Jacqueline and Tyler Tuktoo from Taloyoak, Nunavut, were delegates to the diocesan meeting.
CHURCHILL, MAN. – In early September, Bishop Reynald Rouleau retraced the steps of Bishop Arsène Turquetil, who co-founded the first parish in the Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay 100 years ago.
On Sept. 2, Rouleau presided over special services in Chesterfield Inlet at the Parish of Mary, Help of Christians. Located on the western shores of Hudson Bay, Chesterfield Inlet (population 450) is located 550 km north of the episcopal see of Churchill.
The Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay covers the community of Churchill, Man. and most of Nunavut, west from Gjoa Haven to the High Arctic and Baffin Island.
About 7,500 Catholics live in 15 communities where parishes exist along the Arctic Coast, and inland at Baker Lake. Airplane travel is the only mode of transportation to visit all the Nunavut communities.
While the Sept. 2 Mass marked the 100th anniversary closest to the date of the arrival of the first missionaries in the diocese, official celebrations to mark the diocesan centennial were held July 29 in conjunction with a 11-day formation and business meeting of Inuit lay leaders in Rankin Inlet.
During this meeting in Rankin Inlet, four small airplane loads of delegates and local guests headed to Chesterfield Inlet for a day of celebration and festivities, sponsored not only by the local parish, but by the whole community.
At the last 75th anniversary event (July 30, 1987) in Chesterfield Inlet, Bishop Reynald Rouleau had been ordained in Rankin Inlet the previous day as the diocese's new bishop.
This followed the tragic plane accident in Rankin Inlet in November 1986 that claimed the lives of Bishop Omer Robidoux, Oblate Father Theophile Didier (Inuktitut biblical translator), and Sister Lise Turcotte (diocesan religious education coordinator).
Out of the ashes of that year, the diocese declared New Life in the Spirit for its 75th celebration.
Twenty-five years later, centennial celebrations were developed from the ideas of the delegates to the previous year's meeting of Inuit lay leaders in July 2011. The main theme revolved around the wording In Jesus We are One.
The leaders developed a centennial prayer with the assistance of the Arviat pastoral team and Oblate Father Robert Lechat. This prayer has been read in whole and part all across the diocese at worship services last winter.
The delegates' concept of a logo coming from this meeting was developed by a pastoral agent in Rankin Inlet, Fabienne Theytaz, and finalized by Patrick Lorand (Bruderheim, Alta.).
From this logo, patches, embroidered stoles and balloons were custom-produced for the northern communities. A calendar was developed from the diocesan archives and distributed through the parishes.
A centennial song sung in Inuktitut and English at the leaders' meeting was prepared in Arviat with the help of Diane Thibodeau, Raymonde Pelletier, and Jackie and Paul Kattau.
The meeting of the Inuit lay leaders echoed the themes of the centennial including thanking those who came before us. Testimony from the delegates revealed the family members and religious personnel who inspired their faith journeys.
The Inuit leaders are grounded in the reality of the challenges placed on their society and Church by a rapidly modernizing North. In one way or another, all of them have been personally touched by suicides and the collateral effects of a deep cultural shock.
Despite sorrows expressed in the testimony of their personal journeys and struggles, their love of the Lord, willingness to serve their communities, and joy expressed in the singing of hymns during the meetings and celebrations is inspiring.
While it is easy to dwell on negative aspects like the "passing of the old guard" – missionary personnel and the original Inuit catechist leaders – the spirit to prevail and grow is strong in the diocese.
For example, new formation and community development programs have been initiated by the pastoral team at the Mikilaaq Centre in Arviat (Franciscan sisters and local parish).
The religious personnel of the diocese, while small in number, remain steadfast. However, new religious personnel committed to walking humbly with the residents of our diocese are more than welcome.