News Releases from
Catholic Missions in Canada 2006
November 2, 2006
2006 St. Joseph Awardee Oblate Father Rodrigue
has made prayer part of community's life
Priest transmits Mass to the sick and shut-ins
TORONTO-A missionary so well loved by his Northern community they
named their high school after him has been chosen as this year's
recipient of the 2006 St. Joseph Award by Catholic Missions In Canada.
Father Rodrigue VÉzina, 74, an Oblate missionary priest,
has not only served his entire priesthood of more than 45 years
in the Diocese of Moosonee, in Northern Ontario, but has also introduced
innovative ways of bringing the Gospel to the people.
One of his "inventions" was the television transmission
of his daily Mass to the sick in the local hospital and to shut-ins
in Attawapiskat, a coastal village along James Bay, at a time before
the introduction of commercial television. The Holy Mass is broadcast
live daily through the community-owned television station. The morning
program opens with prayers and Bible readings led by Fr. VÉzina,
followed by religious features from EWTN (Eternal Word Television
Network). In the early evening, Fr. VÉzina leads the Holy
Rosary prayer then celebrates Holy Mass and gives the homily. Another
Oblate, Brother Michel Koostachin, helps run the television ministry
Born in Levis, Quebec, Fr. VÉzina came to the Diocese of
Moosonee at the age of 29, fresh from his ordination in Quebec City
and pastoral studies in Rome. He served in the missions at Pickle
Lake, Lansdowne House and Ogoki. While in these communities, he
became fluent in the language of the Ojibways. In 1973, he was transferred
to Attawapiskat where he continues to serve today as well as in
the Mission of Peawanuck on the Hudson Bay coast. In Attawapiskat,
he learned Cree, and is now fluent in these two aboriginal languages
in addition to English and French.
In his home parish at St. Francis Xavier in Attawapiskat, Fr. VÉzina
attends to the spiritual needs of his flock. First, by celebrating
the Holy Mass, officiating at baptisms and First Communions, and
visiting the sick and the elderly; and second, by broadcasting Mass
services, prayers, Bible stories and religious events to the sick
and the shut-ins. He has made prayer an important part of the Cree
Sidebar: 'As a young man, I had all kinds of
-Father Rodrigue Vezina: St. Joseph Awardee
By Father Rodrigue Vezina, O.M.I.
"As a young man, I had all kinds of dreams. One summer, I
worked in a tobacco field in Ontario; in another, I worked on a
boat and visited the Atlantic provinces. Two summers I worked with
the engineers in the forests of Northern Quebec, and when I began
high school, the Lord put in my heart to become a missionary. When
I finished my studies, my Superior asked me where I would like to
go. My answer was: "To be a missionary." Since there was
a need in James Bay, I was sent in that area. It really fulfilled
my dream. I am happy to work where the Lord sent me through my Superiors.
"The First Nations People are close to nature. I learned through
my contact with them to appreciate the trees, the water, the land
and the animals living on the land. Taking a walk along the river
during the summer or in the forest at wintertime in the silence
of nature helped me to get closer to God in Whom we live, move,
and owe our being. I thank the Lord for the vocation He gave me,
and for His daily support in my life as a missionary."
Never a dull day in the missions
By Peter Mackey
On any day during the week, you will find me in the church here
at St. Columcille parish in the Diocese of St. George's, Newfoundland
and Labrador, or at the parish house in St. Fintan's preparing for
the Sunday liturgy, setting up and preparing for Confirmation classes,
and working on the next round of catechism for Grades 1 to 6.
As spiritual director for St. Columcille Parish, a small parish
on the West Coast of about 420 people, I am in charge of three small
churches. I try to have Sunday Celebrations of the Word and Hours
in each church every week. I usually have service on Saturday evening
in Highlands. Service in St. Fintan`s at 9.30 a.m. on Sunday, and
in Heatherton at 11.15 a.m. There have been three churches here
for so long and they were built mostly by the people who cut the
logs and sawed the lumber themselves. The older people here have
a very strong attachment to their church whereas the younger generation
has to be inspired and guided into taking part in the parish.
