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Morris Fiddler Finally Consecrated as New Bishop for Northern Ontario After Four Years of Delay

Nearly four years after his election, Morris Fiddler has been consecrated as the first suffragan bishop for Northern Ontario in the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh. 

This appointment is a significant milestone for the region and addresses the challenges posed by travel limitations, as well as the pressing need for suicide and addictions ministry.

Morris Fiddler was elected as bishop in June 2019, but due to unforeseen circumstances, his consecration was delayed. After a long wait, Fiddler’s consecration finally took place on March 11 at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in his hometown of Muskrat Dam, Ontario.

The delay in Fiddler’s consecration was initially caused by scheduling conflicts and logistical challenges. The consecration was initially planned for September 2019 but had to be rescheduled to February 2020 to accommodate clergy members who intended to attend the ceremony. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances led to further delays, prolonging the process for nearly four years.

Fiddler shared with the Journal that prior to the 2019 election, he experienced anxiety and spent a significant amount of time praying while on a hunting trip with friends along the Hudson Bay coast. However, after the election, he expressed a sense of tranquility, attributing his actions to being in harmony with his Creator.

Amidst the pandemic, Mamakwa reveals that four clergymen from Mishamikoweesh faced untimely deaths within a span of less than a year. During this challenging time, Fiddler stepped in to support communities where other clergy members were unable to travel due to restrictions. In one instance, he traveled to a neighboring community by ski-doo to officiate a funeral for a fellow clergy member.

Reflecting on the past three years, Fiddler acknowledges the way God has facilitated his travel in northern Ontario when other priests faced limitations. These experiences have strengthened his faith in the Creator, as he has witnessed the hardships endured by people during difficult times. Fiddler states that he feels prepared and is no longer burdened by anxiety.

Mamakwa explains that negotiations with a local business, Big Beaver House Contracting, belonging to Mamakwa’s community of Kingfisher Lake First Nation and neighboring Wunnumin Lake First Nation, contributed to the delay. The business had offered to provide a stipend for Fiddler, who also serves as a mental health counselor and has been a priest for nearly three decades. Although Fiddler has not yet received the stipend, the agreement has been finalized.

Photo: Sourced from Waymarking

The position of suffragan bishop for Northern Ontario was created to address several issues faced by the region. One significant challenge is the difficulty and cost associated with travel in the northern part of the province. 

The vast distances between communities and the lack of reliable transportation infrastructure make it challenging for clergy members to fulfill their pastoral duties effectively. By appointing a suffragan bishop specifically for Northern Ontario, the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh aims to alleviate this problem and ensure that the spiritual needs of the communities in the region are met.

“In the North, we have no roads, no highways,” Mamakwa says. “It’s unlike Toronto where you just get into a car and drive an hour to go see a parish or community … A 15-minute ride by plane can cost almost $1,500 now, one-way. That’s why we need a lot of help.”

Clergy in Mishamikoweesh are also restricted in what they can do via Zoom or phone, Mamakwa says. “Not everyone is computer literate, so we’re very limited to how much we can do anything online … We used to do some teleconferences with the clergy. But even then that was challenging because elderly clergy needed help to call in.”

“What’s important is despite all these challenges and suffering that our people endure, they hold on to the faith that they have in God our Creator,” she adds. “That is why they want someone to visit them in their communities, because they want the services. They want the communion, they want the baptisms, all the sacraments that we do … They need those.”

Another pressing issue that the suffragan bishop role seeks to address is the need for suicide and addictions ministry. Northern Ontario has been grappling with high rates of suicide and addiction, particularly among Indigenous populations. By appointing Morris Fiddler as the suffragan bishop, the ministry intends to provide targeted support and resources to combat these pressing challenges. 

Fiddler’s background and experience make him well-suited to address these issues, having worked extensively in community development and mental health initiatives.

The consecration ceremony itself was a momentous occasion for the community of Muskrat Dam and the wider Northern Ontario region. 

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