seven generations forward

That our lives touch and are touched by those around us cannot be denied. That even applies to a hermit I once crossed paths with at the Catholic Worker farm in Tivoli, New York.

That our lives touch and are touched by those around us cannot be denied. That even applies to a hermit I once crossed paths with at the Catholic Worker farm in Tivoli, New York.

He would quietly appear late in the evening in the kitchen where some of us would be finishing preparing the baking for the next day, or some such task. Without a word he would collect the supplies he needed to sustain himself and return to his cabin in the woods as silently as he had come, maybe even with a loaf of our fresh bread.

Over the span of years each of us is given, it is possible for each one of us to be held by, walk hand-in-hand with and then likely hold as many as seven generations of family members, friends and folk we come in contact with.

My grandmother who was born in 1876 held me as an infant. She knew my name and I came to know and love my Dede. At four or five years of age, I even have a vague memory of seeing old soldiers sunning themselves at a retirement home at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. They probably stretched the timeline of people I encountered by another 20 years.

On the other side of the continuum, our family has moved a further three generations on. Somehow I am amazingly, already, at least so it seems to me, a great grand uncle. Given current life expectancies, my seeing a seventh generation of my family is an odds-on proposition. Does this very concrete and personal link to a timeline of well over two centuries of people who will have known me carry any obligations with it?

On Monday, my Aunt Dorothy wrote from her home in Cutbank, Montana, not far from the twin Glacier and Waterton national parks. She still prefers a card and stamped envelope over the less-tactile convenience of email. Her whole adult life as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondolet has been spent in service. She started as an elementary school teacher, taught at a school for the deaf, was dean of liberal arts at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri, and now at 86 is doing parish work on the north side of the Diocese of Helena, Montana.

The Diocese of Helena is the home diocese of Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. My aunt sent along a picture of her and Archbishop Hunthausen taken last spring as he, now 91, celebrated his 50th anniversary as a bishop. As archbishop of Seattle, Washington, he gained notoriety as an outspoken social justice and anti-war advocate. His opposition to nuclear weapons even led him to withhold the taxes on half of his $10,000-a-year salary in protest. The IRS had to garnish his modest income to recover the taxes.

Hunthausen’s stands were a key catalyst leading to the U.S. Bishop’s 1983 peace pastoral statement condemning nuclear deterrence as a permanent state of international relations. However these positions provoked a strong conservative backlash. The archbishop is most likely remembered for the hot water he got into with the Vatican over issues such as permitting girls to serve on the alter during Mass, allowing a service in his Seattle cathedral for gay parishioners and questioning the church’s denial of ordination to women.

The well-known quote attributed to the Great Law of the Iroquois offers that “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation … even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”

Consciously or just intuitively understood, lives given in service to others, lives able to risk confronting uncomfortable truths such as those exemplified by Archbishop Hunthausen and my aunt ultimately take concern for future generations to heart. A myriad of issues before Yukoners today demand the same consideration be seriously given even to the seventh generation.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

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

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read