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Inner Journey – Las Vegas

So there we were out on the road from Omaha westwards in early March. We were some 1000 km from our destination on the other side of the Continental Divide. It would be a long day.

Our goal was to get safely over the Eisenhower Tunnel Pass west of Denver which is 3400m (11,158 ft) above sea level. We hoped there would be no snow storm. This meant only minimal stopping today – bathroom breaks, fuel and coffee. We were up for it!

We turned SW into Colorado passing our namesake Fort Morgan. It wasn’t long before we could see the snow capped Rockies in the distance. We motored right through Denver without stopping and heading for the steep climb ahead. Going up steep hills I would usually stick to the right lane and let the Trekker slow right down. I was reluctant to go faster thinking of gas consumption and wanting to avoid potential overheating. We chugged and chugged uphill around bends enjoying the views of snow covered peaks near and far. It was cloudy but no snow. Yeh!

Made it safely over the Eisenhower pass
We eventually stopped for the night at a roadside motel. We had not camped once on this trip so far. It was still winter and few RV Parks were open yet. Plus we were in a hurry a bit. We had a reservation coming up at the Oasis RV Resort in Las Vegas and did not want to be late. The next morning we set a goal of reaching St. George on the Utah-Arizona state line – about 950 km, another really long day. We sailed by the turnoff to Vail and gave it the gas downhill. We soon came to the Utah state line and the most of the snow was gone. We drove across a vast rolling stone plateau with little sign of life – few trees or vegetation. It was an endless rock desert. Marie felt a bit uncomfortable looking out at the desolation. We would have hated to have a breakdown here – no gas, water or food for over 200 km. We kept going to St. George and found a nice roadside motel around 6 PM with palm trees. Aha we thought, we are out of winter now. But no!!! Overnight there was a 20 cm snowfall and the Trekker was covered in the morning! It soon melted away once we were on our way to Las Vegas, now only 200 km away. We passed through the NW corner of Arizona and drove through the well irrigated Moapa Valley in Nevada. We finally drove down the strip in Las Vegas marveling that there was not much traffic. We found the Oasis RV Resort south of town and checked in. This was one of the most luxurious RV parks. Spacious, lovely landscaping, huge pool and clubhouse enriched by endless sunshine. We decided to take the bus back into town rather than unhook, drive in and find parking. Las Vegas! The thing I remember most is people – of all ages in colourful clothes, some laughing, some crying, some preaching, others muttering to themselves. People approached us continuously, inviting us in to their casino or restaurant or trying to sell something. Very strange but interesting. Lot’s of souvenir shops, huge luxurious hotels, fountains and casinos.
Not sure what but he was certainly entertaining
We had a great dinner after wandering through the casinos and picking up some souvenirs. The next day we went swimming in the resort pool and then downtown again. Soon we had had enough of the big city and were ready to push on for the desert.

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Journey to Arnprior – Omaha

So we were on our journey to Arnprior. The distance from Ottawa is only about 60 km but we took the long route to get there – over 13,000 km! We had bought a house in Arnprior and had almost a year to sell our Ottawa home and move. We started by getting rid of stuff and doing a deep clean. Then we put the family home up for sale in November 2010. It was not the best time of year and we had few nibbles. We were selling it ourselves using Grapevine. The people we had at the few showings did not like this or did not like that. We were getting discouraged. So we decided to take off March 1 in our treker on a long trip leaving our son Kyle in charge of showings.

Here is the extended routing we took on our long Journey to Arnprior Ha! It was as much about an inner journey as an outer one. In transitioning from big city to small town, we planned to visit friends in Nebraska, California and Arkansas. It was to be our signature treker trip. We timed it to meet up with friends from Calgary who were wintering in Oceanside, CA. Our other friends enroute all lived in the U.S..

We ate down our food inventory at home and stuffed the rest into the small fridge and cupboards we had on board the treker. The first day we made it to London, ON and stayed in a motel. Next day when we crossed the U.S. Canada border the the customs and immigration officer asked us “You’re not moving down here are are you?” I replied “Absolutely not sir, we are just visiting some friends.” “OK on your way.” he replied. The second night we made it just across the Illinois-Iowa border and had some great fried chicken in our motel room. The drive had been uneventful but there had been a lot of traffic south of Chicago. I made a mistake and entered a pre-paid toll highway without paying. Ooops. We were using a GPS and it told me to keep left so I did lol. We would have to pay a small fine later.

That was the only trouble we had. Marie and I were enjoying the scenery and anticipating warmer weather ahead. I always enjoy driving the treker and never felt tired or sleepy. Marie was the most patient passenger. Then again, we would only drive 500 to 600 km each day stopping no later than 5 PM. We were in no particular rush and always had our own food and accommodation for emergencies. Life is truly great on the road in a treker!

