Adieu, Pere Claude

Helene Belanger Mon ami is leaving! Recently we had a potluck goodbye supper for Pere Claude, who will be leaving the Yukon after 12 years with us. For those who do not know, Claude is the Catholic priest for the francophone Catholic community. There wer

Helene Belanger

Mon ami is leaving!

Recently we had a potluck goodbye supper for Pere Claude, who will be leaving the Yukon after 12 years with us. For those who do not know, Claude is the Catholic priest for the francophone Catholic community. There were over 200 people celebrating him. What an amazing night.

I want to share my journey with him.

Like many of my generation, born in Quebec, the Catholic faith was the “norm.” I grew up finding sometimes solace, but many times I found myself questioning, and not understanding some of the principles of the religion.

Thankfully, I remembered my very wise parents telling me that beyond any doubt, God was good. That carried me through the many questions I had when some religions can appear not as inclusive as I wish.

And so, I grew up, and carried God in my heart. I had gone to many different buildings where people pray, as I moved around this country. I struggled to find the spoken words appealing, and non-judgmental.

Then came Claude, whom I met at a craft fair. Young man, interested, inquisitive, full of joy and hope.

I was quite curious, and returned to the Sunday French Catholic services.

I learned that he had previously worked with youth at risk. I was more curious. I was pleasantly surprised to find, for the first time on my journey, a priest engaging in a discussion with his parishioners. Talking about God, about healing, justice, and being good to others. Explaining what the Gospel means to him.

We were not just being talked to, which was quite refreshing. For the first time, I saw children interested, participating in his service.

A new journey began.

I saw that Claude became extremely involved with the marginalized, disadvantaged individuals. He has been known in town to feel privileged to accompany the dying, whatever their faith. He has carried his Gospel with no judgment, with open arms to all.

There is no discrimination, no exclusion in his world. He pays attention to children, includes and involves them. He has reconnected a community with hope, caring and love of his God.

He celebrates communion where the people are. He tells us that God is in each and every one of us, and in our beautiful nature. He is there, with whoever needs him.

He is creative, innovative and such a generous human being.

When around Claude, I want to become a better person.

He has so many rituals that he has shared with the Yukon: blessing of the Easter water at sunrise; blessing of bicycles in the Spring; celebration at Miles Canyon; silence retreats; celebration of the Solstice, and many, many more. Claude has been trying to teach us that inside of every screaming, screeching human being is a hurt soul.

He has helped me understand and want to continue to live in the spirituality of God.

Claude was “borrowed” from his diocese in Quebec to come to the Yukon in 2002. He has no choice to go when asked to leave. Even if he asked to stay, as he felt he has more work to do in the Yukon. Even if all of us do not want to see him go. Not an easy job, I say, when no discussion is to be had and one has to comply.

Maybe Claude represents for me the future of the Catholic Church. Maybe it is the religion I hope for.

Interesting fact that in 2013 and 2014 the Yukon will have suffered two great losses; Father Jim and Pere Claude. Interesting coincidence.

Since this is about my journey, I ask myself: how will I cope with my pastor, my friend, moving away?

I need to continue to hope that the faith that I was born into continues to evolve, to be more inclusive, more open-minded and accepting of change. That the leaders stop being afraid of change. That people like Claude be recognized in their own institution as catalysts for a renewal that attracts human beings, and encourages love, tolerance and forgiveness.

I hope I will continue to live by Claude’s example.

A friend wisely said: “just think of the many others on his journey who have not had yet the privilege to meet him.” However true that statement is, I am still struggling with his departure.

May the church realize what an impact Claude has had on the Yukon people, and may they strive to understand that we are all the same.

I will miss you and I will carry you in my heart, my friend. May you continue to share this peace and healing heart of yours wherever

you go.

Helene Belanger lives in Whitehorse.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

Teagan Wiebe, left, and Amie Wiebe pose for a photo with props during The Guild’s haunted house dress rehearsal on Oct. 23. The Heart of Riverdale Community Centre will be hosting its second annual Halloween haunted house on Oct. 30 and 31, with this year’s theme being a plague. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Plague-themed haunted house to take over Heart of Riverdale for Halloween

A plague will be descending upon the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre… Continue reading

Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S. on Oct. 21. Elected officials in the Yukon, including all 19 members of the legislature, are backing the right of Mi’kmaq fishers on the East Coast to launch a moderate livelihood fishery. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)
Yukon legislature passes motion to support Mi’kmaw fishery

“It’s not easy, but it’s also necessary for us to have these very difficult conversations”

A pedestrian passes by an offsales sandwich board along Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Oct. 22. NDP MLA Liz Hanson raised concerns Oct. 21 in the legislature about increased hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption that correlate with an extension in the hours alcohol can be sold in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Alcohol-related hospitalizations rise after off-sales hours extended

Reduced hours for off-sale liquor establishments likely part of Liquor Act spring reforms

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tourism relief funding offers $2.8 million to hotels and overnight accommodations

$15 million in relief funding is planned for the tourism sector over the next three years

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Most Read