Dear Confreres, Associates, Family and Friends
It has been far too long since I last wrote to you about life here in the Arctic Missions. Summer has come and gone, all too quickly I might add. So much has happened that I am not sure how to adequately share it all in these couple of pages but I will do my best.
With the arrival of Spring I resolved to plant a garden and produce some of my own vegetables. I joined the local garden society and rented a small, raised bed in the community green house, an old hockey arena that has been converted for the purpose.
The greenhouse is one of the top visitor attractions in Inuvik (second only to the Igloo Church) and it is also the center of many social events for the town during the summer months. People gather for; potlucks, hot yoga and even some impromptu concerts all in the presence of the glorious flora and foliage.
While the vegetables were growing in the greenhouse we were pleased to experience Spiritual growth in the local faith communities as we celebrated many Sacraments this spring and summer. We had classes for First Communion with five young people Inuvik and twelve in Tsiigehtchic.
Along with the first communicants, the Steiner family in Tsiigehtchic also journeyed with several other young people and one 70 year old as they prepared for confirmation in the Church. Bishop Mark came to lay hands on those being confirmed and we continued our celebration afterward with a picnic on the bluff overlooking the two rivers on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
It has been such a joy working with the Steiner family and it is sad to say that the time has come to say farewell as they return to their home in Fraser Lake, BC after their year-long mission experience in Tsiigehtchic. In a profound show of support for the relationships that have been built over the past year, nearly the entire community along with several parishioners from Inuvik, turned out at the school gymnasium for a great feast. Many community elders and leaders spoke on the community’s behalf and thanked the Steiner’s for their presence and hard work.
Summer in the Arctic is short but intense and temperatures fluctuate widely. One week in particular, around the end of July, I recall an uncomfortably warm 32 degree afternoon followed the next day by a full-fledged blizzard. The snow did not stay around long but it was a stark reminder that one is always at the mercy of the elements that it’s always good to have a jacket close at hand.
The long summer days allowed time for outdoor projects close to home such as remodeling a donated tool shed and installing clothing shelves in one of the sea-cans for the St. Vincent de Paul thrift sales. There was also plenty of time for community celebrations and I, along with our Diocesan Youth Director Thomas Tyrrell, had the privilege of being in Paulatuk for their annual Arctic Char Festival, a weekend full of entertainment and activities for everyone.
Paulatuk is on a different time zone then the rest of the world. The day’s events would typically not begin until 3 or 4 in the afternoon and the day never ended until about 5 o’clock the next morning. It took a bit of adjustment but was well worth the effort. While I enjoyed watching the Char Filleting and Goose Plucking competition I did join in for the nail hammering contest and, with the unfair advantage of being a former carpenter, handily took first prize.
With the end of August, while most people were lamenting heading back to work after summer break, I began my own summer holiday. I traveled first to Niagara Falls, ON for a gathering of young Redemptorists (60 years old and under) followed by a drive down the Dempster Highway with Grande Prairie, AB as my destination. The fall colors were already well established and it was breathtaking scene for the entire journey.
In Grande Prairie the Hansen family had an unplanned family reunion as all the children ended up in town at the same time. It was also a chance to help our Dad move into his new home in a senior’s apartment building where he is now living, quite content. I continued on to Edmonton to visit my brother Colin and his family and then a wonderful side trip to Saskatoon where I was able to reconnect with many of my old parishioners over the course of weekend Masses. The final stop before returning home was Yellowknife for study days. This annual gathering of the Diocesan leadership was jam packed with great discussions on many important topics but I think I will have to leave that for my next letter.
That all seems a bit abbreviated but will have to do for now. Many of you have remarked that you missed receiving my updates which was very gratifying to hear. I will do my best to continue writing and keep you up-to-date of what is happening here.
Until next time, Peace