The last week in June I spent 6 days with Steve Laraway and several members of our parishes on a fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada. It was a great experience enjoying God’s cathedral in the wilderness and being able to fish where bear, moose and even woodland caribou also inhabit. Fishing was good and so were the shore lunches we enjoyed every day on Lake St. Joseph as well! During our time we stayed at the “Old Post Lodge” which has a rich history of faith and the fur trade.
Old Post Lodge was established in the late 1700’s as a fur trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company, a British outpost were the native Cree and Ojibwa people (First Nation) would barter and trade furs for various goods with the Hudson’s Bay Company. This post was a center and hub of activity where both nations met together, socialized, did their commerce, and really celebrated their adventures. News came in and went out from these kinds of outposts.
As often happens with many of these trading posts and the explorers who found them, Christian missionaries followed bringing the Gospel not only to the fur traders themselves but also to the native American peoples. Fifty years after “Old Post Lodge” was established Anglican priests came to bring the Good News to people and build a place of worship. Just up the hill from the lodge you will see a church structure that has been rebuilt on the original site. This beautiful little building is surrounded by marked graves of the Native American people who lived and died there in Christ. It was a pleasure for me to celebrate Mass on this site with our fishing group, a place which holds so much history and yet many forgotten stories of what took place some 200 years ago. The care-takers of the lodge who were present for the celebration were very appreciative of this as well. My hope in the near future is to put a video clip on our parish website which will give you a flavor on what this beautiful place in the Canadian wilderness is like.
On a final note, I would like to tell you about a close encounter of the 1st kind we had with a black bear while eating shore lunch. One day at noon on our fourth day of fishing, we choose a very scenic and secluded bay to cook our meal. There is nothing like fresh fish on an open fire, complete with baked beans, friend potatoes, mushrooms, wild rice, corn and onions! As we were eating our guide Neil, had his back to the shore, while I was standing with my plate facing opposite of him with my back to the forest. Suddenly we both heard a sort of growl. “Did you here that?” our guide said. “Yes, I thought you made that noise,” was my response. Suddenly looking over my shoulder our guide saw a 300 lb. black bear standing no more than 15 yards behind me with the intent of getting some food from us. Immediately we started yelling at the beast but the bear had no intention of leaving us. Even throwing rocks and sticks did not deter him! He simply repositioned himself and was trying to move in. One of our guys jumped on a boat and shoved off without his partner saying, “I still have a lot of life to live!” Another (I won’t mention his name) pointed to his tennis shoes and said to me, “All I have to do is run faster than you padre!” He said this, of course with tongue in cheek. The only thing that actually deterred the bear was some very loud, ear splitting clanging of pots and pans. That seemed to move the bear back away about 40 yards. During the course of our hastily eaten meal, the bear returned 3 times seeking a free meal from us. Little did we know that while enjoying our meal, we were also on the menu for shore lunch, at least for the bear of course! In the end, all was fine, and we could laugh at the whole incident. We eventually left that beautiful yet dangerous spot knowing the bear was still close by and would soon return to eat what was left of the entrails of our cleaned fish. The lesson I learned: It’s always good to have someone looking over your back! Maybe that’s what Church and living in community should be about! This was certainly an adventure I will not soon forget.