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Adieux Rev. Pierre Mary

Priest served Fort Liard area for more than 30 years

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 08/03) - Rev. Pierre Mary, a long-time priest in Fort Liard, died Sunday in Ile d'Yeu, France.

From 1955 through 1986, Mary would travel from Fort Liard by snowshoe, snowmobile or dog team to hold mass in Trout Lake and Nahanni Butte. In the summer, he was known to make his way by motorboat.

Mary was born in Paris. He joined the Missionary Oblates and was ordained in 1954.

He arrived in Fort Liard a year later. At that time the community was tiny, consisting of only an RCMP detachment, a Hudson's Bay store, the rectory and several houses.

Over his three decades of service as pastor, he was known to hunt, cut hair and administer basic medical treatment.

Eva Hope of Fort Liard said she remembers Mary stopping at her family's tent on his way to northern B.C.

"My mom used to fry him a frying pan full of moose meat and bannock.

He would eat and then he would pray with us," she said.

Rev. Camille Piche, provincial of the Oblates, said Mary possessed a spirit of adventure. Serving in the North fulfilled that need.

"One can only assume that the spectacular beauty of the land, the river and the mountains was an incredible attraction," said Piche.

"In those days, the Arctic missions were considered the most difficult missions. He was challenged by that... and the distances he had to travel."

In 1986, Mary took a sabbatical due to impeded blood circulation.

He returned to work the following year, but was transferred to John Paul II Bible College in Radway Alta.

After four years there, he went back to France, plagued by his failing health.

Hope said she has talked to many people in the community about Mary's presence and he seems to be well respected.

"He laid the foundation for religion, the faith," said Hope. "A lot of people have never forgotten Father Mary. Once in a while somebody will say, 'Gee, I wonder how Father Mary is doing?' It's just like he's part of the community even though he (was) in France."