We made it safely to Omaha, NE on the third day. We had met Don and Jean on our retirement cruise to Spain in 2010 while on a shore excursion. We really hit it off as they were super polite and pleasant. They had no tell tale accent so we were sure they were fellow Canadians. But no, they were from Omaha, NE, a great mid-west U.S. city of 500,000 residents.

So what is famous about Omaha you are wondering? Warren Buffet lives there, one of the most successful investors in the world worth some $85 billion. Maybe you have heard of Mutual of Omaha and the Union Pacific Railway Corp. which are headquartered there. You’ve heard of the beautiful Missouri River which flows through town. But the truly nicest thing about Omaha is the people. They are extremely friendly, relaxed and hospitable – just like Canadians lol.

We found Don and Jean’s house not too far from downtown. We would play it by ear. Stop for coffee and a chat and then move on. But no, they insisted that we stay with them – for 2 nights. They gave us a lovely guest bedroom. After settling in they invited us to go on a long walk through some beautiful park land. The next day they gave us a tour around town including stopping for lunch in the world famous old market area. That night they invited their kids and families over for dinner and we had a great time. I recall their son was a policeman and told us some interesting stories. We got a sense of what it is like to live in Omaha in the Cornhusker state and cheer for the U of NE Cornhuskers.

The next morning we were anxious to get away. We thanked Don and Jean for their warm hospitality and promised to host them in Arnprior once we were settled in. Wow it was getting warmer and we were feeling really pampered. We were off to Colorado on the next stage of our journey to Arnprior.

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Thy path leads to Arnprior – Fall 2010

When we hiked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in the spring of 2010, we learned that we did not like big cities – they were confusing, noisy, less friendly etc.. By contrast, whenever we returned to the country side we felt relief, peace, calmness. Dave having lived his most of his life in cities was somewhat surprised at this “discovery”. Marie not so much, having come from small town Newfoundland. The other key factor was Marie’s journey in the Upper Room House of Prayer in Nepean. Starting in 2006, she had studied spiritual direction under Sr. Rosemary O’Toole, CSJ. Rossemary told her about the contemplative Masses being held at the Galilee Centre in Arnprior with Fr. Jack Lau, OMI. She started attending them. Dave demurred as he was involved with parish KofC work. But after retiring and the Camino, he started tagging along too. But before we get to that a few more Trekker stories on the road.

Laughing it up near Cayuga Lake

Returning home for a couple of weeks after the shakedown trip, we left for a couple more Trekker trips to Finger Lakes, NY and Montreal, QC. We drove down the west side of Cayuga Lake and stayed in a lovely grassy RV park. The leaves were just starting to turn and the weather was still quite warm. The Finger Lakes as you may know are brimming with campgrounds, wineries, hiking trails and scenic vistas.

Map by Michael J, CC BY-SA 3.0,

There were also a number of great gorges to hike near where we were. One was Taughannockfalls State Park and another in the Watkins Glen State Park, which is one of the best rated parks in America. Both are near the lovely town of Ithaca with the well known Cornell University which we toured as well.

Our next trip took us to the Montreal area. We paid a short visit to St. Joseph’s Oratory, the largest shrine to St. Joseph in the world which had been started by St. Andre Bessette in 1904. Then on to the Mount Royal Cemetery to visit Dave’s maternal grandparents’ resting place. Montreal is always a great place to visit with so much panache even though it is a large city!

We spent a couple of restful nights at the Oka National Park campground which soon became one of our favourite camping destinations. It is on the shore of Lac des Deux Montagnes where the Ottawa River flows into the St. Lawrence. They have nice campsites and a great beach. Across the road is the famous Oka Calvary Trail where the Sulpicians built seven chapels to mark some of the Stations of the Cross. We enjoyed the hike up the hill and the view looking south from the top. Visiting the Trappist Monks store was fun too.

We then pushed on to the south shore to visit Kahnawake. This is the Jesuit mission that took in St Kateri Teckawitha to live from 1675 to 1680 after she had been persecuted by her fellow Mohawks in Caughnawauga, N.Y.. There was nothing much open and no one around yet we felt honoured to see where she had lived and died in Canada.

After we returned home again it was time to winterize the Trekker by draining the water lines and adding some antifreeze to the water tank to be safe. Now back to our retirement living aspirations.

In late summer we started looking around as we were ready to “downsize” from our 4 bedroom home in the suburban Barrhaven area of Ottawa, after 22 wonderful years there. Our kids were now gone, we were both retired and the house was simply too big for us and our 2 cats. We became interested in moving to a small town not too far away but only if the backyard view was private and the lot was small. So we checked out Kemptville, Almonte, Morrisburg and Carleton Place. None of these towns clicked with us – too commercial, isolated and/or busy. We were looking for a “camino” like life style where we could walk most everywhere in town and only have to drive for groceries or when we left town. We knew what we wanted and weren’t going to move until we found it.

