Canon Angus Sewap, a Pelican Narrows priest whose quiet presence carried tremendous authority, has died from complications due to COVID-19. He was 72.
Serving his home community at St. Bartholomew Church, Sewap also made frequent home visits to elders in surrounding areas. He was a talented musician known for playing and singing gospel hymns on guitar. His death on Dec. 3 prompted an outpouring of tributes.
Anglican Indigenous Bishop of Missinippi Adam Halkett, a close friend of Sewap’s, describes him as a “humble servant” and a “real dedicated priest.”
“He was a real role model for myself and others,” Halkett says.
National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald came to know Sewap over the years in a wide variety of contexts, from meetings and training events to his many trips through northern Saskatchewan. The two once co-officiated a funeral together with Halkett. The archbishop considers himself to have been “blessed” by Sewap.
“There is, I think, among elders a quiet authority,” MacDonald says. “It is not assertive. It doesn’t speak out or stand out. But it permeates a place and a people, and it is an authority that helps hold people together.
“Angus, by many people’s standards, would be described as very quiet. But his presence was in the community and beyond. Wherever you encountered him, and even when you weren’t encountering him physically, his presence was very powerful. It had authority, it had a graciousness, it had a kindness.… He was someone who kept us together, and someone [with whom] you felt good about what you were doing because he was involved with it.”
Sewap was Cree, born on Nov. 20, 1948. Though living in Pelican Narrows for most of his life, he spent about five years studying in Prince Albert, where he became a certified electrician.
When Halkett was one year old, his parents drove through Pelican Narrows and connected with Sewap’s family. Halkett and Sewap would not meet again until 40 years later, by which time they had both become ordained.
During his training to become a priest, Sewap was a catechist and served in Sturgeon Lake First Nation. His ordained ministry lasted three decades, during which he worked on a non-stipendiary, or unpaid, basis.
Sewap’s later years were difficult. In 2012, his wife Liza died. Later, both his legs were amputated due to diabetes and he was confined to a wheelchair.
“He had artificial legs and he was really lonely,” Halkett says of this time. “And of course, this pandemic, when it hit, I couldn’t go and visit him. All I could do was talk with him over the phone.”
Near the end of his life, Sewap moved to a seniors’ residence in La Ronge. During the pandemic, Halkett says, “They had to send him home because there was no room for him.”
He adds, “When his sister called me telling me that he was home, I phoned him right away and he said, ‘Well, I’m just waiting for them to call me back when there’s room.’ During that time, that’s when he contracted that virus, COVID, and he died from it.”
When he received the news that Sewap had died, Halkett says, “I was in shock … He was a close friend of mine.”
The late priest’s nephew Greg Sewap remembers him as an avid outdoorsman.
“Of course, he loved the Lord.… When he wasn’t reading the Bible and stuff, he would be outdoors most of the time,” Greg says. “He loved fishing, hunting, spending time at his camp … and he loved tinkering around with motors. He was a carpenter. He was a little bit of everything.”
The two would often go fishing together. Greg remembers a time when his uncle caught a fish that ended up on both of their lines. “We were just fighting over it, back and forth.… Oh, we had a good laugh that time,” he recalls.
“He treated me like one of his own,” Greg adds. “I looked at him like a father figure. That’s why I was so close to him.”
MacDonald says that Sewap was “very generous with his time and every aspect of his being,” adding, “He will be deeply missed. We expect that his mantle, like Elijah—his spiritual authority and presence will fall on someone, maybe many people. But his ministry will live on.”