Wildfires Near Felician Mission: Tulita

Sr. Celeste Goulet shares the impact, challenges, and ongoing needs.

Sr. Celeste Goulet, Director of Felician Mission: Tulita, reached out to the Felician community this year to ask for prayer. As many have heard, Canada had its share of wildfires this summer that continued throughout the fall. Earlier this year, the fires impacted many of the people served by Felician Mission: Tulita. Today, numerous fires are still burning.

Tulita found itself surrounded by wildfires, thick smoke and black ashes for several months. The impact was severe with more than 70% of the Northwest Territories evacuating at one time or another during the season. Some towns, such as Enterprise, were all but fully destroyed. Tulita’s elders, children and mothers were evacuated to Délı̨nę, a nearby community, for a two-week period. Major neighboring communities like Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and several smaller villages were evacuated to different provinces for several weeks.

Getting supplies to Tulita and other nearby communities proved difficult. The cost of food, already high, skyrocketed due to the logistical challenges. A significant concern was a delay in receiving medications from Yellowknife because of the evacuation. People went without necessary medications for an extended period of time. Individuals seeking advanced medical care in Yellowknife also experienced delays, but they are gradually getting back on track.

Numerous cabins and hunting grounds used by the people of Tulita were burned or destroyed which has had a profound and lasting impact on Tulita now and in the future.  Residents are worried about the loss of their land, animals, the natural environment, and the meat they rely on to eat. With the onset of colder weather and snow, the fires are now under control, but there is significant concern about the return of these fires next year.

Sr. Celeste Goulet, ministering in Felician Mission: Tulita and praying with the community over the radio, asked everyone to please pray for people around the world who are currently experiencing or living in the aftermath of natural disasters, including unprecedented wildfires. “At present, much of the population of the Northwest Territories, Canada is under the threat of rapidly spreading wildfires. Everyone in Yellowknife, our capital, and Diocese Centre, have been told to leave. It would be a great loss to Yellowknife, as well as the entire Northwest Territories if the capital were to be destroyed,” Sr. Celeste said. She added, “Tulita is safe for now.”

A prayer from Sr. Celeste Goulet: 

God, our Father,
We thank you for those who didn’t lose their lives and we ask you to help them rebuild their lives, homes and communities.
We pray for those throughout the world who lose their lives from natural disasters. 
May they be welcomed into your eternal home. 
And we pray for all those that are suffering because of wars in our world.  
May God’s love fill the hearts of all with peace and acceptance and melt all hatred and revenge away.

In total, about 45.7 million acres (18.5 million hectares) have burned in Canada in 2023, surpassing the previous high of 17.5 million acres (7.1 million hectares) based on records dating back to 1983, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center.

UPDATE: According to gov.nt.ca, as of October 18, 91 fires are now actively being responded to in the Northwest Territory.

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Serving where needed since 1874

Founded in Poland in 1855, the Felician Sisters are a congregation of women religious inspired by the spiritual ideals of their foundress, Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska, and Saints Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi and Felix of Cantalice. Arriving in North America in 1874 following Blessed Mary Angela’s directive “to serve where needed,” they helped to weave the social service system. Today, the Felician Sisters founded, sponsor or support through the presence of our sisters, more than 40 ministries – all continuing to evolve to meet the needs of the people they serve.

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