‘Freedom 2015’ less than $1 million away for Arctic diocese

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ACW representative Marni Crossley presents her group's freewill offering to diocese of the Arctic Suffragan Bishop Darren McCartney. Photo: Art Babych
ACW representative Marni Crossley presents her group's freewill offering to diocese of the Arctic Suffragan Bishop Darren McCartney. Photo: Art Babych

The Anglican Diocese of the Arctic is hoping that by the end of this year it will be free from its decade-old debt for the rebuilding of St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

But for “Freedom 2015” to become a reality, the diocese needs $723,000 by the end of 2015 to clear off the $10.3 million debt incurred following the destruction by arson of the iconic igloo-shaped St. Jude’s.

To help the northern diocese pay off the debt, the Anglican Church Women (ACW) of the diocese of Ottawa hosted another of its several fundraising events in support of the St. Jude’s on Sept. 20, at St. Stephen’s Church, drawing about 100 people.

The event coincided with a visit from the Suffragan (assistant) Bishop of the Arctic diocese, Darren McCartney, who is based in Iqaluit. He was in Ottawa to attend the ordination to the priesthood on Sept. 21 of Deacon Aigah Attagutsiak, an Inuk who serves both Inuktitut and English congregations at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Ottawa.

McCartney, who preached at both services at St. Margaret’s earlier in the day, accepted the invitation to come to the ACW fundraising event, speak to the group and receive the freewill offering for the cathedral. He also watched the screening of the documentary, Soul of the Arctic, with those gathered. The movie, produced by Northern-Ireland television network UTV, focuses on the Irish-born McCartney and his wife, Karen, and their life together in what was described as “1.5 million square miles of freezing desolation in the high Canadian Arctic.”

The documentary includes a segment in which McCartney drives a snowmobile over the ice and snow from Iqaluit to Pangnirtung, a distance of 300 km, to preside at a confirmation ceremony.

“In the earlier years of my ministry, Karen and I spent some time working in the Arctic and we know the terrain and the people well, ” he says in the movie. “It’s a stunningly beautiful place, but temperatures can fall as low as minus 50 so we have immense respect for their background as nomadic hunters living in remote camps.”

In a question-and-answer period following the movie, McCartney spoke of the anguish he felt while being pastor in Pangnirtung from 2003 to 2006 and why he and his wife had to return to Ireland. “I needed to get out to clear my head,” he said. As pastor, “I had 17 suicides in three years in a community of about 1,500 people,” said McCartney. “In that environment, in that culture and in that role you are very close to people, and so there was a lot of pain and I suppose secondary trauma for me. ” Suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.

McCartney said although he needed to get away, he was hankering to get back after a while. The couple returned to the north when McCartney was elected as suffragan bishop of the Arctic in June 2012.

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Art is the former editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.

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