Sisters receive missionary honours

Fr. Joseph Baril

Fr. Joseph Baril

May 16, 2011

VAUGHN, ONT. — Three missionaries serving in the Canadian North received the 2011 St. Joseph's Award on May 5.

Catholic Missions in Canada bestows the award annually. It recognizes and honours missionaries whose dedication as a light of the world and salt of the earth serve as role models for today's society.

This year's recipients were Sisters of Sainte-Chretienne Bernadette Gautreau and Jeannette Berger, both from the Grouard-McLennan Archdiocese, and Oblate Father Joseph Baril, from Amos, Quebec.

"Archbishop Gerard Pettipas nominated Jeannette and I for all the years we have been serving," said Gautreau.


They received their awards at a gala held in Vaughn, Ont. It featured a meal valued at $500 per plate, and a silent auction with items selling as high as $10,000.

"I had never been to anything like that in my life. It was very posh," said Gautreau.

A replica of the St. Joseph sculpture cast in bronze was given to the recipients. Internationally acclaimed sculptor David Ruben Piqtoukun of Paulatuk, NWT, designed it.

Catholic Missions in Canada is an organization aimed at helping Canada's northern dioceses, mostly aboriginal missions. The awards gala is its major fundraiser.

"It's basically a fundraising organization to help the poorer dioceses that can't afford to take care of the people in outlying communities," said Gautreau.

Speaking of the challenges faced by her archdiocese specifically, Gautreau continued, "Our bishop was the keynote speaker and he gave a historical and geographical view of the archdiocese.

"He said that our archdiocese is half the size of the state of California. In the 1950s and 1960s we had 75 Oblate priests and over 200 religious sisters serving in our archdiocese. Today we have one Oblate and 17 sisters."

Baril, 89, has been a missionary for more than 57 years, living and working among the Cree of James Bay of northern Ontario and among the Inuit of northern Quebec. Since 1976, he has served as a travelling priest to isolated villages in Quebec.

In his 2004 autobiography, My Aurora Borealis: A Traveling Missionary for a Church Built of Living Stones, he recounts how he always had a fascination with the Canadian North.