It's always a joy to attend the annual Tastes of Heaven gala dinner put on by the folks at Catholic Missions in Canada (CMIC). Not only is the evening a wonderful opportunity to meet catholics from across the Archdiocese, bishops from every part of Canada, to share fellowship and, most importantly, it gives us a chance to learn more about the quiet work of missionaries in our own country who are bringing the gift of faith alive with extremely limited resources.
For those who need a little refresher, Catholic Missions in Canada (previously known as the Catholic Church Extension Society) was established in 1908 to help foster and extend the blessings of the Catholic faith in the poorest and most remote dioceses throughout the country.
CMIC has provided $4 million dollars to 28 dioceses throughout Canada, impacting more than 1 million people along the way. The gala dinner has raised more than $1.1 million over 11 years, a gala that started with less than a hundred people and has grown significantly over the years.
To give you a sense of the kind of projects that are supported by CMIC, consider the following areas of support:
- First Nations Ministry in the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan to assist three missionary priests and three religious sisters working in remote reserves in Northern Alberta, offering the sacraments and faith education to children and adults.
- The building of two mission churches in the Diocese of MacKenzie-Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories and renovating a rectory to accommodate a St. Vincent de Paul store and a senior's drop-in centre.
- Travel expenses of the bishop and four priests - all over the age of 70 - to minister throughout the Diocese of Moosonee, an area of 1.2 million square km's in Northern Ontario and Quebec.
We had a chance to hear from the Oblate Bishop of the Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay, Bishop Reynald Rouleau who shared stories of his travels and being referred to by those in the native community as a "trusted grandfather". The bishops spoke of gathering the community for a leadership and faith formation conference, at a cost of $3,000 per delegate, an indication of the vast distances and geography that covers the territory of his diocese. The evening including performances from native women who performed throat songs, mimicking the sounds of animals and telling stories using their own unique tradition.
Archbishop Peter Sutton, OMI, Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas, was presented the 2012 St. Joseph Award for organizing a mobile renewal team that brought the Gospel to the Northern communities.
To learn more about the vital work of Catholic Missions in Canada visit them online here. Better yet, consider giving of your time, talent and treasure to support their work. Bishop Gary Gordon of the Diocese of Whitehorse, (see photo of his diocese above) reflected on his own personal hope that every Catholic would have a chance to visit a mission diocese in Canada. Perhaps you're someone who could offer some assistance, your gifts or skills to a missionary diocese. Take the time to discern how you can become engaged in this important work.
The gift of faith is one that we often take for granted. In an Archdiocese with more than 200 churches, Mass in 30 languages each week and a parish literally around the corner for most, it's a good reminder of both the tremendous blessings we enjoy locally with thoughts and prayers to support those who do not enjoy the same reality in their own diocese.
Yet for those who minister in the most remote parts of our country, they embrace the challenges, love their work and passionately tell those of us in the "south" about all that we're missing.
I guess you might say these committed ambassadors of faith see their work as a little "taste of heaven"...