Listening and Waiting

By Sr. Maggie Beaudette, CSJ

It is spring in the north and in Hay River we are awaiting the breakup of our river. As I sit on my front deck, just metres away from the river bank, I watch the ice begin to move. It is an amazing sight, not without its possible danger. Emergency crews with the town and residents in the flood zone have been on alert and preparing to move. They have been listening and waiting.

As I sit watching the river my senses are alive! I hear the beautiful songs of many spring birds that have returned. I see and hear the ice move, jam, clear and move again. I feel the warmth of the sun on my face and smell the wet earth which reminds me that new life will begin to grow in a few weeks. I too, am listening and waiting.

It is at times like these, that I remember past experiences and encounters. I have been gifted with a memory for wonderful detail. I recall a time when I lived in the fly-in community of Lutsel K’e, NT.

Lutsel K’e is situated on the east arm of Great Slave Lake. It is a Dene community of approximately 300 people whose main language is Chipewyan. I went to Lutsel K’e as a teacher in 1994. I worked for five years in the community. By the time I moved to Hay River in August 1999, the experiences I lived and the relationships I made taught many lessons for my life.

During the summer following my first year in the community, an experience of culture and traditional life had been organised by the leadership. Four sets of elders and 20 children, aged five to 12 years, would be spending a week on Eagle Island. I was invited to join the experience.

We left the community on a Sunday afternoon. You can imagine my surprise and somewhat apprehension, as a large box of potatoes was placed in our boat! Would we stay afloat? No problem! The boat ride took about 45 minutes. We arrived at the beautiful island with a sheltered cove. The immediate task was to find poles for our bush tents and evergreen boughs to line the floor. I camped beside Pierre and Judith Cathlique since they had the youngest children in their tent. Then it was time to eat and off to bed with five camps set up around the cove. Each one consisting of a pair of elders and five children and myself. As the week progressed I listened and waited and learned much. Only what was needed at the time was provided, hence a table was made the second day and the “bathroom” advanced in its construction from a pail behind a tree to eventually a tarp around the area. I smiled the day the toilet paper was on a holder made of sticks!

Judith brought two caribou hides, bleached pure white by the winter sun. She had planned to tan them and waited each day.  It was not until Thursday that the day came to tan the hides. The weather was perfect, dry and no wind. I was intrigued with the preparation and it was a team effort between her and Pierre. Judith asked me to get a bucket of water to have beside her. Once the hides were in place and the smoke rising, Judith and I sat, waited and listened. She listened for the slightest breeze that might fan the flame and potentially damage the hide. Waiting and listening. What a transformation as the pure white hide took on the most beautiful, soft to dark brown!

During these days between Easter and Pentecost I wait and listen.

Awaiting the feast of Pentecost is a time of anticipation, expectation and hope for me. During these days of physical distancing, I have responded to the invitation to join a centering prayer group by Zoom once a week: something I never dreamed I would be doing! The daily practice has given me a certain grounding in these days of not knowing.

And so I listen and wait in anticipation of a renewed outpouring of the generous gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Will I be open to the on-going transformation that being attentive to the Spirit is sure to bring? I listen and wait.


Sr. Maggie Beaudette, CSJ, has lived and served in the north for some 32 years, including the past 22 years in Hay River, NT, on the south shore of the Great Slave Lake in the Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. She is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Canada.