To the faith-filled people of the Meadow Lake Cluster:
It is Christmas and we have become accustomed to wearing masks, social distancing, sanitizing, and limiting our group interactions. We are also getting more accustomed to using technology to stay in touch. Our actual physical encounters are shaped by our desire to care for each other. The virus has, unexpectedly, taken from us family members and friends. We must remember that we are more than this virus – our love of Jesus shapes our response to it and our mission to love one another.
I write this on the Feast of St. John of the Cross. In today’s gospel, St. Matthew tells the story of two sons, one who says, ‘yes’ and does not do what he said he would do and the other who says ‘no’ and then reconsiders, doing what is asked of him. Jesus reminds us that what we end up doing matters. In the ideal scenario our words and actions match each other. In reality, we often say one thing and do another. St. Matthew reminds us that Jesus lived the message he shared.
When I review the year, I am delighted to say that I have seen you reaching out to care for one another in your daily life. When there has been a need, when people have felt isolated, experienced disappointments, when death has visited families, people have responded with generosity and care. While there have been some struggles, we have worked together for the common good.
When I look at the people of Waterhen Lake, Green Lake and Meadow Lake, I am touched by the way you care for the buildings and properties of the Church that help us to learn, gather, celebrate, and serve as a people of faith. It is my hope that our financial needs will be met as we grow in our commitment to care for one another and for the God who has gifted us with life. I am also moved by the things you do outside the Church in your local communities.
Two events stand out for me this year. One is the outpouring of grief that flows from the experience of so many of our brothers and sisters because of the Residential School System. The consequences of this System, the breakdown of culture and family life and the role of the Government and the Church continues to be felt today. As non-indigenous people, it may be hard to understand and appreciate the social and cultural wounds caused by this System. Today the Holy Spirit calls us to listen to others and to reflect on the wounds they bear. The healing of these wounds requires that we walk together. Let us take every opportunity to listen to each other. As Catholics, Pope Francis calls us to dialogue – to speak and to listen. Perhaps this tool can help us as we walk the way of reconciliation.
The second significant event this year has been the announcement of the worldwide Synod called for by Pope Francis. He is inviting us to listen; to listen personally, locally, nationally, and globally to the voices of one another and to the voices of the earth. I will say more about this as the New Year unfolds. This call, prompted by the Holy Spirit, is for us to move beyond our own interests and pay attention to what is happening around us.
As we look ahead, these two events will help shape our year as a people of faith. While they offer us significant challenges, they are also opportunities for us to walk together and work together.
As a Church, we must attend to our relationships with Inuit, Indigenous and Metis peoples. Locally we can make a difference. Together we can pray, listen, work, and invest in personal relationships. Creating a reconciled community is not about a sound bite, a newspaper headline, or a photo opportunity; it is about concrete actions carried out by ordinary people living ordinary lives.
As a Church, Pope Francis, in calling for the Synod, is giving us the opportunity to deepen our relationships within our parish and beyond. He is inviting us to walk together, to listen to one another and to make sure we have safe places to gather. Made in the image and likeness of God, saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus, sent by the Holy Spirit we are encouraged to invest ourselves in the mission of the Church, the wellbeing of the world and of our earth.
This year we give thanks for the work, prayer, and friendship of Bishop Albert Thevenot. With his retirement we experience a loss, and we also experience a gift, a new leader, Bishop Stephen Hero. We look forward to welcoming him to our communities.
As 2022 unfolds I am completing three years as pastor of the Meadow Lake Cluster. Our new Bishop will look at the needs of our diocese and the best way to use the resources he has at his disposal. As a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate my community is likewise looking at the needs of our community and our mission within the Church. My vow of obedience reminds me that while I have a voice in where I minister, it is the Bishop and the Oblate community that sends me to serve in response to the most urgent needs.
As we come to the end of 2021 and prepare for 2022 and the challenges and blessings life will offer us, I am looking forward with hope to the work of the Synod, to exploring our role in the process of Reconciliation and I am looking to enjoy my garden, play a little more golf and to visiting you in your homes.
As we gather for Christmas this year I hope and pray the invitation of Jesus to have our words and actions match finds a home in us. As we struggle to do this, let us remember that we are loved. Let us also remember to share that love gently as we welcome and care for one another. May our words and actions be a blessing for all who find their way to our table.
Merry Christmas to you and to all those whom you love! Peace to you in 2022!
Doug Jeffrey, OMI (Pastor, December 2021)
Hi! My name is Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI and I am the pastor of the Meadow Lake Cluster. I serve the faith communities of Our Lady of the Smile, Waterhen, St. Jude's, Green Lake and Our Lady of Peace, Meadow Lake. I arrived in the cluster on August 15th, 2019. You can see more information about me on the home page!