Our family home in the city

One weekend we were on our way to Mass at Galilee and noticed the sign for the Riverview Estates housing development on the Madawaska River. We did not have much time so we took the brochures and headed for Galilee. The next day we were brousing the information and discovered that there were two lots that backed onto the river still available. We looked at each other and decided that we should go back there and take a second look, quick! Well we did and the rest is history. The two lots in question had been sold but the people had backed out and we happened to drop in just as they became available again. We selected one and signed for a new bungalow in Arnprior on the Madawaska River. To be continued.

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Treker Shakedown Trip

More on this John Fogerty concert later in this post.

Right after Fiddlefest we left in our Road Treker on a trip to see if everything worked as it should. We had not had a fun start. Before we bought the 11 year old Roadtrek it was safety inspected. When it was up on the hoist we could see the underside was badly rusted. Apparently the owner had parked the vehicle on grass for an extended period of time which is not good for the under carriage. It passed the safety test OK so we went ahead and purchased it. On the way home, I smelled smoke!! By the time I arrived, smoke was coming out of the right front wheel well. Some neighbors came over to see our “new” camper with smoke coming out of the wheel. How embarrassing! We had to get it towed back to the service station to get the seized break caliper fixed.

Our planned shakedown trip would take us to Algonquin Park, Midland, Orillia, Wasaga Beach, Picton and home again to Ottawa – 1000km over 5 days. It was the first of many such trips to enjoy nature, visit friends, catch a beach and take in some music. We were excited to finally be off.

Algonquin Provincial Park is certainly one on Ontario’s nature gems. We drove the Highway 60 corridor east to west and stayed at the Two Rivers Campsite for one night. We arrived late in the afternoon but had time for a short hike. Everything worked on the Treker as it should. The next day we were up and exploring before moving on. Here are a few pics.

We dro

We drove on to Midland to see the Shrine of the Canadian Martyrs. This national shrine commemorates the memory of six Jesuit Martyrs and two laypersons from the mission of Saint-Marie among the Hurons. It consists of a beautiful church and gardens adorned with statues, flowers and historical information. We were amazed at the beauty of the church inside – all wooden lined with canoes and other native artifacts. This video below followed by a few pics show you what we saw there. It was truly beautiful and very moving. It was soon time to push on to Wasaga Beach for the night.

We found a private RV park and leveled the vehicle, plugged in to their 110V power, filled our water tank and hooked up to the cable TV connection. All this takes about 10 minutes. In the morning as we left we dumped our grey and black water holding tanks into their underground tank. We were getting the hang of things and loving the free roaming lifestyle. No problems with any equipment that we remember. We looked around the wind blown beach on a cool autumn day. We almost got stuck in a sand drift in a parking lot lol – sand drifts can be dangerous lol.

We dove back to Midland to visit another national treasure Saint-Marie among the Hurons mission, now a restored historical park and museum. The first European settlement in Canada from 1639-49 was right here. We toured the facility and marveled at the beauty of the wood palisades, buildings and houses all built so long ago and lovingly restored. It is a great place to visit and we could have spent several more days in this area. But it was now time to head south for Casino Rama near Orillia.

We are not gamblers at all but like the lively atmosphere in and around casinos. The Chippewas of Rama First Nation own and operate Casino Rama. We were allowed to park in the corner of the parking lot. There were 3 or 4 other RVs there too. There were no services so we operated on 12 volt battery power. We also have a propane gas heater and stove so there are no real inconveniences for a short stay like this. We learned later that this kind of camping without services is called “boon docking”.

Casino Rama

We entered the large casino and learned that John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival) was scheduled to play that night. Wow let’s go! Unfortunately they were sold out but they said to come back just before the concert started and they might have something. And they did. We got 2 seats in the very back row and enjoyed a great concert from one of the best. There are benefits camping at a casino like complimentary coffee, popcorn, washrooms and sometimes an indoor pool and showers. We spent a great evening there and left in the morning with our coffee cups full lol.

Our last stop was near Picton, ON to visit friends George and Sheila. Marie and Sheila had worked together in Ottawa many years back and we had kept in touch. George and Sheila were between houses and renting a lovely property on the Bay of Quinte. It happened to be Sheila’s birthday and they were gracious to let us plug in overnight. One advantage of bringing your own accommodation is you don’t feel like you are burdening friends as much when you drop in for an overnight visit lol. We had a great visit reminiscing about the good old days and promising to come back again to beautiful Prince Edward County.

The next morning we headed for home. All in all a very smooth shakedown trip in preparation for bigger trips to come. See you on the road again soon.