We also have Stations of the Cross one night a week during Lent.
I preside at funeral services as well as weddings and baptisms.
There are no Catholic schools here. This year, I was lucky in that
a wonderful lady, Mrs. Mary Beresford, retired from teaching and
has now volunteered to take over and set up catechism classes and
coordinate with the parents. As soon as I discovered that she had
been a teacher for years in Catholic schools, she was "in trouble."
I contacted her the following day and she attended a catechists'
meeting with me in the diocesan office in Corner Brook.
My wife Linda and I make it a point to visit the homes of the sick
who are unable to come to church. We also visit those who are sick
and in hospital one hundred kilometres away. We try to find time
to visit seniors' homes as well. We truly want our parish to thrive,
and we like to think that we are keeping faith alive by our example.
We believe that as long as we are doing the work that God wants
us to do, we will succeed.
Many times when I become discouraged, especially when I miss our
children and grandchildren who live so far away, I go to the church
and pray. As well, I receive support from Linda who also misses
our children and grandchildren.
The people of our parish are very supportive of us. They have a
strong faith in God and encourage us in any way they can. We just
have to try harder to get our youth involved. In the coming months,
we hope to get some of our youth to attend a COR weekend in Corner
Brook, especially our Confirmation candidates.
In May, there will be a National Evangelization Team who will be
working with our Grades 7 to 12. This summer, we will get some of
our Grades 4 to 6 to a camp where they will be involved with others
in learning more about Jesus while having the time of their lives.
We have a small choir at St. Fintan`s, and I sometimes call it
our first miracle here. We were using tapes for the first couple
of months. One evening, an elderly lady came to church at Highlands;
it was the first time that I had met her and her daughter. She said
she would be coming back again. She lived in another town in a nursing
home. We were later told she had died the following week. Her daughter,
who had brought her to church, called and asked if I could lead
the funeral service. At the service, this lady's daughter, Karen,
and her sister, sang the hymns. Neither of them had been coming
to church but since that day, almost two years ago, they have become
our choir. They formed a small choir and faithfully play and sing
Our excellent parish council and members promote the good of our
parish as well as help out by fundraising.
With the closing of the fishery, the loss of the railway years ago,
and now the closing of the Stephenville Mill, there is high unemployment
here. We lose so many of our young people to outmigration as they
look for work. It also gets more difficult for them to support our
churches and our programs.
We depend on Catholic Missions In Canada (www.cmic.info) to help
us out. This year, we hope to repair or replace the windows in the
church. We fixed them temporarily this past fall so that the snow
and wind did not get in this winter. The repair also cut down heating
We were lucky this year as the Presentation Sisters helped pay
for our catechetical program for Grades 1 to 6.
Even with all the extra financial help this year, however, we could
not survive without Catholic Missions. CMIC's donations help in
the upkeep of our churches, our parish house, and our salary.
Linda and I have worked as volunteers in small churches wherever
we lived. Oblate Bishop Henri Goudreault and Father Joe Baril, another
Oblate priest in Labrador City, had encouraged me to get more involved
in the Church.
Thus, when we retired in 1996, we decided to move to Prince Edward
Island so I could complete the Diploma in Ministry Course through
St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
I thank Sister Georgina Johnston of the Sisters of Martha in Prince
Edward Island; Sister Ruth O'Reilly, at Port Au Port; and Sister
Claudette Gallant, who was at St. Paul's on the Great Northern Peninsula.
Sister Margaret McLaughlin, who is now at St. Paul's, encouraged
me to contact Bishop Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., of St. George's diocese,
and so here I am. I could not be happier in any other type of work.
I have such great faith in God and I truly love what I am doing.
(Peter Mackey is lay spiritual director at St. Columcille parish,
in the Diocese of St. George's, Newfoundland and Labrador.)
Toronto priest is new president of Catholic Missions In Canada
TORONTO - A priest from the Archdiocese of Toronto who has served
for many years in the missions in Northern Ontario is the new president
of Catholic Missions In Canada.
