Photo courtesy of Catholic Missions In Canada

New Catholic Missions In Canada president understands needs of remote communities

  • September 1, 2016

TORONTO – Fr. David Reilander has seen the importance of Catholic Missions In Canada first-hand.

For several years he was rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Whitehorse, Yukon, and vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Whitehorse. He and five fellow priests would between them visit all 23 parishes in the remote reaches of the Yukon about once a month to celebrate Mass and other sacraments.

“In terms of the Whitehorse diocese, CMIC looks after 95 per cent of the churches. Only one church is self-sustaining,” he said.

“A mission parish is one in which people are poor. It’s usually isolated and they can’t afford to have a church. To know that they have a priest who cares and that there is a Catholic organization helping them to have sacraments brought to them by priests is a very important thing. It’s a sign of hope.”

Catholic Missions In Canada is a sign of hope for the faithful living in the remote north and Reilander — who took over as the new president of Catholic Missions on Sept. 1 from the retirng Fr. Philip Kennedy — aims to make those mission churches a priority.

Reilander said it is the organization’s responsibility to support missions that sustain the Catholic faith in the northern territories.

Reilander said bringing new sources of support for the northern missions is especially critical now as the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples withdraws its support for Canada’s northern mission churches.

The Canadian bishops’ conference has slowly been transitioning away from the Vatican’s support so that Catholic Missions can play a larger role in subsidizing the nation’s own churches.

“The consideration was that Canada is a first-world nation and really shouldn’t need to rely on funds from Rome,” said Reilander. “There are other places around the world that need those funds and so we should be able to support our own.”

As Reilander begins his first week as president, he is eager to meet his staff and become even more familiar with his role. He said his most important job is to support his staff and help them do their jobs.

He admits that, at first, he was confused when he was approached for the position. He had thought that his heart for missionary work was a perfect fit in the Yukon, but it seems God had larger plans for him.

“It’s mixed feelings,” said Reilander. “I love the Yukon. Great people and I like the travelling around to the missions... but now it wouldn’t just be the Yukon, I would be looking after all the missions across Canada.”

Reilander said he anticipates he will be travelling to missions across Canada about a third of the year, familiarizing himself with the different missions, meeting bishops and bringing hope to communities.

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