Reverend Milton (Michael) McWatch – Words from our Provincial

Our brother and companion on the mission, Fr. Milton Migwatch, has been called home by God. It has been an honour for us Jesuits to have grown with him and to have served with him and the risen Lord in our common mission. As a First Nations man and a Catholic priest, Fr Milton has embodied reconciliation, with all its challenges and joys. He lived this with commitment, wisdom,  grace and good humour. His example and his companionship have helped us all along this same path. I hope his prayers will now continue to sustain us.
And may he see Jesus face-to-face!
Fr. Peter Bisson, S.J.
For the Jesuits in English Canada

Reverend Milton (Michael) McWatch – Obituary

November 12, 1937 –
November 29 2017

“Can you love like this until there is nothing left to give?” words lived by
our uncle Rev. Milton McWatch, who quietly passed on November 29, 2017 in his home. Milton was born in Bremner River on November 12, 1937, child of Herb and Marie McWatch (both deceased). Fr. Milton studied at George Brown
College in Toronto, at Nipissing University in North Bay, and at Regis College in Toronto. He was ordained a Catholic priest at Christ the King Church in Sudbury on November 30, 1990 by Bishop Jean Louis Plouffe, and served in various parish assignments in the Diocese of Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay. His most recent appointments were in Our Lady of the Snows parish in Armstrong, Annunciation parish in Nipigon and Holy Saviour parish in Marathon and St. Francis Xavier parish in Heron Bay, before his retirement. After his retirement Fr. Milton assisted in a variety of parishes assisting priests in their need. Fr. Milton was a member Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus. He is survived by his sisters Noella Hamilton and Maureen McWatch, brother Jerome and numerous nieces and nephews. He was our warrior, our teacher, our shepherd, and our provider, who will be greatly missed by all those whose lives he has touched. He is survived by younger siblings and close relatives, he was a man who never backed down from anything he believed in. He was a survivor of the Residential School System who overcame many hardships in life as he humbly walked the path of Jesus Christ as a Diocesan priest. He truly loved the outdoors, where he would constantly be planning his next moose hunt; he loved his berry picking and to take pictures of the sunsets and sunrises. He was a strong believer in education. He always made sure his family and friends had the necessities to pursue their educational dreams, and he was nominated to receive an honorary doctorate for his religious services to the Roman Catholic Church by St. Marks Catholic College at the University of British Columbia. He believed in setting us straight when we strayed from our Christian path. He was not soft but very stern when giving his reflection on the gospel. He loved our Virgin Mary and would constantly pray the rosary, so know this when you are praying the rosary he is praying with you from Holy Mother’s side.


Funeral Mass will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Thunder Bay, on Monday, December 4, 2017 at 11 am. Most Rev. Fred Colli, the Bishop of Thunder Bay will preside at the Funeral Mass along with priests and deacons of the diocese. Visitation will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral from 2 – 4 pm on Sunday, December 3, 2017 with Vigil prayers at 3 pm. Interment will take place at the Priests’ Plot at St. Patrick’s cemetery following the Funeral Mass.

Rev. Milton McWatch will be remembered in the Blake Funeral Chapel Memorial Grove. Annual dedication service Sunday, June 10, 2018.

On-line Condolences may be sent to

Ministries Program Weekend – October 2017

The new Team worked together during the October Ministries Weekend, it started Friday evening with a Sharing Circle and a social hour to visit and share snacks.

The new Ministries team of Paul Robson S.J. and WimDombretS.J. and Tony BaranowskiS.J. with Mary Balfe were the facilitators for the sessions.    

We had a session related to Aboriginal Culture and Spirituality and Hymn and prayers in the language. 





Saturday morning we had a session guided by Fr. Wim S.J. and Mary Balfe. Then, Fr. Wil guided a prayer.

After lunch, Fr. Paul S.J. shared with us: “Dialogue and Proclamation” for the Ongoing formation group. 

Margaret Toulouse shared with us: “Medicine Wheel”.

Rosemary Pitawanakwat guided Rosary prayers, and Rosella Kinoshameg guided a Ojibwa hymm.

A practicum session: “Smudging, Music, readers, Ministers of the bread, cup” was guided by Rosella Kinoshameg.

The weekend ended with Fr. Tony S.J. saying mass followed by Dinner and Dismissal.

A retreat for spiritual growth…

From time to time, to perceive one’s interiority with more attentiveness, a time of retreat, in a tranquil place away from the busyness of the world, can be very helpful.  One may make a retreat with some regularity, perhaps once a year, as a kind of “plateau” space of rest and renewal on the journey of life.  A retreat can be helpful to one appropriating a transition in one’s life.  It can be helpful to one who is making a major decision, such as one’s vocation.  For whatever reason, it is always a privileged time for God and the retreatant to abide together.


