I have to be honest – when I first heard that there was the opportunity to travel with a group of high school students on a
, I thought, “Oh no. Another mission trip. They’re all the same. Once you do one, you’ve done them all.” In a way, it’s at least true of making a film about one: once you’ve made a film about a mission trip, it’s very hard to make another one that tells a different story. But I was intrigued by the north. And so began our journey.
I won’t tell you about that journey, because I want you to watch Ends of the Earth
when it premieres tonight at 8pm ET; 9pm in the West Coast and the Yukon (with repeats at midnight ET and tomorrow at 1pm ET/2pm PT), but I do want to say this: when you watch it, presumably with open ears and eyes – also watch it with open hearts. Let yourself be challenged to action.
I don't have to tell you that there is need in the world. We always say to people who are first learning about Salt+Light that our world is so often in darkness and many people are stuck in a cycle of routine, bland lives. It is our mission to shine a bit of light on that darkness; to sprinkle a little salt to re-flavour some of those lives. But you know what? That’s not just our mission. It’s the mission of all. All Christians are called to be salt and light. Jesus says to all of us, you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14).
And it may mean that you will travel far to go make a difference, but that is not a requirement. God knows there is need right here at home. We think that in order to make a difference we have to travel to the third world, or go out of our way to find need. The truth is that mission begins right at home. And if anything, this is the change that I saw in the 17 students that traveled to the Yukon. They had a great experience but, what happened when they returned home? Did they help with the dishes? Did they put their needs aside to put the needs of their family first? Are they better members of their school community? We don’t have to go too much out of our way to begin our mission.
Now, of course there is value in really going out of our way to help others. There is value in leaving it all to go to a strange place to help people we don’t know – or people whom we may never meet. Jesus did tell the disciples to ‘go to the ends of the earth.’ (see Mark 16:15)
I want to highlight the many wonderful people who've left it all to travel far to make a difference. It the film, you'll meet some of them: Bishop Gary Gordon
, Hart and Marilyn Bezner, Claude and Libby Dulac and Fr. Kieran Kilcommons. There are others whom you will not meet, like Susan Peterson, an Ontario teacher who is now teaching at Jean Vanier, CSS in Whitehorse. They followed in the footsteps of the wonderful Missionary Oblates of Mary who first ventured to the north of Canada and the U.S. to bring the Good News. We dedicate the film to them: Fr. Pierre Rigaud, Fr. Joseph Guilbaud, Fr. Pierre Veyrat and Fr. Jean-Marie Mouchet, whom we met (Fr. Guilbaud, sadly passed away a few months ago), and especially Fr. Eusebe Morriset, who single-handedly (literally) built many of the churches in the Yukon. WIthout them, there would be no Church of the north.
I'd like to thank Jim McLevey, Chaplain at St. Joan of Arc CSS
, who came up with the idea of going on a mission trip to the Yukon and who invited us to go along. If all high school chaplains were as dedicated, hard-working and loving as Jim, the world would indeed be a better place. Mr. Michael O'Grady, principal at St. Joan of Arc, who supported this trip and project wholeheartedly from the get go. I hope you get to go on the next trip to the Yukon. An warm and special thank you to the other five teachers, Nicky Martin, Sarah Pollice, Katie Allen, Chris Plommer and Ryan Dollimore, and needless to say, the 17 students who went on the trip. You guys are great!
I'd also like to thank Bishop Gary, who welcomed us and drove us around, treated us like his most cherished and valued friends (even invited us to plant potatoes with him). The people of Whitehorse are very blessed to have him as Bishop; Fr. Jim Bleackley, OMI, Rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Whitehorse, who graciously received us in his home and fed us; and Fr. Philip Kennedy and Patty Rivera at Catholic Missions in Canada
, without whose financial support, this film would not have been made possible. I guess the spirit of humility and gratitude has to come along with the spirit of mission and pilgrimage.
And so, as you watch “Ends of the Earth,” I pray that you receive the spirit of gratitude for what you have, and also the spirit of mission and of pilgrimage – that spirit that calls us out of ourselves to see the beauty in others and around us; to be moved to action. And who knows, maybe you will be called to go to the ends of the earth.