Catholic Missions In Canada president Father Philip Kennedy braves the minus 20° cold before Christmas Eve Mass, 2010, during Christmas visit to two missions in Northern Saskatchewan, in the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas. Photo by Father Susai Jesu, O.M.I. Photo courtesy of Father Milton McWatch
One of the wonderful parts of this job as president of Catholic Missions In Canada involves the trips I must make periodically to visit the missionaries and their communities across the country.
By now, I have been at places in the eight provinces where we assist mission dioceses, and one of the three territories (Yukon). I always encounter surprises and delightful discoveries when I arrive at a new location, and see the local church through the eyes of the missionary and the lay people who have a vested interest in their own place in God’s creation.
This past Christmas was a typical example. Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie, O.M.I., invited me many months ago to spend the Christmas season in his diocese of Keewatin-Le Pas. Much later, he told me it would be helpful if I went to
So the week before Christmas found me flying Air Canada to Winnipeg, and then transferring to another airline to reach Flin Flon, Manitoba, where I was able to get a vehicle to drive westward across the boundary into Saskatchewan, and then on a couple of hours through a light snow to Pelican Narrows. I felt a bit like Santa Claus, because on my arrival I unloaded cartons containing a brand-new chalice and paten from the Knights of Columbus 4th Degree Assembly in Hamilton, a new gold ciborium from my own Council of Knights in Toronto, a great assortment of knitted goods from the Catholic Women’s League in London, and various donated altar linens and prayer books that the mission could use.
The next day was Christmas Eve, and the priest left early to go to
The priest in charge of the two Missions is Oblate Father Susai Jesu, originally from Sri Lanka, and now a member of the Canadian Oblate Province in the West.
He has committed himself to the service of God with the First Nations of the area, has learned the Cree language, and relates well to the people of all generations. He is well aware of the difficulties of the people stemming from alcohol and drug misuse, and troubles within families. He is a qualified family counsellor, and helps those in situations of severe stress to find help where it can be found. In turn, the people have responded warmly to his presence among them and to his counsel.
Fr. Susai has discussed with the parishioners the needs of his parish in
Going up to
By the time I departed on a flight from Flin Flon to return home, I had come to know many of the people of the two communities, and seen in what ways they had used the funds that CMIC had allocated to them. But especially I was informed of the present efforts being made to build a strong Catholic community in each parish, and became aware of some of their needs for the future.
So if every every Christmas and Holy Week and Easter finds me far away, it means that my education in the missions is continuing, and my efforts to understand and help out the many mission communities of this country are increasing by an on-the-job presence wherever it can be arranged that I go travelling.