Looking back it has already been close to 1 year since we last sent out an update. It has been a full year and one with a lot of adjustments, challenges and changes. This year, up to this point in our family life, has been one of the greatest struggle and growth, but also great blessing.
As always, we have enjoyed so much the time that we have had to spend with family and friends in the south. It has become so precious to us, as the distance makes our hearts long for the physical presence of our loved ones, which we have grown to cherish much more deeply than we ever have.
There has been a lot happening in the community this year. Joshua celebrated his third funeral service within a month and a half of each other, just last month, which is always a very moving opportunity and one he feels so honoured to be asked to celebrate. We believe that it is truly a comfort for the people here to have a presence at the church. It was reassuring, just recently when Joshua was asked to lead a funeral service they said, “We are thankful to have you here to do this for us.” We also finished up sacramental prep with the celebration of the Sacrament of First Holy Communion, back in May, a total of 8 children and their families attending. It has been an ongoing journey here in the ministry of presence, the more we are truly present the more we feel welcomed in; a school, where we are equals walking side by side and discovering what we can bring forth from eachother. A wonderful mystery! As we get to know people more there is a certain longing we have to go deeper and to encourage others to go deeper as well, in their faith, and so there has been some challenging pastoral moments.
We continue to host a family games nite every Friday night during the winter months, which is a highlight especially for the children. We had the help of some of the community members, and one of the other pastoral administrators, in relocating our shed from the front yard to the back and now have a lovely pull through driveway and extra parking; a huge transformation, and now the church is visible from the main road!!
At the kids’ Spring Break we were able to join both sides of our family, and were blessed with a prolonged visit(with Joshua’s side), albeit not under the most preferable of circumstances with Joshua being diagnosed with MS and facing a lot of uncertainty. Although at times we felt lost, and didn’t know what to do, we also felt so blessed and provided for and were showered with so many prayers and so much support. It was a big adjustment of our lifestyle, especially at first, but feel now that we have somewhat settled into this new reality.
In previous years Joshua has been a one-man show with getting our winter’s firewood; cutting the wood, hauling the wood, and splitting and stacking the wood. But this year from start to finish it was a team effort! Volunteers from the community, family, priests, seminarians, and even the Bishop lent us a huge helping hand! We were blessed to have 2 new priests arrive in the diocese, serving northern BC and the Yukon. So we were able to start having them come down to celebrate Mass twice a month, instead of the usual once a month, which it had been for the last 2.5 years.
One of the biggest highlights of the year was our time with family over the summer; celebrating both of our parents’ anniversaries (35th & 40th) as well as Joshua’s brother’s wedding. Our summer vacation finished up with our speaking(as the key-note speakers) at the Catholic Family Conference on Vancouver Island; a whole new experience for us. We were very humbled to see God work through us and touch the lives of those who attended. Joshua’s favorite moments were being able to talk to the men, sharing his story with them and encouraging them in their walks and also being surrounded by the support of our family while doing so. Denise’s favorite moment was being able to journey with a loved one back to the Catholic faith! At the beginning of the conference we had all our kids up there with us and did a short rap grace and introduction, which ended up being a great hit both with the kids and the crowd. It was great being able to incorporate our whole family into our sharing! It was very uplifting to be surrounded by so many other Catholic families, and also to have some of our extended family with us; Denise’s mom, brother, and sister-in-law, and Joshua’s parents, 3 siblings, and 3 cousins.
The kids had a good start to the school year, still enjoying the fact that there is an actual school bus that drives them to and from school. Kateri has moved in to the older grade, the Grade 3 – 5 class. Her favourite part of school is her Tahltan language class that she has every day. Isaiah started Kindergarten, joining his big sister Gianna in the K – 2 class. Isaiah is very quiet in class but loves recess and a program they do, called “Go-Noodle”! Gianna loves math and reading and enjoys helping Isaiah with these skills too! Aliz has been enjoying Headstart(preschool) but hasn’t had too many classmates. Being a social butterfly this has been difficult for her, so has been intermittent with her excitement in attending. Tobias has been into everything, whatever he can reach or get a chair to reach, and has been starting to say a few more words.
We wound down the fiscal year here with a trip to Whitehorse, for our Pastoral Advent Retreat on Church law, mainly highlighting the Sacraments with emphasis being on ways and ideas for being more pastorally present in our communities. As always it was good to be together with our northern family; the priests, other pastoral staff, the Maryhouse ladies, and our other friends. We always leave to come back home feeling so spiritually nourished, We also had our fill of fun, staying at our friends’ place and with their 6 kids, all around the same age as ours. Our God-son’s family with five kids live next door too, so it is always a party! This time around we were able to go to the pool, to the sledding hill for a pizza and hot chocolate party, and the Santa Claus parade and live Christmas tree light-up!
Our new year started out with a surprise bon fire in our back yard, which we found out about when we got a knock on the door at around 11pm, and were greeted by a caravan of vehicles in our driveway. It was SAFE! It was the brush pile that we had built back in the summer when we were clearing the front yard to move the shed and build the new driveway. That morning Joshua had taken some hot ash from the fireplace and emptied it on the pile, as he always does, and with there being a foot and a half of snow over the pile who thought it would flare up. Some 8 hours later it indeed did. So it worked out well with the very cold weather and added some excitement to everyone’s new year’s eve. A day later we were joined by our friends from Fraser Lake, a family with 6 kids, for a few days. It was so wonderful to have close friends with us to spend some of the holidays doing fun things together.
We recently had two seminarians, studying for the Diocese of Grouard- McLennan(Northern Alberta), from St.Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton stay with us. They were here for around 3 weeks for their pastoral experience. It was a truly blessed time as they fit seamlessly into our family and community life. It was special for the community to see these young men who are studying to be priests and they even got a comment, “People still do that?” But they were received so openly be all in the community. It was wonderful having their hand for catechism classes and they were even each able to share a reflection at our Sunday Communion Service. Really, for us, it was like having family staying with us with the gracious amount of support they brought. The Lord continues to bless us with unique opportunities, like this, that give us a greater love for our universal Church and a greater appreciation for how He continues to work in and through our lives and the lives of those around us.
We wrapped up this last weekend with the Winter Carnival here in town, bookended with Gianna’s birthday(on Friday) and her party(on Monday). Although it was a lot of fun it definitely left us fairly exhausted. Life here in a small town usually doesn’t have this much going on at once 🙂
Well, we feel that there is so much more we could say and share however out of the hope of actually getting out this update to all of you we will have to leave it at that. And hopefully we will have time to write some more soon!
PS – Would not want to forget our most exciting news…