Trudy Moessner

Mission work takes Moessner across north, into Russia

By 
  • April 30, 2022

Trudy Moessner has unfailingly trusted and acted upon the Lord’s destiny for her life.

She has aided as a missionary in Edmonton, Whitehorse, Combermere, Ont., Regina and even in the small port town of Magadan in the Russian far east. She returned to northern Canada in 2012 to become the pastoral administrator for the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church Catholic Mission in Teslin, Yukon. She remains in this role a decade later, serving the Teslin Tlingit Council First Nation.

On April 29, during Catholic Missions In Canada Tastes of Heaven Gala, Moessner was honoured with the 2022 St. Philip Neri Award for lifetime achievement for her nearly half a century of missionary work.

Speaking with The Catholic Register a few days before the award ceremony, Moessner expressed gratitude and humility for this recognition.

“It is really humbling to receive the award — that is all I can say,” said Moessner. “I just don’t think of myself in those terms. I just think of myself as an ordinary person who lives in an ordinary village who loves the Lord.”

Moessner was in the company of Catholic Missions president Fr. David Reilander and stewardship officer Joe Gennaro when they toured missionary locations in the Yukon last year. Reilander overheard Moessner tell someone in the group that she had served in Canada’s northern territories for two decades. Reilander told her on the spot that she would be a worthy recipient of the St. Philip Neri Award, which was known as the St. Joseph Award until this year.

Moessner was appreciative to receive this consideration, but her humble nature ensured she didn’t give it too much thought. She said the “award was out of my mind” until she received a recent email.

Moessner was the oldest of seven children in her farming family near the small central Alberta village of Spring Lake. She has fond memories of her “small country church in the middle of a field” that gained regional notoriety for its annual Corpus Christi procession.

“I was just like many Catholics (growing up),” reminisced Moessner. “I didn’t really understand my faith that well, you know. We just were going to church all the time. I do remember feeling a very strong attraction towards God, but then I fell in love with horses, basketball and playing music in different bands. I drifted away from my faith. I was aware of it, but was not practising it.”

Her attention remained distant from God while she studied music at the University of Alberta in Edmonton as she “was having too much fun.”

Two profound experiences in 1974 moved God back to the centre of Moessner’s life for good. The first was a desire to pray at the university chapel one day, where she encountered “the profound love of God.” Within two weeks, she began volunteering at the Madonna House Apostolate’s Marian Centre for the homeless and poor.

“It was incredible and I just couldn’t stay away from the place. I actually dropped a semester of schooling in order to volunteer at this place full time. I never really thought about what has happening. I just kept coming back.”

One night, after the Marian Centre’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Party, Moessner had another powerful prayer encounter that guided her to becoming a member of the Madonna House Apostolate lay Catholic Christian community, and she would relocate to serve at the founding Madonna House in Combermere, Ont., in 1975.

In 1987, she answered the call to become the director of the Madonna community’s Maryhouse in Whitehorse. She guided one emergency shelter for men and another for women and children, and helmed a food and clothing distribution network accessed by nearly all the community. She said she was touched by the countless occasions where God exhibited how He provides. Without fail, the fieldhouse would always receive the timely donation or package of goods.

In 1993, Moessner was one of three Madonna House staff members invited to establish a Madonna House in Magadan, a city with a diminishing population that was once an administrative centre for the Russian gulag detention camps that operated under the former Soviet Union.

“We were living with survivors of the gulags. We were living with people who had not been able to attend Mass for a long time, who had kept their faith while experiencing absolutely horrendous persecution — yet somehow, they were holy, holy people,” Moessner said.

Being in the presence of people who radiate the light of God is one of the powerful rewards of her missionary life. She routinely bears witness to the strong Christian conviction that guides the elders of the Teslin First Nation community whether it be during the weekly communion service she leads, at community functions or in casual home visits.

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