Well, it’s been a while since we had an update on our life. It seems like life just keeps going, even when we don’t stop to write about it. So here it goes…
It seems like so long ago now, but we were in Whitehorse the week of January 12th to 19th, and what a week it was. On a little side note; we were blessed by the presence of Fr.David Reilander, from the Hamilton Diocese (Ontario) and a seminarian from St.Joseph’s in Edmonton, Tin Tran. they had both joined us for Mass in Telegraph Creek the weekend before, and then had hit a moose on their way back to Whitehorse on the highway from Telegraph Creek to Dease Lake. Fortunately they survived with only a cracked front fender, a missing side-view mirror, and a big scrape down the side of the vehicle.
Our main purpose for being in Whitehorse was for the pastoral study days. It was great being able to catch up with all of the pastoral staff, along with friends, and even made some new friends. Fr. David had a great presentation/workshop on forgiveness and healing. We first addressed the effects of sin on individuals and groups in our communities then led in to the personal effects of receiving God’s forgiveness, from our own experiences. In a nutshell, we had concluded that the effects of sin in our communities weakens personal self-worth and the foundation for a healthy communal experience of life, leading to life revolving around dysfunction. His presentation concluded with taking a look at healing and offering forgiveness. It was seen that forgiveness leads to an antidote for the cancer of sin in communities. We discussed our role, as pastoral staff, in our parishes and they place we have in people’s lives as, the truth is, many of us feel unqualified in our ministry. Discussing ministry, we were encouraged to take our own personal experience of sin and forgiveness and share it with our communities. This was very reassuring, the we minister from our experiences. I would like to share a few of our compiled thoughts with you, as I believe they are relevant in whatever situation we are in, even family life;
-Stepped approach to deal with issues, rather than expect immediate results; start with self and keep grounded, be aware of vulnerability, be gentle with self.
-Be aware of our own emotional state before dealing with others, don’t raise the bar of achievement too high, meet people where they are at.
-Healing and forgiveness is a process and is not limited to a certain time period; Jesus did not save everyone in his time of ministry, initiate contact and invite people to the sacraments, use humour, smile!
-Patience, patience, patience.
-Forgiveness is not conditional.
-Multicultural issues; not all cultures have the same sense of forgiveness. Actually we discovered this week that in the Tahltan dialect there is no phrase for “I’m sorry.” It is a belief that Tahltan people never intend to hurt one another being that there is always a reason for one’s action. Traditionally, if a person was seen to have wronged another, there would need to be a time of restitution. This is an ongoing discovery for us as we continue to get to know people and the culture here. We are constantly reminded that we are to be ‘little, poor, childlike.’
In closing, Theresa Vogel, the pastoral administrator here in Telegraph Creek before us, had a presentation on ‘Bethany Groups’, groups formed in support of grieving and so named in that they recall the visit of Jesus to Mary and Martha at the time of the death of their brother Lazarus, in Bethany. The struggle with Death, appears to be one of the main catalysts for many of the difficulties and trials in these northern, isolated communities. The most need arises at such times. So often, in our day and age, we look at grief as a disease to be avoided, rather than a wound to be healed. Practically speaking, the ministry of consolation is the ‘heavy lifting’ of missionary activity in remote areas, as much as we would like to celebrate the sacraments of the young and the vigorous and rejoice with the community at exceptionally happy times. It is said that grief is a consequence of love, and likewise our belief in the death and resurrection of Christ is also a consequence of love and fills us with hope to share with others. We went over the practicals of the events and preparations surrounding the death of an individual and concluded with, that for all involved (leaders, volunteers, communities, participants), moving forward is about healing, in whatever form it may take, coping with a new reality, and finding a new way of ‘being’.
All of these reflections and our time was extremely blessed and, in a huge way, left us feeling more prepared to be able to minister and continue to be present to our community. If we could put it in one sentence, the overlying theme of all of the presentations was that our own experiences leave us suitably qualified to bring Christ’s healing, forgiveness, and consolation to all those in need of His hope!
Fr.David also announced that he will be coming back, in the summer, to serve in our diocese for the next 3 years. What a blessing!
We were also excited to be in Whitehorse as we were going to be able to attend the Holy Family Apostolate meeting. Unfortunately, all of us, except for Josh, came down with the stomach flu. We spent much of our time recuperating and even stayed a couple extra days until everyone was feeling better to travel. Isaiah got hit the hardest, struggling through for about a week and a half.
There was a cold spell in Telegraph Creek the week or two before going to Whitehorse, with temperatures down in the 20 to 30 below range which seemed to aggravate our Diesel truck leading to a bit of an engine coolant leak. Fortunately it had’t got too bad before we made it to Whitehorse and we were able to check it into the shop. One of the challenges to living in a remote area is not having access to a full service shop or a parts store within 600 km. With a new water pump we were on the road and been running strong ever since. God provides and we were blessed with a timely and generous donation which payed almost exactly for the entire cost of the repair!