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Road Trekin Days

At the Pembroke Ontario Fiddlefest with our “new” RV

We were the very proud owners of a Roadtrek RV for 4 years after retiring. We had tried out an RV rental in Florida previously and really liked the freedom of roaming everyday and staying in nature at night. So we weren’t complete novices when we purchased our 1999 Roadtrek 190 Versatile in August 2010. Our friends Betty and Glenn had been RVing for years and were encouraging us. Glenn even came with me to kick the tires before we purchased from an elderly couple who could not climb in easily anymore.

Sanibel Island Florida

Some technicalities for those not familiar with RVs. There are 3 basic types of RV motorhomes. Class A refers to the biggest ones which are bus like in shape and size and cost upwards of $200K new. These are big enough to live in however the cost of upkeep and their huge size does make for some limitations we thought. Class B refers to a converted van – what we bought. The advantage is you can park these in your laneway or on a city street and easily move from place to place. The tradeoff is their relatively small interior space. They cost upwards of $100K new. The Class C are a compromise between the A and B and is what we had rented in Florida. They are extremely popular and cost $75K and up new. You cannot easily park these in your laneway (neighbours may complain) and some cities will not let you park them in public places due to their unsightliness in some circles. There are also trailers and various pop-up campers which we were not attracted to mainly because you have to tow it.

So we decided to buy a used RV and found a Roadtrek 190 Versatile (19 feet long) in the Gatineau area. Rather than explain it all here, if you are curious, here is a link to a detailed video of what this particular unit is all about. Skip if not interested and/or you are already familiar with RV technology. It is a very complex machine that does provide all the comforts of home in a new place everynight. Roadtreks at that time were manufactured in Kitchener, ON so we eventually toured their factory to see how they put these popular units together. It is the intricate cutting and fitting that makes these so expensive. Yes it is crowded and a real test of your marriage lol!

We knew we would like the lifestyle of hitting the road and camping but perhaps we did not realize just how much fun and freedom it would all be. We went places we would never otherwise have gone and enjoyed meeting so many interesting people. We usually stayed in RV and State parks when we traveled. We also would stay in casino parking lots or campgrounds very cheaply and use their facilities. I don’t remember ever staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot or a highway rest stop as we did not consider these locations safe. At one point we lived in our baby for 3+ months when we were between houses. All told I think we spent about a year living in it and put on 60,000 km in four short years. In the end we had had enough and moved up to the comfort of renting motel rooms and condos when we traveled. Will never forget the good times we had and we understand the current frenzy people have about getting out of the city and camping during the Covid pandemic. It is a great lifestyle if you enjoy travelling and the outdoors.

Some of the trips we took over the four years we had our Roadtrek were to:

  • Pembroke, ON Fiddlefest
  • Algonguin Park and Midland, ON
  • Washington, DC
  • Renfrew, ON Bluegrass Festival
  • Florida 3 times
  • San Diego, CA
  • Winnipeg, MB
  • Finger Lakes, NY
Friends Glenn and Betty

Our very first trip was to Pembroke for the annual Labour Day Weekend Fiddlefest. This is a big deal with hundreds of RVs crowded into the beautiful Riverside park. There are hundreds of “amateur” musicians playing fiddles, guitars, pianos, string bass and singing and dancing at multiple pop up sites. People come from all over Ontario, western Quebec, northern US to participate or simply enjoy. Our friends the Clarkes had been going for years and had a large camping spot reserved that we could fit our Roadtrek into. I remember pulling into the registration area and just as we did we heard a loud pop like a gunshot. Everyone ducked. When we got out we found that one of the tire valves which was old and cracked had simply failed with a loud bang and we had a flat tire lol! We managed to get the tire fixed that day I think and all went well from then.

Our setup with Glenn and Betty

We were soon introduced to the routine of making the rounds to the various music venues until the late hours and than sleeping in the next day, going for a walk, eating and then doing it all over again. The music, laughter and hospitality was absolutely great. Here are a few pics.

The highlight for sure was an original song that Debbie and Maggie Beschamps wrote and performed called Whippoorwill Betty. This talented mother and daughter team had a large RV on the same site that we were in and put on a great show every night that was very popular. They had become good friends with Betty and Glenn and in appreciation composed and sang this song about Betty’s distinctive laugh for the first time. You must see the live version below I recorded. Our RV provides the backdrop.

This was the first of several visits to this Ottawa Valley festival. Sadly it was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid. We are hoping it will be a go this year. Wow, our first local RV trip was truly a great one. Thanks for reading. As usual your comments and questions are welcome.

