Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 9, 2006
Holiday time meant reunions and doctors
The priest received medical treatment, money for a church
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
I spent quite a bit of time in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan this summer.
The highlight of my trip was taking part in two memorable family reunions. One was in Guy, a small community in Alberta's Peace River country where we celebrated my father's side of the family.
The second one, celebrating my mother's side of the family, was held in another small rural community, Ferland, Sask., in the Gravelbourg Diocese.
The best of the best
Both went on for three memorable days. It was the "nec plus ultra" (the best of the best) as one would say in Latin in the old days to describe the family reunion of all family reunions!
My 100-year-old mother did not attend, but she was present in all sorts of ways as the undisputed number one elder of the family.
She would have thrived at such a feast a few years back. My 92-year-old lively uncle Dr. Leonard Morin, Mom's kid brother of Detroit, was a close second as far as patriarchs go.
Both celebrations included a thanksgiving Mass where I presided. I had been invited to celebrate the Sunday morning Eucharist held under a huge tent in Ferland. The local church could not accommodate even half of the family.
Celebrating that Eucharist was a real joy for me and I think also for the awesome congregation.
A huge picture was taken of the family and I counted 330 people.
Prayers and money
During the Eucharist, the Guatemala mission where I work was never far from my mind. At the end of the Mass, I couldn't help but present a gentle invitation to the family to support my missionary work by their prayers.
Then I challenged them to sponsor the building of a church in Guatemala by providing the money to purchase the building material.
My cousin Romeo stepped in and invited people to get their wallets out as several young people started passing the hats around.
The collection was accompanied by lots of teasing and laughter. Then the money was counted and the final tally added up to about $10,000.
It was a merry and enthused crowd that responded to an invitation to help their poor brothers and sisters in a less fortunate part of the world.
Some members of the family indicated they would like to attend the blessing of "the Morin church," since the Johnson crowd has already contributed to a church now being built and to be blessed in a few months.
In Canada, $10,000 would not build much of a church. Would it even buy the lot where the church would be built?
In Chicaman, the people gladly hand over to the bishop the title to the plot of land for the church. The people also provide the labour to build the church.
The main reason I returned to Edmonton this summer was health problems. For the previous two months I had stomach pains, very likely due to the food and water served to us in isolated communities.
In one community, the members of the council warmly invited me to the kitchen for a bit of food along with a cup of coffee.
The six or so members of the council were there around the table in the dark and not too clean little kitchen. The "stove" was an open pit where wood was burning and food was cooking.
The wife of the elected president of the church council is automatically named head cook and with a great smile she brought me a cup of coffee.
What set off alarm bells in me was that her thumb was deep in the coffee cup and her thumb was black as coal.
What was I to do?
Six pairs of eyes were fixed on me, waiting for my first sip of coffee to begin eating the frugal lunch placed before us. So with a brave smile and a silent prayer, I took a sip of the lukewarm coffee. The ritual was over and the men could begin eating their tortillas and sipping their tepid coffee.
I consulted a doctor at a hospital near Chicaman. The few pills he prescribed did not help.
I soon found out I was to live with those quasi-permanent stomach pains for two months until I left for a vacation in Alberta.
In Edmonton, doctors were consulted, tests made, medicine prescribed and the verdict was that I was suffering from E-coli, a stomach and intestinal infection.
I wish to express my gratitude to gifted physicians in St. Albert as well my naturopath sister Dr. Marguerite Johnson and her colleagues in B.C.
I can say that I'm a well man now, renewed and with a new lease on life.
I realize that I must not take the gift of health for granted. It is indeed our greatest gift.
This week, after Mass in a community, I accepted an invitation to eat with a family. When the kind mother brought me a cup of coffee, those alarm bells started ringing in my mind.
I got up and excused myself, telling them that unfortunately I had to go. I ran to the truck and was gone. I might have to be more candid and simply let people know I cannot drink coffee or tea, just the water in the bottle I carry.
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