19 students and teachers from Corpus Christi College came to the diocese 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 Krissy Chua.
Upon their arrival on Monday June 16, the group enjoyed an orientation and summary of the major features and issues for the Catholic Church in the north by Emeritus Bishop Denis Croteau, OMI. The first week featured 2 projects: a) work and presence at the only youth outreach center in the NWT: “The Side Door”, which is located in downtown Yellowknife, and offers programs and a welcome facility for youth and young adults, and (b) restoration and painting of the church with members of the community from St. Kateri Tekawitha Church in Dettah, in the north-west shore region of Great Slave Lake. Later in the first week students also assisted with maintenance work at the retreat center at Trapper’s Lake.
The weekend of June 21-22 featured “Aboriginal Days” in the NWT. This provided a unique opportunity for the group to experience much of the Dene culture at events in Yellowknife, Behchokho (in the Tlicho region), and Fort Providence (in the Decho region). Presentations were also provided by Patrick Scott of Yellowknife, and John B. Zoe of Behchokho.
The second week featured participation at the Decho Assembly in Jean Marie River of the Decho Region – about one hour south of Fort Simpson and 6 hours NW of Yellowknife. The Assembly provided the opportunity to observe the annual assembly with included chiefs and delegates from the member Decho communities. The students provided the meal service for the event and assistance with set up of events – a large undertaking which was handled by three teams. Two of the students were also called upon to take and write up resolutions for the Assembly, except for during the in-camera sessions.
Their 2-week stay in the diocese concluded with a final day at Trapper’s Lake, in order to reflect on the experiences and learnings which were extensive over such a short time.
I must say that I was very proud of the students, and also grateful – along with many others in the communities of the Diocese – for not only such hard work and service, but alos the great energy and enthusiasm the group brought to everything they did. The Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith looks forward to further opportunities to receive more Corpus Christi College service-learning students in the future.