By Father Rodrigue Vezina, O.M.I.
There is no road—only muskeg between two villages—where Northern Ontario missionary serves.
I am pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Attawapiskat, the last Northern village on the Ontario side of James Bay, but I also serve at Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Peawanuck, a village 300 km north of Attawapiskat on Hudson Bay.
Every month I make a trip by plane, of course, because there is no road—only muskeg between the two villages—to serve that community. Since the plane goes there only twice a week, I am there from Thursday to Tuesday.
On Friday mornings, I go to the school to teach religion in the three classes from Kindergarten to Grade 8. In the afternoons, I walk through the village visiting the elderly and the sick; if it is the First Friday of the month, I give them Holy Communion and pray with them as I usually do when I go to visit them.
We pray the rosary every evening, followed by Mass. Often, parishioners will stay to give news of what is happening in the community—who has gone to the hospital down South, who has gone through the ice because he ventured out too soon on the thin ice of the lakes—or talk about their own personal concerns about their children. At other times, I prepare young parents for the baptism of their newborn or couples who are planning to get married.
During weekends, when children are not in school, I ask those children getting ready for First Reconciliation and First Communion to come to the church to prepare for the sacraments.
On Sunday mornings in Attawapiskat, we have Mass at St. Francis Xavier parish in the beautiful little church built like a wigwam. The sound is very good and the people sing with all their heart the glories and blessings of the Lord.
In the evenings, we have Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and we pray for each member of the community.
I make the same preparations for my monthly ministry in Peawanuck, a little village where the geese fly over the houses, the caribou cross the streets, the wolves roam around the village, and the polar bears check the dump.
Father Rodrigue Vézina, O.M.I., is pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Attawapiskat and the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha mission in Peawanuck, in Northern Ontario, in the Diocese of Moosonee. He received the St. Joseph Award for outstanding missionary work in 2006.