Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 2, 2009
The Church of the North
Oblate bishop brings God's Word to Inuit in their own tongue
BY GLEN ARGAN
WCR PHOTO|GLEN ARGAN
Two pages of the lectionary display next Sunday's reading.
Each of the readings is read in both Inuktitut and English, and an interpreter translates Rouleau’s English-language homily into Inuktitut.
When Rouleau, a Quebec native, was appointed bishop of Churchill-Hudson Bay in 1987, he knew no Inuktitut and his English was not strong. He is now fluent in English and has learned some Inuktitut.
“It was a real cultural move for me. I needed to be initiated into the style of the diocese, its history and the Inuit way.”
He spends about half the year visiting the 17 Catholic communities spread around the diocese. Each visit typically lasts two or three days, but at Christmas and Easter, a visit can stretch out for two weeks.
“When I travel North, that is the best time. We live at a slow pace.”
The bishop’s mission is to be with the people and he spends some of his time in each community walking down the streets enjoying casual conversations.
“The people have a very deep faith. It’s a faith based on visual aspects, on gestures. The symbolism is important for them as are the stories, such as stories about Abraham and Jesus.”
The Catholic rituals with their use of holy water, gestures, flowers, incense and vestments appeal to the people, Rouleau said. “All that is very meaningful and you don’t need to explain it.”
So too are celebrations such as Confirmations, Baptisms and funerals.
Rouleau pays tribute to the missionaries who “have been very attentive to the culture, the language, the way the people relate to each other and the way they relate to the land.”
The diocese, for example, in 1944 established the Eskimo Museum in Churchill, an institution that has collected and preserved roughly 1,000 pieces of Inuit art, mainly carvings and wall hangings.
The museum draws more than 10,000 visitors a year and is now an independent institution.
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