Dave and Marie

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Jesu Ufam Tobie

It was exactly 90 years ago today that Sister (now Saint) Faustina Kowalska saw a vision of the Lord Jesus who told her to paint an image according to the pattern she saw. She was in her cell in the house the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy had in Plock, Poland, about 90 min NW of Warsaw on the Vistula River. We visited Plock on our trip to Poland in 2016 and wrote about it at the time. The reason I remember the date – Feb 22, 1931 – is because my mother’s 10th birthday was on that day too. So Mom was born exactly 100 years ago today!

Just recently Fr. Seraphim Michalenko of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge MA, passed away. It was he who successfully smuggled a copy of the manuscript of the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, out of Communist Poland, thus enabling it to be accurately translated, published and spread across the world. Initially the Vatican banned reading of her writings for 20 years due to grammatical errors and an earlier inaccurate translation. In 1979, Pope John Paul II lifted the ban just 6 months into his papacy after having her diary thoroughly examined for its authenticity.

We have a copy of the beautiful leather bound edition that Fr. Seraphim produced. It is truly an amazing spiritual book, one that I will read again soon. Sadly, the house in which Saint Faustina baked bread, helped out in the kitchen and had this vision, was destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. The Sisters were rebuilding it when we were there. Hopefully their excited dreams have now come to fruition. Here are a few pictures from our visit to Plock in honour of this 90th anniversary.

Jezu Ufam Tobie – Jesus I Trust in You

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A Rumour of God

Meet Jizo the little buddhist monk figure that guides thousands of pilgrims on the ancient Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan. Isn’t he cute?

No I am not converting to Buddhism. Rather, I just finished reading Ottawa journalist Robert C. Sibley’s 2010 book wherein he talks about his pilgrimage there. I was amazed at the length and physical difficulty of this 1200 km hike up and down mountainous terrain on the island of Shikoku, Japan. He visited some 88 sacred temples along his 54 day long walk. Little Jizo serves as the trail marker just as the scallop shell on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage does in Spain. Wow, what an endurance!

Sibeley’s book is ostensibly not about this though. It’s larger theme is his seeking to restore a sense of mystery and enchantment in our world that has become analyzable, calculable and explainable in a scientific way for many people. Rather, if one listens deeply and really opens one’s eyes, one can learn to have a mystical experience at any time proving that the world still is enchanted despite our modern misgivings. A mystical experience is one where the truth of our being and our knowing of the world is laid bare for a few unforgettable moments. Where one feels the spiritual presence of God in everyday mundane activities and indeed within us. Anyone can become a mystic through training explains Sibley. Wow, what a breath of fresh air from the daily pandemic news these days, lol.

I liked the book but it was up and down. In a series of essays (on place, solitude, wonder, etc.), Sibley talks about his own experiences with enchantment and delves into the thinking of dozens of philosophers, theologians and writers from Rousseau, Kierkegaard, Rahner, Merton to Virginia Woolf and Wordsworth. I found myself constantly referring to the footnotes in the back as everything was very interesting and I wanted to learn more… Too, I liked his framing of things through wilderness trips to the north of Canada and Vancouver Island as well as on the Camino itself. There is a good bibliography.

At times though, my interest lagged. He seemed to have a set formula for each subject and would drone on sometimes too long it seems, just to complete the template. Is this a book about philosophy and spirituality or is it a book about walking and thinking? Ostensibly both it seems. I really enjoyed his discussion of Soren Kirekegaard wandering the streets of Copenhagen and then rushing home to jot down his thoughts while still standing in his coat and hat. For Rousseau who changed the world, it became “I walk, therefore I am.” In praise of walking.

I certainly agree that walking is a great way to unburden my thoughts and to find new connections and possibilities in life. Come to think of it, it’s time for a walk right now. I give the book 4 stars out of five because of the somewhat formulistic style but overall great content. Needs some distillation.


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Father Lacombe, the Black-Robe Voyageur

An excellent book about a very talented Canadian missionary Fr. Albert Lacombe, OMI. It was first published in 1911 by Katherine Hughes Canadian journalist and author. She was approached by Fr. Lacombe to help him write his memoirs after 60+ years of ministering to the Cree, Métis and Blackfeet First Nations people in Alberta. I highly enjoyed reading about his first hand encounters with these peoples during years of tumultuous change and development in north western and all Canada.

Father Lacombe and the Blackfeet, C. W. Jefferys, 1934
Born in Saint-Sulpice, Lower Canada in 1827 it was soon evident that he had a strong interest in religion. After ordination as a secular priest he was sent to Pembina, ND in 1849 where he accompanied the Métis on the plains during there semi-annual buffalo hunts. After a short return to the east he was sent to Lac Ste Anne (Alta) where he joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) religious order. Working with Bishop Alexander Taché of Red River (Man), they selected a new site for a mission near Fort Edmonton where the Cree and Blackfeet came to trade and named it St. Albert. Pere Lacombe established this mission successfully for the Metis who were Roman Catholics being the descendents from french, english and native parents.