An Ignatian retreat is an extended period of time in silence with prayer in the manner handed down from St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556).  St. Ignatius developed spiritual exercises from the experience of his own prayer and from his guidance of others in their experiences of interiority.  For St. Ignatius and the others whom he guided, finding God’s will for the direction of their lives was of paramount concern.  Ultimately, that meant discovering what truly gave their lives meaning, freedom and a deep sense of joy.  Today, Ignatian prayer helps people from all walks of life find their God-given deepest desires. Following this way can lead to freedom and fulfillment, while, at the same time, serving God, others and all of God’s creation.


Ignatian retreats may be made over one day, a weekend, or an eight day period. Eight days is a common length of time for an annual retreat.  For one with little or no experience of an Ignatian retreat, a spiritual director, or a guide who is experienced in Ignatian prayer, is necessary for retreats of any length.  The role of the spiritual director is to help facilitate the communication between the retreatant and God, not to replace it!  Once or twice in a lifetime, one who has already made Ignatian retreats may experience the full Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola through a directed long retreat of thirty days.


If you wish to book a retreat call us at:

(705) 869 4994


History of the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre

Inspired by the vision of Vatican II, the Jesuits decided to encourage Native people to direct their own Church. In 1972 Michael Murray sj, Dan Hannin sj, James Farrell sj, and Lawrence Kroker sj began a training program for the Deaconate.

Supported completely by Vatican II Council Father, Bishop Alexander Carter, the native Deaconate Program started. Once a month, a resource team moved from village to village for weekend workshops. Sisters Patricia Hassett csj and Dorothy Regan csj were key support members of the team. They facilitated these sessions that covered scripture, theology and the pastoral practice of ministry. This continued from 1972-1979 but distances and fatigue called for a change and so it was time to build a more permanent location.

Jesuit Provincial, Fr. Bill Ryan, fully affirmed the development of the Centre through a process of discernment. After much exploration, the former resort property at Anderson Lake just south of Espanola, Ontario was finally purchased and the building of the Centre could begin. Fr. Mike Murray, working with master log and timber-frame builder Paul MacNab, spearheaded the task of constructing the present-day buildings while Lawrence Andrews of the Whitefish River First Nation mastered the stonework. White Pine trees were cut a few miles down the highway at Lang Lake where the Knights of Columbus’ Summer Camp was located. The Centre had its own sawmill manned by Fr. Kroker and Henry Andrews. Volunteer labour came from the villages and sometimes families on building bees. The main building was completed in 1984 with the construction of the Chapel wing. Some small, original cottages were either demolished or renovated while other new cottages were built.

Once the Ministries weekends commenced Fr. Carl Starklof sj animated the monthly weekends for eighteen years, coming from Toronto’s Regis College where he was a Professor. He accepted remuneration for only his expenses, which allowed the Centre to continue the program, cost effectively.

Capital and Operating funds for the Anishinabe Project came from a number of sources. At the time of the land purchase, Fr. Farrell was the Jesuit Mission Superior who directed charitable donations to the Centre and also fundraised specifically for this purpose. Generosity in the form of both grants and loans was extended from the area Bishops and the Catholic Church Extension (aka Catholic Missions in Canada). The successful appeal to Government grants was also a key factor for the training of log and timber-frame building by Paul MacNab.  All these components resulted in the erecting of the buildings. Further government grants and fundraising events supported ‘make work’ projects on an as-needed basis throughout the process.  The Anishinabe Spiritual Centre officially opened its doors in June 1985 with a ceremony and blessing from Bishop Carter.



The Place of Enlightening


In Thankful recognition of those who came before us

Spring is the time of year when planting seeds and watching them grow is a most  loved pass-time. At the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre, we take the time to thankfully  acknowledge the people who planted a different kind of seed that also grew and  came to fruition. We begin with the founding visionaries who dared to imagine a  place of such refuge long before a building was in place. 


Making it Real

But that was just the beginning!  A dream needs people in action to become real and  there were many who answered the call.  From the financial gatherers to the laborers, the cooks, cleaners, craftsmen and suppliers, they all contributed. 

Everyone joining together and pouring out their expertise, time and energies into the building up of something special. 

Imagine the countless conversations, challenges and triumphs that must have taken  place with such a project.  We are so grateful that with each new day there came the  gathering of more people that persevered, shoulder to the plow, making it all possible. 


Generations upon Generations

To the many users that come to the Centre and continue to grace our doorsteps and  populate our rooms and cottages we thank you.  Your ongoing support in our services, retreats and programs are a gift to us.  It is because of you that we can continue to keep our doors open and offer rich experiences in such a beautiful and natural setting.  It is on account  of all the people that have come before us that we  now take such enjoyment and feel such heartfelt gratitude.

