Father Bart Burke
‘Since Sister June’s retirement, we no longer have any sisters helping in these four missions’
I thank Catholic Missions In Canada for its financial support to the four missions where I serve as pastor, namely Sandy Lake in Ontario, and in Manitoba, God’s Lake Narrows, God’s River and Oxford House. I have been pastor to these four missions—all native reserves—since December 1992.
There are no roads into these four missions, except for a winter road for about six weeks across frozen lakes and land. Food, clothing and other supplies have to be flown in for ten and a half months. This makes everything quite expensive, particularly travelling to communities on small planes.
The local native people help with cleaning our churches and some minor repairs. They give as much financial support on Sundays as they can but they have their families to take care of as well. Unemployment is about 80 per cent during most of the year.
Most of our financial support comes from Catholic Missions In Canada and from the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas. Oblate Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie frequently visits our missions and gives us great encouragement. He came in June to celebrate Confirmation and First Communion in God’s Lake Narrows, and in God’s River, for Confirmation and for the farewell service for Sister June Ayotte, S.C.S.L. Sister June gave ten years of dedicated service to our mission in God’s River; we miss her help very much. Since Sister June’s retirement, we no longer have any sisters helping in these four missions.
In 2008, my plane tickets cost about $9,000 travelling between my four missions. Since then, the cost of travel has gone up. I thank Catholic Missions In Canada for covering the cost of my travels. I also thank Catholic Missions for helping defray other expenses to maintain our four missions—from monthly expenses for programs to heating churches and doing repairs to our church buildings. Our expenses include supplies for religious education for students and programs for adult education, training leaders for Sunday Services and for funerals when no priest is available, and travelling for workshop training for our leaders. We try to get priests to come and help at Christmas and Easter.
At age 82, I am still happy to serve God and the people of God in these missions. We have a great need of more priests and sisters as well as lay people who are willing to volunteer a couple of years or longer to serve in these missions in Northern Canada.
I offer my prayers and thanks to the many very generous donors of Catholic Missions In Canada who make sacrifices so that the work of the Catholic Church can continue into the future. Without your generous support, we cannot carry on with our work as missionaries. Please pray, too, for the people in our missions.
Since writing this article, Father Bart has celebrated his 83rd birthday and now ministers in just one mission - rather than his previous four.
Father Bart Burke ministers in four fly-in only northern Manitoba and Ontario missions in the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas. One is St. Francis de Sales mission in God’s Lake Narrows. Your support helps CMIC provide Father Bart with a grant of $2,700 in 2011 for its church and rectory maintenance and repair.