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A Trip to Arctic Bay

By: Fr. Tony Krótki OMI

“Lord God Almighty, how great
and wonderful are your deeds! right and true are your ways!”

This passage of the Holy Scripture came to my mind during my last mission trip to the farthest north Catholic community in Arctic Bay known by Inuit as Ikpiartjuk at the very north side of Baffin Island. Before I left for my holidays to Poland to visit with my mother and my family which I planed a long time ahead, I have planned as well on my return to Igloolik my Mission base community visiting Arctic Bay where few of our youth and young adults were expecting to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation they have been preparing themselves with my help for few months. Just before the Confirmation we were to celebrate the wedding of Jayko and Leonie in Arctic Bay community as well. Wedding and Confirmation, which was to happen in May of this year, because of so many reasons had to be cancelled. Now the wedding was to be celebrated on the 29th of September and the day after the Confirmation. Our Bishop Reynald Rouleau OMI was to come and confirm the youth. I was to arrive on 26th to make the necessary preparation before bishop's arrival. Hoping the things will go well, according to our plan, on the 26th in the afternoon the First Air flight left on time from Iqaluit airport and all the passengers got the green sticker on the back of the boarding cards - landing subject to weather. Oh no I thought, not this again, what about our plans. What about the couple and the confirmation group. Then quick reflection and decision to try anyway. I thought maybe we would make it. On the other hand I still had few days to spare before the arrival of Bishop. The flight was smooth coming to Nanisivik airport. The plain came low and I could see the road to the airport and the trucks coming in when suddenly the thick cloud came and it was over. The pilot could not take the risk. He informed us we will fly to Resolute Bay an hour flight north--west. Two hours later we were on our rout again coming to Nanisivik. Surly enough the conditions got even worse and we flew to Iqaluit capital of Nunavut. Upon our arrival we were tolled we will try again 6:00 in the morning.

Next day I was ready again. Same thing happened the next day and the day after until Sunday morning. Every day I asked God what is it that I must stay here for so long. Saturday evening came the answer. Little after 7:00 p.m. I received the call from local hospital in Iqaluit. Nurse said that the family of Lucien asks for a priest to come now because the moment has come for him to enter the life with God in His Kingdom. The local pastor Father Greg was coming only a week later. The family did not know I was in the city. I knew the family very well. I buried Lucien's son and they are from Igloolik community. I know the whole family. Some I have brought to the place of rest and some I baptized and others received First Communion from me.

On my way to hospital I thanked God for the grace to be there with the family in this difficult moment. I realized also that God had been holding my trip until this moment because something important was waiting for me to do. And again Jesus' wards -... my ways and your ways are different.... - So true and yet His ways are true and wonderful as always.

In that time our Bishop got ahead of me to Arctic Bay and now he was making things ready not knowing if I will arrive or not before the confirmation. The wedding seam to be gone into a future possibility and confirmation was still ahead.

Well the next day on Sunday early morning our plain took off and the possibility of landing were 50/50 with the green stickers again. This time I believed I was free to fly to Arctic Bay. It was true. We landed in Nanisivik airport and with help of fiends I got to town in the afternoon. People were expecting me and happy to welcome me. I was very happy to see them hoping I can still fix everything for confirmation and the wedding. Sunday night we had meeting with Bishop and the youth. For that meeting came Jayko and Leonie. Leonie was baptized Anglican but was ready to enter the Catholic Church receiving three sacraments in one celebration. Leonie was getting ready for marriage and yet never had received Eucharist in her life and she wanted to follow her husband's faith. After the confirmation practice we met with the couple and they decided that it would be wonderful to have the wedding on the day of conformation. Leonie's eyes shined so much that the tears start to poor down on her cheeks squeezing Jayko's hand very hard. I asked her “Leonie are you ready for this? Yes for 12 years” she replayed - “I want to do this”. She said. We all smiled. We worked all the documents until late night. Our chapel in Arctic Bay could accommodate only 30 people and I knew we would have around two hundred and more coming to celebrate with us Monday evening so we asked the local Anglican minister to allow us using the Anglican Church this time. They were very happy and jokingly they said it is fine as long as I smile. Done deal I said.

Next evening at 7:00 p.m. we were all ready to celebrate with large crowd of people. Youth waiting in front in their chairs and the bride-made awaiting his future wife to show up soon. Bishop and myself coming first then best man and made of honor and at the end Leonie with her father walking down the aisle. People cheering gently and respectfully.

Our Bishop had said the homily on the readings of the Pentecost. In his homily he said. “I am so overwhelmed with the surroundings in this part of the world. how beautiful land, mountains, I can finally see it well. Few years ago I came here for Christmas Mass but is was so dark I could see nothing only street lights wondering how it looks in the day light. Now I see and I am happy to be with you again”. People clapped their hands in response. Then Sacrament of Confirmation and at the end filled with emotions Leonie and Jayko together coming forward. It was all new to me also. I was so happy for them. It was my turn to say few wards introducing to the wedding ceremony. With moments of joyful participation I thought that my job of nice smile request was health done. Moving wedding, exchange of promises very happy song, which accompanies the whole celebration, brought wonderful atmosphere among gathered for prayer. It was so nice and powerful as our bishop reflected that evening after the celebrations. For Leonie was one more thing to happen that night. At the moment of the Holy Communion her and her husband came forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ together for the first time fully united as one with their Master and the one that makes things possible and makes his ways wonderful and true as long as we are present to Him.

Tuesday was the day of Bishops and mine return to Iqaluit. Again God gave me grace to fly to Igloolik with Lucien's wife and children coming for the funeral, which was requested by Lucien before he died to take place in his hometown. It seams that God made things possible so I can be in places I needed to be, to participate in His glory on Earth. I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to live it. Very few people live in the Arctic but His presence is so powerful - God is LOVE and God is ONE.

Fr. Tony Krótki OMI


The celebration of Confirmation


Bishop Reynald Rouleau, Fr. Tony, and newly confirmed parishoners from Arctic Bay