Sister Margaret Sadler, S.E.J., pastoral administrator, Saint Maria Goretti mission in Lynn Lake, Manitoba, in the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas.
Christmas Eve, the visiting priest, Oblate Father François Paradis, and I left at 1:45 p.m. for Kinoosao, a community 100 km away. Because of the twisting road, it is usually a two-hour trip. Part-way there, we found someone stuck and stopped to help. Pushing and standing on the tailgate helped. Consequently, we got to Kinoosao only just in time for the 4:00 p.m. service. Mass was followed by a potluck supper. Kinoosao is a small community but many come home for Christmas—those still studying and those out working. It’s good to see them. Since I have been here for 12 years, I’ve prepared most of the young people for the sacraments. Supper provides time to re-connect.
On the way back to Lynn Lake, we encountered someone with a truck stuck in a ditch. He was on his way to Kinoosao for Christmas. We tried again to be good Samaritans, but the Trailblazer car I drive just did not have the power to move his truck. We left, but promised to phone relatives in Kinoosao when we got back to Lynn Lake. Well, a short time later, we landed in the ditch. The road, as we had discovered earlier, was very icy. Fr. Paradis was driving and I suddenly saw us headed for a tree, but Father was able to stop inches from it. However, we were socked into a snow bank. Fortunately, snow didn’t get to the engine, but it was hard-packed. Father and I took turns shoveling.
After 45 minutes, we finally got free and arrived in Lynn Lake with again only minutes to spare for the 9:30 service. Rushed, but we certainly had much for which to be thankful. Had we been unable to shovel out, or if we’d had a damaged vehicle or were hurt, we’d have been stranded quite a while. This road goes only to Kinoosao and all persons had arrived so there would be no one to discover us. Also, there is no cellphone coverage in the area. Only when we did not arrive for services would someone have gone to check on us. Next year I’ll have two shovels.
Winter scene: The mine shaft in Lynn Lake, Manitoba.
Next morning, Christmas Day, we had an 11:00 a.m. Mass for the patients and staff at the Lynn Lake hospital. Then, with packed sandwiches, we went to Leaf Rapids for the 1:00 p.m. Eucharist, including two baptisms. Afterwards, we continued on to Thompson, a four-hour drive from Lynn Lake. Sister Andrea Dumont, of the Sisters of St. Joseph, had supper for us and others serving in the mission. Also invited were guests who would otherwise be alone at Christmas. Carol-singing followed supper; then the giving of Christmas stockings filled with small, practical and, sometimes, fun things.
An added blessing this Christmas was the weather, which was just below freezing for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I remember years when it was bitterly cold.
One year it was minus 33 when we were travelling to Leaf Rapids for Midnight Mass. Arriving at the rectory after the service, we found that the outside plug for the vehicle was not working. We finally broke the screen on a downstairs bedroom window and plugged the vehicle in that way; otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to move the next morning. This year we did get the cold but it was on Boxing Day, not when we were in the middle of nowhere. We woke to minus 36 that day. I tried to do some shopping but it was just too wretchedly cold. Nicer to help Sister Andrea do the jigsaw puzzle. I stayed a few days with Sister, as both of us live alone, and it was good to be able to share and pray together.
Sister Margaret Sadler, a member of the Sisters of the Child Jesus, is pastoral administrator of Saint Maria Goretti mission in Lynn Lake, Manitoba, in the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas.
Reprinted from Catholic Missions In Canada Magazine, Winter 2012.