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I recently made my first official visit to the Manitoulin district where we, the Jesuits, have been present without interruption since the 1840s. The Jesuits live at the Waaseandimikaaning-Anishinabe Spiritual Centre near Espanola, on the mainland about 1 hour drive west from Sudbury. Apart from the spiritual centre, we serve close to a dozen parishes in the region. The deepest history can be found in Wikwemikong (Wiki) on Manitoulin Island. Wiki is the largest First Nations community on Manitoulin Island and Canada’s only officially recognized Unceded Indigenous Territory. It is a cultural hub for the living traditions of the Anishinabek people of the Three Fires Confederacy – Ojibwe, Odawa, and Paottawatomi.

By Erik Oland, SJ

Holy Cross Church is at the centre of the Jesuit parish at Wiki and I spent the day there meeting with individuals and with church elders. The visit was centred around a ‘potluck’ lunch that materialized out of nowhere after Fr. Paul Robson, S.J., pastor, let it be known the day before that the new Jesuit Provincial would be stopping by. I arrived at about 11am for a meeting with Rosella Kinoshameg, church elder and chair of the board for the Spiritual Centre, followed by the potluck that consisted of soup, sandwiches, salads, a selection of other dishes, and banana cake for dessert.

By Erik Oland, SJ

The conversation was animated and full of beautiful sharing as we went around the table and everyone introduced themselves. It was powerful to hear generational stories of how individuals had followed in the footsteps of their grandparents in their engagement with the church community; from religious education and liturgical preparation to event planning and even cooking turkeys for special suppers.

By Erik Oland, SJ

The memory of the Jesuits who have preceded Fr. Paul is alive and well, complete with anecdotes: David Nazar, Jim Profit, Bert Foliot, Doug McCarthy, Henk van Meijel, as well as Jesuit scholastics and novices. I recall visiting Wiki as a novice when Fr. Nazar was pastor. Especially memorable was a performance of the annual summer play by the Debajehmujig Theatre Group in the ruins of the old Jesuit residence next to the church.

By Erik Oland, SJ

In the conversation we spoke of the recent visit of the local bishop, Marcel Damphousse, for confirmations and someone asked if I ever might be available for such a celebration. After a bit of conversation, we talked about my presiding at the First Communion Masses in 2020. And so, I look forward to my visit next year for Masses in three different churches on Sunday, June 21, 2020. Mark it in your calendars!! Chi miigwetch.

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