In 1865 at his request, Taché permitted him to establish an itinerant ministry to the Cree and Blackfoot. He established Saint-Paul-des-Cris on the North Saskatchewan River. From there he went on to camp with the Blackfeet who were the mortal enemies of the Cree and the fiercest of all the Plains Indians. The Cree were somewhat receptive to Pere Lacombe’s Christian teachings and some agreed to be baptized into the faith. Not so the Blackfeet. Along with their allies, the Piegan and Blood tribes, they had a culture that did not permit a warrior to humble himself. Nevertheless Pere Lacombe gained their respect and became great friends with their Chief Crowfoot.

He developed a famous catechesis ladder with pictures that showed the path to heaven and the path to hell. He would use this to instruct native youth while helping to develop Cree and Blackfoot language dictionaries as well as nursing them when sick. He was assisted in this by the interpreter and controversial “lay priest” Jean L’Heureux. At one point Lacombe was caught in a battle between the Cree and Blackfoot. While trying to stop it he was grazed by a bullet and nursed back to health by L’Heureux.

One in the most memorable stories in the book for me was when he was travelling back to a mission in the dead of winter on foot. They had but a few days of food remaining when they came upon a small group of starving Cree. Pere Lacombe invited them to join and they continued together. He immediately gave away the last food he had to the starving natives as they continued to plod forward together. They were all near death one morning. Pere Lacombe urged everyone to walk for one more day. At the end of that day, they finally spotted a light from the encampment and staggered into safety at last. This is the supreme Christian example of giving away what you yourself need as an act of charity to help someone else. This was what Pere Lacombe was like as a man. Please watch this short CBC video for some further testimony.

In 2018 Marie and I took a Great Plains road trip and snapped this photo of Fort Whoop-Up in Lethbridge, AB. Ironically it was closed for the season. Pere Lacombe and the Methodist missionary Rev George MacDougall pleaded with Ottawa to halt the illegal whiskey trade there by Americans in the 1870s. It was destroying the Blackfeet and other tribes. In 1873 the North West Mounted Police force was established and put an end to this devastation for good.

In what I would call Part II of his life, he was called back to the Archdiocese of St. Boniface in 1874 to assist Bishop Taché in fundraising efforts for the western missions. For the next 40 years he criss-crossed Canada, parts of the U.S., Europe, journeyed to the Holy Land and became first hand friends with Prime Ministers, Governors-General, business men like William Van Horne CPR President, and international and church leaders including Popes and Emperors. He served as a peacemaker in the 1885 North West Rebellion by convincing the Blackfeet to not join in with the 2nd Métis rebellion under Louis Riel. He enabled a peace agreement with the Blackfeet to permit the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway across their reservation land. He built a colony for the Métis who were the worst of persecuted peoples even to this day. He established a home for orphans and the aged in Calgary when he was in his eighties. He was a master fundraiser and planner who never kept a penny of donations for his own use. It is reported that he would only eat one meal a day so every extra penny could go into the missions!

Pere Lacombe in 1913, photo Wikipedia
Yes he was instrumental in the founding of the Residential School system in Canada. But he admitted that there were problems. The educated youth who would return to the reservation were neither white nor Indian. He knew then that it was not an ultimate solution. I liken the role of a religious missionary in 19th century Canada to be like the cutting wheel of a vast mining machine (colonialization) that keeps pushing deeper into the coal face. Yes, he could be impatient at times and embelish. But he always had the welfare of First Nations peoples in his heart. They called him “man of good heart”. Finally slowing down a bit…, he moved to Hermitage St. Michel in Pincher Creek to write his memoirs but continued his fundraising trips unabated. It was in 1916 that he drew his last breath in Midnapore, now a suburb of Calgary. He is the archetype of Oblate missionaries in Canada, always among the people. He was successful for three reasons. First, he got along with everyone he met, easily making friends and gaining trust. Two, he was an adventurer and planner who could never sit still. Third, he was both skilled and compassionate wanting to remain a priest rather than become a bishop with admin duties. In 1932 he was named a National Historic Person of Canada. The cities of Lacombe and St. Albert, Alberta have been named in his honour. Peacemaker, priest and pioneer, Pere Lacombe makes me proud to be an Oblate Associate and a Canadian.

Photo courtesy University of Calgary
Well done Pere Lacombe and Katherine Hughes for writing this highly fascinating, accurate and factual account of a great life. 5 out of 5 stars!