Aliz had many first’s while we were in Whitehorse. She got her first tooth:) Aliz is at the stage where everything is taste tested, no matter what it is. If it is within reach, it’s in her mouth. So it was a full time job, almost, just running surveillance. Now, as you can imagine, with 8 kids running around (our kids as well as the friends we were staying with) there was a lot to keep track of and the one day Aliz had found a battery operated tealight candle. By the time we got to her, after tending to Isaiah getting sick, she had the taillight half in her mouth, but with a missing battery. We did’t hear any distress, but figured we should take her to emergency just in case. So she had her first x-ray and fortunately there was no battery! Aliz also had a battle with the stairs. Fortunately both her, and her guardian angel, won out in the long run!
On our way home we stopped in Jade City, about a little over an hour north of Dease Lake, to visit with a Catholic family there. With a population of about 20 people they make up half the population of the little town. We had met them in the summer, in a very brief exchange of about 5 minutes, so it was nice to get some time to get to know them and share our stories. With 8 children of there own our kids loved the excitement of getting to know them and the welcomed break from traveling.
We arrived back in Telegraph Creek greeted by rain showers. All the snow had cascaded off the metal roof, careening in to the van, and into the parking spot for the truck on the other side of the house. Fortunately the van was just far enough away from the house that there was no damage and I just had to dig out the front corner of it. After about a week of warm weather it has turned cold again and the parking lot is a sheet of ice. Two days ago it snowed about 5 cms so now it’s even more interesting with the ice under the snow.
Bishop Gary Gordon, the most recent bishop of our diocese, had recently been moved to the Diocese of Victoria and had been talking to people down there about the possibility of twinning with a parish in the North. So we have been in contact with St.Andrew’s Cathedral in Victoria, as of late, and they will be twinning with us here at St.Theresa’s in Telegraph Creek, along with the communities of Our Lady of Fatima (Iskut) and St.Mary Magdelene (Dease Lake). We are not sure what ‘twinning’ will look like at this point as it is a new concept to both diocese’s, but we envision a sharing of resources and of prayers for needs. Kind of like a faith community home away from home, although that is what the Catholic Church is about. Our most immediate needs are prayer, especially for healing, a sign to go at the end of the driveway so that people know that the church is here, and a wheel chair access ramp. Other projects forthcoming will be a new roof and a cement pad at the base of the church steps.I will share with you a little bit of what I shared with the rector at St.Andrew’s about our communities:
The main reserves of the Tahltan First Nation are located in Telegraph Creek and is home to about 400 residents, of which approximately 350 are of Tahltan ancestry. You can find out more about the Tahltan people here. The modern history of Telegraph Creek dates back to the 1860′s with the Stikine and Cassiar gold rushes. These events led to the first major influx of non-Tahltan people into their territories. As its name suggests, Telegraph Creek was named for an overland telegraph line that was to connect southern Canada to the Yukon. Construction of the line was started in 1866 and finished in 1901. It fell into disuse with the increasingly widespread use of wireless radio communication in the 1930′s. The community of Dease Lake is closely linked with the community of Telegraph Creek, as it is the village at the intersection of the Cassiar highway, the only road accessing South to hwy 16 and North to the Alaska Highway, as you come out from Telegraph Creek. Telegraph, Dease Lake, and Iskut
Dease Lake began its existence as a trading post started by the Hudsons Bay Company in 1837. It would become a stopping point for prospectors heading north for the Stikine, Cassiar, and Klondike gold rushes. Dease Lake is located about 50 km north of the Stikine River and is the junction to Telegraph Creek. Today the town is considered the government centre and supply point for the district. The present population numbers around 475 of which approximately 45% are Tahltan.
Iskut is another community that is closely linked to Telegraph Creek. The Tahltan First Nations’ territory spans these three communities, and beyond. Therefore, between these 3 communities there are many relatives, and it is quite common to see people who come to visit their family in town at our services in Telegraph Creek.
The Catholic missions in these communities are the southernmost communities in the Diocese of Whitehorse; St.Theresa’s (Telegraph Creek), St.Mary Magdelene (Dease Lake), Our Lady of Fatima (Iskut). Currently, Dease Lake is without a pastoral administrator, so they have Mass once a month, and both Iskut & Telegraph have communion service every Sunday along with Mass once a month.
As for distance, Iskut is located on the Cassiar highway about 886 km north west of Prince George. Dease lake is another 84 km(1 hour) North. To get to Telegraph Creek you turn off the main highway at Dease Lake and go another 112 km on gravel road, twisting and winding throughout the Stikine River Canyon. I have never seen anything quite like this road; very scenic and quite windy with some very steep grades. It is the most remote community accessible by road in BC.
As far as church community demographics, St.Theresa’s is 96% 60 yrs old +(this doesn’t include our family) and currently there is 2 other caucasian people who attend(besides ourselves). We have anywhere from about 10 -17 people attending the services on the weekend. There have been requests for baptisms as well as catechism classes. So we are looking at starting catechism classes in the near future as well as sacramental prep for parents. This Sunday we are starting up a children’s liturgy of the word. It will only be our 4 little ones in attendance but it is a start and something we can invite others too. There are 35 school aged children in the community, and most young people leave for their grade 9 – 12 schooling in other larger cities(such as Terrace). Currently there is one young person attending(who comes with her grandparents).
We are hoping to travel to Juneau, Alaska in the summer for training in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Preparations are in full swing now as we get ready to shift into the season of Lent. Who knows where January went, but it sure flew by. We have also had some changes to our vacation schedule since we had posted about them last, so an update will be coming shortly!