring The Father McGivney Baseball Charity Classic. Local Councils in Whitby-Oshawa have competed for the Mayor Perkins Cup and raised money for the Natuashish partnership.
To date, Council 4895 has raised $10,000 for Catholic Missions In Canada and for the work of Father Chris and Sister Sheila. In this way, the Council is honouring its commitment to fraternity, charity, and unity, while serving as partners with brothers and sisters in Faith half a continent away.
Historian Dr. Mark McGowan is a fulltime professor at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, and director of Knights North St. John's Council 4895, in Whitby, Ontario.
Reprinted from Catholic Missions In Canada Magazine, Spring 2012