In tragedy-afflicted Humboldt, Sask., clergy focus on funerals, reaching out

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A hockey stick stands next to a lighted candle in memory of the 16 people who died after a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team collided with a semi-trailer April 6. Photo: Joyce Sherwin/Shutterstock

The town of Humboldt, Sask., small enough so that almost everyone was connected in some way with one of the victims of the April 6 collision, seems to have moved from a state of shock and confusion to grief, a local Anglican priest says.

“I think one of my colleagues described it best when he said there’s an empty feeling in town,” says the Rev. Matteo Carboni, incumbent of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. “The shock of everything has set in and people are starting to mourn…It’s hard to describe. It’s been such a whirlwind, and I’ve been struggling to find words to actually articulate what has happened.”

Sixteen people have died and 13 were injured after a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-trailer about 30 km north of Tisdale, Sask., as the team was on its way to a game. The team’s 24 players ranged in age from 16 to 21.

The immediate aftermath of the accident left the town’s faith leaders reeling, he says.

“Over the weekend, it was a struggle to organize ourselves and…just try to figure out what entirely happened,” he says. “Now that things are a little more clear—who the victims are, who’s still in hospital, who’s recovered, who the families are…[it’s] a little more manageable in terms of pastoral care.”

The immediate concern of Humboldt faith leaders now, Carboni says, is to prepare for the funerals and provide spiritual care to those in need.

None of the victims or their families were members of his parish. But most of his parishioners—and their fellow townspeople—were still affected in some way.

“Most people in my parish taught one of the kids, or knew one of the kids, or were related to their families,” he says. “There’s a few that weren’t connected in any way, mostly the newcomers. But it’s a small community, six or seven thousand people.”

None of the victims were parishioners at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Humboldt, Sask, says the Rev. Matteo Carboni, but almost everyone in the congregation was affected in some way. Photo: Google Street View

On the evening of the accident, clergy from various churches were called to a mobile crisis unit set up in the town’s arena, to help in any way they could, Carboni says. On the evening of Sunday, April 8, they, together with the Saskatchewan government, organized a vigil, led by Carboni, to mourn the victims.

On April 10, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Rev. Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), issued a joint statement requesting prayers for the victims, their families and others in the community.

In Prince Albert, Sask., members of St. David’s Anglican Church sent 20 prayer shawls to Humboldt to bring comfort to people affected by the tragedy.

When people ask about making donations for the surviving victims and their families, Carboni says, local clergy are referring them to an Internet fundraising campaign set up by some local citizens. As of press time, the campaign had raised more than $8.5 million.

Note: This story has been updated with information that a sixteenth person had died as a result of the accident.

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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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