Archbishop Peter Sutton
TORONTO – If it hadn't been for Catholic Missions in Canada, many northern missions would not have survived, said Archbishop emeritus Peter Sutton of Keewatin-Le Pas.
"They were extremely generous to us," said Sutton, who entered missionary work in 1987 visiting the 56 communities, towns, villages, settlements and missions that make up the diocese spread across northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan and Sandy Lake, Ont.
"And the board members made it happen and made sure that people that really were in need in the North were able to access the resources."
For bringing the Gospel to northern communities, Sutton was presented the St. Joseph Award at the annual Tastes of Heaven fundraising dinner for Catholic Missions in Canada April 19.
Every year, the St. Joseph Award honours a missionary whose dedication is a light for the world or salt of the earth.
Now 77, Sutton is retired and recalls the "good years" he spent working as a missionary. "They were good experiences," he said. "And I certainly have no regrets. So I'm grateful to receive an award that carries with it a lot of people."
During his years as a missionary, there was more than one time where he was struck by the importance of Catholic Missions.
"I can think of one time where we were having to do renovations on buildings . . . and we have to heat places in the wintertime. Things are extremely expensive and transportation is tremendously expensive," he said. "And Catholic Missions rose to the occasion."
About 475 guests attended the gala which raised about $300,000 for Catholic Missions, said Patria Rivera, director of publications and communications for Catholic Missions.
Keynote speaker Bishop Reynauld Rouleau of Churchill-Hudson Bay said he sees the importance of Catholic Missions in his northern diocese which covers northern Manitoba and Nunavut.
"We have very small communities isolated and not easily accessible except by plane, and the cost of operating is so high sometimes," said Rouleau.
With 11 months of winter, it can be a challenge as the communities have little revenue, he said.
"So the Catholic Missions is very supportive with giving some allowances or grants but also making it more known in Canada what is (being) done."
Father Philip Kennedy, president of Catholic Missions in Canada, said the organization educates Canadians about the missions and enables them to associate with those working in missionary dioceses.
For 2012, Catholic Missions in Canada has been asked to provide $4 million in funding to support Canadian missions, including $1.8 million to support more than 300 Canadian missionaries living in communities and paying for their utility and car expenses.
Another $1 million will go to the building and repair of 162 churches, and $1.1 million to supporting religious education programs for children and adults, and men preparing for the priesthood.