Father Philip J. Kennedy, pastor of St. James parish in Colgan,
Ontario, succeeds Father Sebastien Groleau as the 13th president
of the organization which has served the Canadian missions since
Born and raised in the mining community of Sudbury, Ontario, Fr.
Kennedy attended Catholic schools in the area and worked briefly
in the mines before pursuing his B.A. and majoring in Classics at
Laurentian University. After completing his bachelor's degree in
secondary education, he taught Latin, drama and English in the Nickel
District Collegiate and at Marymount College in Sudbury.
In 1983, he completed his seminary studies at St. Augustine Seminary
and theology studies through St. Paul University. He also holds
a Master of Divinity from the Toronto School of Theology.
Ordained a priest in 1983, Fr. Kennedy first served at St. Anne's
parish in Brampton and was seconded to the Diocese of Thunder Bay
from 1988 to 1994. There he served as director of the diaconate
training program, coordinator of the ministry to separated and divorced,
director of the archives, chaplain to the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital,
and chairman of the Office of Worship for the diocese. From 1991
to 1994, he served as pastor of Corpus Christi parish in Thunder
Fr. Kennedy returned to the Archdiocese of Toronto in 1994, and
has since served at St. Paul's parish in Alliston, St. Barnabas
parish in Scarborough, and Saint James parish in Colgan and Tottenham.
He was appointed to the Priests' Seminar Committee for the Toronto
archdiocese from 1995 to 2000 and archdiocesan director for the
Pontifical Mission Societies. He has also served on the Priests'
Personnel Board for the archdiocese from 2000 to the present.
Pilgrimage to Sandy Island, Northern Saskatchewan
Dene gather for weekend of prayer and worship
By Father Bob Leblanc
For the past number of years, the Dene people of the community
of Wollaston Lake in Northern Saskatchewan have been gathering at
the top end of Wollaston Lake on Sandy Island for a weekend of camping
and prayer and worship which is usually held towards the end of
August. Most of the participants have already been on pilgrimage
to Lac Ste. Anne in Alberta the previous month but Sandy Island
also holds a special place for them.
Wollaston Lake is a huge lake-some 70 kilometres long and 40 kilometres
wide-and after a long boat ride from the community on the southwest
side of the lake, they gather as families of grandparents, parents,
and children setting up their tents on Thursday and Friday. Sandy
Island was chosen because an elder had a dream of healings taking
place there. They have erected a small outdoor chapel beside a small
lake on the island, placed a large cross on the hill behind the
lake, and a beautiful Way of the Cross around the small lake.
For the past four summers, it has been my pleasure and privilege
to accompany them as their priest to this beautiful place to camp
with them, to pray and celebrate Mass and Reconciliation, to eat
their food of smoked fish and caribou and share in their laughter
of stories of the good old days. It's a weekend I look forward to
each year. At times, I can't help but feel I get more from them
than they receive. It's wonderful to be in that rich faith environment.
The old missionaries did quite a job.
The children and teens keep busy with swimming and fishing. The
adults catch and smoke fish and visit one another-sharing their
food and telling their stories. When the weather is good, it is
truly a beautiful place to be.
The weekend starts off with Mass at the small chapel and then the
blessing of the lake and prayer for healing. The rest of the weekend
goes by quickly with a Mass each day, Reconciliation, the Way of
the Cross, and recitation of the rosary. The past pilgrimage was
highlighted by a wedding at the chapel. Following Mass on Sunday
afternoon, a feast takes place of the rich native food available.
Following that, a pack-up and clean-up and the long boat ride home.
(A grant from Catholic Missions In Canada (www.cmic.info) allows
Father Bob LeBlanc to fly to the Dene community of Lac Brochet in
Northern Manitoba from his mission community at Wollaston Lake in
Northern Saskatchewan each month.)
Patria C. Rivera, Editor, Catholic Missions In Canada Magazine
Catholic Missions In Canada
201-1155 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario M4T 1W2
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