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November 2, 2006
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.
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
Sidebar: 'As a young man, I had all kinds of
"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.
Never a dull day in the missions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Tel: (416) 934-3424, or toll-free at 1 (866) YES-CMIC (937-2642)