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A little garden of paradise

Thandie Vela
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 16, 2011

If silence scares you, then Trapper's Lake Spirituality Centre might not be the place for you.

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Bishop Murray Chatlain stops along the walking trail at Trapper's Lake Spiritual Centre on Aug. 30. - Thandie Vela/NNSL photo

Just 10 km from downtown Yellowknife, the centre provides a peaceful locale for people to connect with God.

"It's a quiet setting where people can pray and recollect," Bishop Murray Chatlain of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, said.

Although the centre is run by the diocese, even people with no religious affiliations are welcome to book one of the eight cabins across the 20,000 square-metres of land for overnight retreats to find one's bearings again.

"When you're here it's up to the person how they are trying to find peace with themselves," Chatlain said. "You're welcome to join for any prayer services or counselling opportunities but then you're pretty much left to yourself to do some spiritual reading, walk around, to kind of let the silence speak to you."

A combination of the lake water and the natural ambiance of the site sets the tone for people to ground themselves, Chatlain said, which is why workshops and healing circles often take place at the centre, including reconciliation programs over residential school experiences, and abortion grief sessions. In addition, there is a spiritual presence at the site, Chatlain said.

"There's been people praying here everyday and it's been blessed so there is a sense that it's a spiritual, holy place," he said.

Shoes are taken off upon entering the main building, which has a dining facility that serves home cooked meals, a conference room, lounge and sleeping quarters.

Adjacent to the main building is the teepee room, inside a tall teepee-shaped structure - a symbol of the centre's embrace of aboriginal culture and spirituality. Chatlain said this is a great departure from the church of the residential school era, when aboriginal language, culture and spirituality were largely denigrated.

"As a Catholic church we want to bring together the best of aboriginal spirituality and Catholicism," he said, noting aboriginal or Inuvialuit members make up 60 per cent of the diocese membership. "So we don't see them as being at odds but that they can compliment each other in many ways."

Bishop Emeritus Denis Croteau, who was involved in the building of the centre in 1990, said one of its main objectives is to train leaders from communities to eventually have an Inuit-led Roman Catholic church of the North. People that are flown to the centre for seminary-like retreats from communities as far away as Cambridge Bay, feel especially comfortable at Trapper's Lake because it is like being on the land, Croteau said.

"People like coming here, it's like a holiday," he said. "They can go canoeing, sit in the sun, go snowshoeing ... It's a little garden of paradise."

Bookings for the spiritual centre are made through the Diocesan Centre in Yellowknife.

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