Bishop Mark Hagemoen Blog – February 2019

Bishop Mark Hagemoen and FacetoFace Ministries leaders travelled with a youth team to Black Lake First Nation in February 2019.

Visit to Black Lake First Nation, SK with FacetoFace Ministries

By Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Bishop of Saskatoon

At the invitation of Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas, several young adults led by FacetoFace Ministries travelled to Black Lake, SK in the Athabasca region of northern Saskatchewan, from February 16 to 22, 2019. The purpose of the trip was to learn about the Dene community, and to assist the local parish in helping prepare several candidates for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation. (The candidates were not able to participate in the summer celebration of Confirmation earlier in the summer at the Pine Channel Spiritual Pilgrimage.)

Chief Coreen Sayazie and Father Cornelius Ngurukwem, SMMM, graciously received us to the parish and the Black Lake community.


The FacetoFace E3 Ministry Team: Matthias Steiner; Paul Bentler; Fr. Cornelius Ngurukwem (pastor of Athabasca region); Jon Courchene; Bishop Mark Hagemoen; Daniel Pashula; Jerome Montpetit; Matthew Witzaney; Benjamin Gerwing.

Jon Courchene led the Face-to-Face Ministry team (below, left), with the capable assistance of Daniel Pashula (below, right):

The week began with getting involved in the communities activities. As it was the spring break and the Winter Carnival, school was closed, and thus the young people of the community played various sports in the school gym. Men of the community also provided for the group an opportunity to enjoy “ice-fishing” on Black Lake, and experience the ‘chill’ of high speed ski-doo travel.

A competitive evening game of volleyball.



Jerome Montpetit (top, left), Paul Bentler (top, right), and Benjamin Gerwing(bottom, centre) get dressed for the ski-doo and ice fishing excursion on Black Lake.


Bishop Mark poses for a pic before the ice-fishing expedition: Matthias Steiner (far right)came from Fraser Lake, BC to join the trip to Black Lake.



Preparing a “dinner fish fry” with the catch following the day on the lake.

The moon sets during the morning dawn!


The team enjoys breakfast with Fr. Cornelius.

Jerome Montpetit enjoys an unorthodox breakfast of oatmeal with mustard!

Celebration of BAPTISMS

Unexpectedly, there was a request to celebrate several Baptisms. Along with the Pastor, Fr. Cornelius, these were celebrated on Tuesday evening, February 19. The candidates included several new-borns and children. Confirmation celebrations continued into the early summer. One of the families came in from nearby Fond-du-Lac, about two hours away by winter road.

The homily before the celebration of the Baptisms at Our Lady of the Cape Church, Black Lake.

Celebration of the Holy Eucharist for the families during the Baptism ceremony.

Families gather for a group picture following the celebration of the baptisms.


Daniel Pashula seems to have the greatest difficulty with this“Oreo Cookie” ice-breaker activity with the youth(above). Paul Bentler is quite capable at the game – not surprising given his cookie consumption during the week!

The team provides testimonial, skits, and other presentations to prepare the candidates for the Sacrament of Reconciliation before their Confirmation celebration.

Four young people were confirmed the evening of Wednesday February 20:  Gracie, Tenea, Branthany, Jayvian.

Opening Ceremonies, Black Lake Winter Carnival 2019

Following the Confirmation ceremony, the Black Lake Winter Carnival opening ceremonies were held at the band hall. The carnival is held annually during the school winter break, and features programs for both children and adults. It is an opportunity during the harsh and long winter season for the communities in the area to gather for games, cultural festivities, indoor and outdoor activities, and other community events.


Bishop Mark is greeted by a group of Dene men from Black Lake, Fond du Lac, and Stony Rapids – all communities in the Athabasca region.


Chief Coreen Sayazie gives a welcome and opening address to the community to the Winter Carnival opening ceremonies.

The opening ceremonies includes elders and representatives from the band leadership in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Young people from the community perform in a display of talented and energetic jigging, accompanied by the local band.


Daniel Pashula takes in the carnival festivities (left). Matthias Steiner is remarkably wide-eyed during the opening ceremonies  (right).


Matthew Witzaney shows his jigging ability(left),while Benjamin Gerwing (right)shows his stuff during the ‘orange dance’.



The FacetoFace E3 Team for Black Lake were a real blessing. However, all team members said that they received far more than they gave from the generousity, hospitality, and kindness of the Dene community. It will be an experience that will provide much ‘food for thought and soul’ for a long time, including for the FacetoFace leadership and the Bishop of Saskatoon!

In Christ,       

+Mark Hagemoen