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(Rev.) White Burton Morgan 1879 – 1956

Rev. White Burton Morgan c. 1950

My paternal grandfather White Burton Morgan was born in Hartland, NB on March 24, 1879. His parents were David Ezra Morgan 1852-1924 and Lois Parmelia Orser (Morgan) 1856-1939. Each was descended from Loyalists from New York State who came to New Brunswick from the U.S. following the American Revolutionary War. In 1879, Canada was but 12 years old. PM John A. McDonald was busy introducing protective tariffs on manufactured goods and promising a transcontinental railway as the Plains first nations people were starving in the west due to the disappearance of buffalo. I never really got to know my Grandpa Morgan as he died after a long illness when I was 6.

White was the middle of 5 children. Sadly older sister Martha died in 1878 at age 3 and younger brother David died in 1888 at age 4. Older brother Edmund and younger sister Lina lived a long life so little White’s life was tinged with both sorrow and subsequent joy from the very start. There must have been a lot of religion in the family to sustain them as both his mother Lois’ father Moses and Uncle Charles were Free Baptist Ministers. White’s father David listed his profession as farmer. His mom’s sister Minnie Bell was married to a Samuel White so I suppose this is how White may have got his unusual first name.

Edmond and White c 1882-3

Hartland (pop. 1000) had been founded by White’s mother’s great great grandfather William Orser in 1797. Known now for having the longest covered bridge in the world, it is in the heart of potato country and must have been a very peaceful place to grow up in.

I have little information about his early childhood life other than he grew up on a farm with his older brother and younger sister. He went to Hartland High School and later Provincial Normal School in Fredericton. White began his career as a teacher locally but then out west to teach in Saskatchewan and Alberta. He served a stint in the Royal Engineers in Halifax and came to Ottawa in 1905 to be boys’ secretary at the YMCA. He then went to Queens University, Kingston graduating with a BA in 1909. In 1913 he enrolled in Theology at Trinity College, Toronto and graduated with a BD in 1914.

He was ordained an Anglican Rector at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa in 1913 and briefly assigned to the mission at Madawaska and Killaloe in the Ottawa Valley. He then became assistant rector at St. Mathew’s Anglican Church in Ottawa before being assigned as Rector, St. John’s Anglican Church, Vankleek Hill, Ontario in November 1915. But just before this move he married Bella Mae Vallillee of Ottawa on July 7 at St. Mathew’s. They had courted for a year. She was the only child of George William Vallillee and Rebecca Jane Skuce both of Ottawa and was born Jan 4, 1895. Her mom Rebeka Jane nee Skuce died in 1914 when Bella Mae was 19. Her dad, George Vallillee remarried Margaret Tait in 1917 and they had a son George Vallillee.

In Vankleek Hill, White and Bella Mae gave birth to six children. It was a busy time for sure. White was 42 and Bella was 26 when my dad was born:

  • Lois Geraldine Feb 5, 1916
  • Burton Roper Mar 23, 1917
  • Vera Marjorie Apr 19, 1918
  • Barbara Caroline Jul 11 1919
  • Alfred David Apr 14 1921 (my dad)
  • Reginald Aug 24 1922
St. John the Apostle Anglican Church, Vankleek Hill, Ontario Today

In 1922 he moved to Russell and Edwards, ON where he was Incumbent. It was on May 1, 1927 he was appointed Rector at St. Martin’s Anglican on Woodroffe Avenue in Ottawa’s west end. St. Martin’s then was located in what is the current Hulse and Playfair Chapel just across from Our Lady of Fatima RC Church. White was also responsible for St. Stephen’s Anglican on Britannia Road. The Morgan family established themselves on Fourth Avenue in McKellar Park not far to the east from both churches. McKellar Park Golf Course had just opened in May so it was the start of a long love relationship with golf in the Morgan family.

Morgan Family c 1935
White, Bella Mae and daughter Vera on the golf course, c 1938

White was busy with his two churches and Bella with their 6 kids. He was also responsible for the Missions of Chelsea and Gatineau Mills across the Ottawa River in Quebec from 1933-40. The years flew by. The kids went to Broadview public school and Nepean High School just a few blocks away. Then it was off to university for some. When the war years came, oldest son Burton who also went to Trinity College, enrolled in the army and my dad Alfred, in the RCN Volunteer Reserve. White was a Mason of the Scottish Perfection, was very affable and popular, making many friends around town.

At my dad’s graduation from McGill 1942

Meanwhile the grandchildren had started coming and coming and coming. All told he and Bella had 20 grandchildren from 1941 to 1961. 4 of their 6 six children stayed in Ottawa, only the oldest Lois moving to Brantford, ON and the youngest Reginald ending up in Cornwall. So there was plenty of opportunity to be with their grandchildren. Many large family get togethers occurred at the Morgan household now on Windermere Ave, Fourth Ave having been renamed.

