Photo of 16 collision victims Courtesy of Manitoba RCMP

Dauphin prayer vigil commemorates bus crash victims

  • June 23, 2023

Marking a “tremendously difficult week,” the small Manitoba city of Dauphin came together to mourn the loss of 16 of its elder members who lost their lives in a horrific June 15 accident.

The Dauphin and District Ministerial Association organized a June 22 prayer vigil in the city. No cameras were allowed into this sacred, sombre occasion. According to local media, over 500 Dauphinites — and out-of-town visitors — were on hand to support their fellow community members. Participants read Psalms and passages of scripture. Eighteen candles were lit: one for each of the deceased, one for the nine survivors in the hospital and one for the first responders.

Fr. Michel Nault, the pastor of Dauphin’s St. Viator’s Church, spoke with The Catholic Register hours before he helped lead the community memorial vigil at the Ukrainian Orthodox Auditorium.

“It is a simple prayer service,” said Nault. “At first, we were not going to mention any names, but we might now since the names are out there. … I am personally leading the prayers for the first responders and the survivors.”

Earlier that day, the RCMP co-hosted a press conference alongside city and county officials to recognize each of the deceased. Mourning family members carried giant portrait photographs of their loved ones and placed them on easels as each name was called.

Dauphin Mayor David Bosiak said it “has been a tremendously difficult week” as “the scope of this incident became clear over the next days, a genuine sense of sombreness and sadness descended upon Dauphin and the surrounding community.”

“It was palpable,” said Bosiak. “It showed how much we cared for the survivors and how much we grieved for those who were lost.”

Bosiak commended the citizenry and individuals from nearby communities for making extra efforts to be caring and neighbourly. He also appreciated the messages of support pouring in from across Canada and beyond.

Addressing the prayer vigil, Fr. Brent Kuzyk of St. George’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church told the crowd the love and wisdom shared with them by the victims “throughout your life now becomes the foundation by which you find reason, purpose and the will to move forward,"

"Every person on that bus, we know and we respect as being citizens of our community and our parishes,” said Kuzyk. “They had a lust for life and a desire to fill their lives with experience, with the (ability) of finding joy and making memories with their families and friends whenever they could."

Respecting the privacy of grieving loved ones, Nault opted not to identify the deceased who attended his parish. However, he said he knew several of the victims. Meetings with family members to organize funerals will occur over the coming days.

Nault, St. Viator’s pastor since 2019, offered emotional support to his grieving parish flock through his heartfelt homily on June 18.  

“The bottom line is grief,” said Nault during his sermon. “And grief is grief. The most important aspect of grief is just to be present and listen.

“The grief to be dealt with — we just deal with (grief) like we usually do, but just a little more. We pray a little more for others. We do more acts of kindness for each other. What you do, if you are doing it out of love, it will have a positive effect. The fruits of love will be there.”

The pastor said “he has had to provide support in a number of tragic situations” during his long vocational career as a priest.

“That homily was a mixture of many different experiences that I could turn to.”

Nault said he is grateful to everyone responding to this tragedy by offering prayers.

The 16 victims have been identified as: Louis Bretecher, 81; Margaret Furkalo, 82; Vangie Gilchrist, 83; Ann Hill, 81; Helen Kufley, 88; Arlene Lindquist, 68; Dianne Medwid, 70; Nettie Nakonechny, 87; Shirley Novalkowski, 76; Frank and Rose Perzylo, 82 and 80; Jean Rosenkranz, 82; Lillian Stobbe, 73; Donna Showdra, 79; Patsy Zamrykut, 88; and Claudia Zurba, 87.

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