And so we have come full circle.  From the planting of the visionary seed, to the labour intensive cultivating of a Retreat Centre, to the harvest of people gathering to  enjoy the spiritual growth and healing benefits that come from the wonderful place  that we call the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre. 

All together, for the gathering of All.

Year of Mercy

By Tarcia Gerwing

Pope Francis has encouraged us to look more deeply at the Mercy of God this year. What a beautiful call that is!   I am finding that call deepens as we meet together in small groups as we did a few weeks ago at the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre.  To begin again to look to Jesus as the Face of God’s Mercy and to hear from one another how faithful Jesus has been for each of us calls us into a deeper intimacy with 

Jesus not only as individuals but as family.  

This kind of familial friendship deepens and helps us become more open to sharing our daily life experiences of mercy and together we become more and more aware of mercy experiences in daily life and also increases our gratitude!   What great gift community offers us!  But wait, that is not the end of the gifts faith sharing offers us!  As we hear from one another how the gift of a friendly smile or a gentle caring word has transformed the week or even the life of someone in the group, God awakens us to the wonder of small acts of love!  This becomes an awesome call for us to be more attentive to show mercy to others in so many little ways.   Pope Francis say to us,”Never underestimate the power of small acts”.  He also reminds us that mercy has many names. Tenderness, compassion, forgiveness… many beautiful names! 

Let us never underestimate the power of small groups!  They create family!  And we are called together to become the welcoming, merciful family of God!   We are called to be the Face of Mercy today!   May The Spirit of Jesus lead us deeper into the Heart of Mercy!


Migwetch Tarcia!

The Anishinabe Spiritual Centre thanks Tarcia

Gerwing for coming to the Manitoulin District (Sagamok, M’Chigeeng and Wikwemikong) 

to invite deeper spiritual development in the communities around the Year of Mercy 2016 and Pope Francis’ urgent call to take  Care of our Common Home ( ‘Laudate Si’).

Jesuit Volunteers Canada is a ministry of the Society of Jesus in English Canada which offers young people the opportunity to live and/or work with Jesuits promoting justice and peace.

The challenge to Jesuit Volunteers is to integrate their Christian faith with community life and apostolic service, drawing on the spiritual tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. Jesuit Volunteers Canada offers the volunteers a year or more of experience that will open their hearts and minds to live always conscious of the poor and the earth as they participate in a broader movement, toward a new way of talking about and living church.


Pastoral Cycle

What are the Seasonal Colors of the Church?

In Ordinary time the color is green ;

Advent colors are pink or blue and violet;

at Christmas and Easter  we use white ;

at Pentecost and for Confirmations we use red :

Special Solemnities/Feasts we use gold. 

This includes the vestments the priest and deacon

wear as well as the altar cloths.


Within Native tradition we are incorporating

the use of the 4 colors

(red. yellow, white and black)

buckskin vestments and altar cloths with beading.

Also we make use of the drum in the music.

Dianne Musgrove – Liturgy


Basil Johnston Memorial

A special day of celebration for Bail Johnston was held on June 4, 2016 at the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre, beginning with a Memorial Mass of Thanksgiving in the Big Chapel.  Family present was introduced, followed by a short biography of Basil and “Who was He?”  Basil was Anishnaabe author, fluent linguist, scholar and teacher from Cape Croker, who attended Residential School in Spanish. Basil wrote about the Ojibwe language, tradition and culture, and was the author of 25 books in English and five in the Anishnaabemowin language.  He translated the scriptural readings and regularly proclaimed them at St. Mary Catholic Church in Cape Croker.  Basil died at Cape Croker on September 8, 2015.

Berdina Johnston, in Ojibwe, spoke about this “language Specialist”.  Excerpts about his experience in giving the valedictory address from Indian School Days and “Offering Tobacco” and how the Anishnabeg never forgot to offer tobacco from Ojibway Ceremonies were read.  The people then headed for Cabin #6 for the blessing, smudging, naming ceremony, and uncovering of the sign made by Leonard Cywink.  After the ceremony,  everyone went back to the dining room to enjoy a pot luck dinner.



Creator God, Kitchi-Manitou, Debenjiged,

we thank you for bringing us together.

We gather to name and dedicate this cottage in tribute to Basil Johnston,

our relative, friend, teacher and elder.

May this cottage, which we name in his honour,

always be used for your glory and praise,

and for the good of all the people who come here.

Father, we offer this prayer through Christ our Lord.

Meegwetch, Meegwetch, Meegwetch, Meegwetch.