Catholic Missions In Canada serves up Tastes of Heaven

  • May 6, 2011

WOODBRIDGE, Ont. - If Pope Benedict XVI wants to declare saints, former prime minister John Turner sees no reason why he shouldn't get in on the act. Turner declared three "living saints" of his own at the annual Tastes of Heaven fundraising dinner for Catholic Missions In Canada.

"Rome may not reach you but I'm telling you, you are saints," Turner declared to three missionaries at the May 6 dinner in Woodbridge.

As a long-time supporter and honorary chair of the Tastes of Heaven event, Turner was chosen to hand out the St. Joseph Award to three northern missionaries. Soeurs de Sainte-Chretienne Sr. Bernadette Gautreau and Sr. Jeannette Berger received the award for a half-century of service in Fox Lake and John d'Or Prairie in the Little Red River Cree Nation. Oblate Father Joseph Baril was given the award for 57 years with the Cree of James Bay, the Inuit of northern Quebec and communities in Labrador.

Beyond the living saints it was a night to acknowledge the everyday struggle to build community and bring the word of God to the remote communities of the north. Bishop Gerard Pettipas of the northwestern Alberta diocese of Grouard-McLennan spoke of the challenges of hiring a youth minister to serve tiny native and white communities spread out over an area the size of Minnesota. In recent years Pettipas has been able to recruit missionary priests from Nigeria and India — men from teeming cities of more than one million in tropical climates dropped into frozen villages of less than 500 and a culture that couldn't be more foreign.

"This is a very strange environment for them," explained Pettipas.

Pettipas was proud and pleased to report he had found a youth minister, and spoke of his hope to extend youth ministry into native communities where the average age is half the average in Canada's cities — where there may be an opportunity to forge a new relationship with the next generation of aboriginal Canadians.

Over the last 10 years the annual Tastes of Heaven dinner has raised more than $1 million. With one diner paying $10,000 at auction for a trip to the Northwest Territories with Whitehorse Bishop Gary Gordon, the May 5 event in Vaughan north of Toronto added to the total.

But the dinner is only the beginning of fundraising for Catholic Missions In Canada. This year CMIC needs to raise just over $4 million to keep Canada's missions going, including more than $1 million to repair old churches and build new ones, $345,000 to train 37 seminarians and $1.7 million to support priests, sisters and brothers with everything from grocery money to gas for their trucks. Other major expenses include $446,895 needed to run religious education programs for children and $474,786 to train lay people to lead their Catholic community in the absence of a priest.

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