Cross country skiing priest remembered

For Father Jean-Marie Mouchet, skiing wasn't just a winter recreation. For him, it was an act of faith. "He was never on or off, he was always just 100 per cent a ski coach and a priest.

For Father Jean-Marie Mouchet, skiing wasn’t just a winter recreation. For him, it was an act of faith.

“He was never on or off, he was always just 100 per cent a ski coach and a priest. The way he believed in sport, the two were intrinsically linked for him. His expression of faith was through sport,” said Pavlina Sudrich, a close family friend and one of Mouchet’s many students over the years.

Father Mouchet died on Monday in Whitehorse. He was 96.

Mouchet came to the Yukon after the Second World War as an Oblate priest. He was sent to Old Crow to aid in the Catholic conversion of the Gwich’in people. But he also taught them to ski. Many of the Old Crow families were by his bedside in his final days, Sudrich said.

“He had a very profound respect for the Gwich’in people, and it was mutual. To be a priest in the 1950s in Old Crow and to have that kind of respect from the community, it was almost unheard of,” Sudrich said.

In the 1960s, Mouchet pioneered the Territorial Experimental Ski Training – or TEST – program, and a decade later he had landed Old Crow and Inuvik racers on the Canadian National Team, and helped send the famous Firth sisters, Sharon and Shirley from Inuvik, to compete at the Olympics. In 1993 he earned the Order of Canada for his dedication to the people of the North.

He has a slew of Yukon accolades to his name as well. Mouchet was inducted into the Yukon Hall of Fame in 1980, and earned the commissioner’s medal in 1981.

Sudrich grew up in Whitehorse and learned to ski through the TEST program herself, and is now the coach of Ontario’s provincial cross-country ski team. She spoke to the News from Silver Star, B.C., where she is coaching her own athletes in the Canada Cup race series opener.

She would never have made it that far, or influenced as many athletes as she has, without Father Mouchet’s guidance, she said.

“Through skiing Father taught me the deeper meaning of hard work, and that through hard work we gain the self confidence to succeed in life. He also taught me to revel in the beauty of a perfectly timed kick and glide,” Sudrich said.

Mouchet passed away surrounded by friends and family, and while she couldn’t be there herself Sudrich said she was thankful for the time she got to spend with him in his final weeks before she had to leave for the races in B.C.

“He loved sweets. He loved tiramisu. He was eating a full piece of it every morning, right up until the end. You never want to let go of someone, but he went out on the top of his game. He was skiing in the spring, even at 96,” she said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Yukon Zinc, owner of Wolverine mine, put into receivership

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Duncan approved an order Sept. 13.

Yukon government gets set to shut territory’s government-run pot shop

The doors will shut at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17. Online sales will continue

U.S. government recommends largest development option for ANWR

The final environmental impact statement was released on Sept. 12

Yukon releases its FASD Action Plan

Seven priorites, 31 actions outlined

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

City council news, briefly

Some of the decisions made by Whitehorse city council Sept. 9

For the first time, women outnumber men at the Annual Klondike Road Relay

The field of 1,877 runners included 1,141 women, a first for the event

Yukonomist: How the Yukon saved the economy

During the Klondike gold rush, the prospect of free gold drew more… Continue reading

Yukon mountain bikers compete at Quebec championships

“In the end, it’s the race that matters”

Benefitting from a business bootcamp

Launchspace kicks off three-month program

Commentary: Choose people over paperwork

Frank Turner The following is an open letter to Stephen Samis, deputy… Continue reading

Doctors, nurses ready to see to Whitehorse’s stuffie population

Teddy Bear Clinic set for Sept. 14 at Whitehorse General Hospital

Yukoner reaches podium at Alberta Whitewater Association Provincials

Hunter Vincent finished second in the junior men’s freestyle

Most Read