Patricia Gyulay of Catholic Missions in Canada.

Patricia Gyulay of Catholic Missions in Canada.

June 13, 2016

WESTLOCK - Canadian missions are "some of the most difficult in the world," and Catholic Missions in Canada is working to support them, says the organization's outreach officer.

Patricia Gyulay told the annual provincial convention of the Catholic Women's League that many Canadian Catholics believe the only missions are in foreign countries.

"Canada is a mission country," Gyulay said June 4. "Missions are right here in our own backyard, albeit a big backyard."

Roughly 25 of Canada's 72 dioceses "are in such dire need, struggling so greatly that they are designated as mission," she said. Between 350 and 400 bishops, priests, deacons, sisters, brothers and lay leaders serve in nearly 700 missions across the country.

Gyulay said Catholic Missions in Canada's (CMiC) president, Father Philip Kennedy, describes an advertisement he would place to recruit missionaries: "Wanted: Missionaries for Distant Parts of Canada. Must have degree in pastoral theology, building repair and snowmobile maintenance."

CMiC provides $3.5 million a year in support to missions and missionaries in five general areas: financial and emotional needs of the missions; building and repair of churches; religious education of children, youth and adults; formation of lay leaders; education of seminarians.

Missionaries, said Gyulay, must cope, not only with isolation, but also with small Catholic populations living amidst poor economic conditions and spread over huge distances.

"Our missionaries travel great distances and this is very costly."

She cited 77-year-old Sister Jeannette Comeau in northern Quebec for whom CMiC bought a snowmobile so she could travel up to 90 kms over frozen lakes in the winter to carry out her mission work.

Likewise, CMiC funds the travel and church maintenance costs for Father Sylvanus Omali, a member of Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy, who from his base in Red Earth Creek in Alberta's Grouard-McLennan Archdiocese, serves four other missions.

It's a region where employment opportunities are few, and the Aboriginal communities are marked by inadequate housing, poor transportation, substance abuse, suicide and alcohol-related deaths, she said.

Many churches in northern dioceses are in poor repair, she said. "The northern climate is ruthless on buildings."


In some churches, the roofs are so dilapidated that the rain leaks through during Mass. In one case, ceiling tiles fell on the congregation. Churches face crumbling foundations damaged by permafrost. The chimney in one church sunk into the permafrost, causing a fire which burned the church down.

Gyulay also noted that the parish in Fort Simpson, NWT, which was hoping for a new church when Pope John Paul II visited in 1987 still does not have a new building.

More information about CMiC is available through its website,