With grandson Robert Carson c 1941
At the sea 1940s

However, tragedy was about to strike. Rev. White retired from St. Martin’s in 1949 after 23 years as Rector, for illhealth reasons. Mind you he was 70 so he was likely ready to retire anyway. I do not know the details of his illness but I know it affected his retirement adversely. His friend Rev. Ken Cowan took over as Rector. Bella was not well either suffering from some disorders that I do not know the details of. As a young boy I remember visiting them in hospital and that is about all.

Me with Grandma and Grandpa Morgan 1951

Sadly White passed away on May 24, 1956 at the age of 77 in the Perley Hospital Ottawa and was interred at Beechwood Cemetery after the service at St. Martin’s. Bella Mae did not live much longer and passed away on Oct 19, 1956 at the age of 61. They had had a good very productive life together and the Morgan family name lives on in Ottawa and elsewhere thanks to them. I wish I had had the chance to get to know you both more Grandpa and Grandma Morgan, may God continue to bless your souls.

I wish to acknowledge and thank cousin John Morgan for supplying the bulk of the family material used to create this biography. Also posthumously, his sister Barbara who provided me with the Morgan family genealogy files some years back. This is one of a series of family biographies on based on my family tree below. Cheers, Dave.

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A Renewed Importance of Place

Christianity is not the religion of salvation from places, it is the religion of salvation in and through places. John Inge, A Christian Theology of Place

In his 2010 book entitled A Rumour of God, noted Canadian journalist and author Robert Sibley offers up a fascinating history of the ebb and flow of the importance of place in our lives. Our renewed interest in place has been triggered by the pandemic. Like you, I am hunkered down in a particular place not able to escape through space to another place. Jesus Christ had no place and wandered around Galilee and Judah living a nomadic existence. He prayed to God in wide open spaces like gardens, hilltops and desert wilderness. His disciples even had to borrow a tomb for his body. He was effectively placeless. It was only in the third century that place and religion were firmly linked when the Church established itself in Rome. The balance between space and place held up until people started going on pilgrimages to far off places like Santiago de Compostela, Rome, Jerusalem and Canterbury. They came home describing these places which fed peoples’ desire to escape the local claims of place for the increased freedoms of space.

Sibley explains that in the middle ages, the Archbishop of Paris attempted to suppress doctrines that in his view claimed to limit God’s power e.g., the Aristotelian idea that there is only a finite amount of matter in the universe and thus a limit to divine power. The Archbishop’s condemnations ultimately proved harmful for Christianity as it opened up the possibility of infinite space – thus diminishing the importance of place. People today remain attached to their places for sure but science has opened up the possibility of escaping the oppressive aspects of those places, whether in body or mind. As moderns we are living under the apotheosis of space, at least until the pandemic hit. Geographers say that the greater mobility of modern society dilutes our sense of place. Modernity requires us to subordinate place to the imperatives of the time-and-space world view. Many people are unable to maintain ties to any particular place because they experience more places over a lifetime than their forefathers ever imagined. Witness those people who live on the cruise ship the World that wanders the globe aimlessly in normal times.

Sibley goes on to the intriguing ideas that Tony Hiss expresses in his 1991 book The Experience of Place. Hiss proposes that we experience the world in two ways: “ordinary perception” and “simultaneous perception”. Usually we go about our lives in the ordinary perception mode. We perceive the outside world only to the degree necessary for our daily survival as we are absorbed for the most part with the chatter in our heads. Simultaneous perception on the other hand broadens and diffuses our beam of attention across all the senses so we can take in whatever there is there to be received. Some places seem to trigger our experiencing of them more intensely. When this happens we choose to stay in our heads or to let go and release ourselves to the full experience of a particular place. This mystical experience has certainly happened to me while on the Camino, on a golf course, at a retreat centre, hiking on a mountain trail with Marie or in a church building. How about you? Have you ever had the experience of being in a place that is so beautiful, enchanting or magical that you just let go? If you are a believer, do you become more aware of God’s presence in moments like these? Sibley proposes that this is a good thing and that to restore our sense that the world is indeed an enchanted place, we need to become more sacramental in our daily lives.

The Covid pandemic has made me appreciate more than ever before, the importance of the place that I am in. My lived experience of place has changed. If you have a comfortable and safe abode at present, the lock down is not so bad. On the other hand, for the homeless, seniors in retirement homes, multi-generational families in single room houses, indigenous in isolated communities and those in crowded prisons or hospitals, the place itself may be the problem i.e., increasing your risk of being infected. We lament the current loss of free movement and access to family and friends. But this means that the place we are in has increased importance and can be our salvation. Will this sense of renewed importance of place stay with us post pandemic? I am not so sure.

(Photo courtesy MasterMaq’s Blog)
Hey everyone, thanks for travelling with us during this the year of the pandemic. Wishing you a Happy, Blessed and Healthy New Year in 2021! Dave (and Marie)


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