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Behchoko priest dies
Father Jean Pochat 'made everybody feel special'

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BEHCHOKO/RAE-EDZO - Behchoko lost a leader, a friend and a father figure when the community's priest of more than 50 years died earlier this week.

NNSL photo/graphic

Father Pochat of Behchoko was awarded the Order of Canada by Governor General Michaelle Jean in 2006. He won the award in 2005. - NNSL file photo

Roman Catholic priest Father Jean Pochat, 84, died Sunday Nov. 28 at the St. Michael's Parish rectory after several months of ill health.

People from across the Tlicho region are preparing to gather in Behchoko for a funeral service honouring Pochat at his church Dec. 4.

John B. Zoe, a member of the parish council who knew Pochat for about 40 years, said the priest has left his mark on the region.

"The biggest thing to remember about him is that he belonged to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and they were to bring the gospel to the bush, to wherever the people were. But I think he went further than that," Zoe said. "He was more about preparing people for the responsibility of carrying on the work themselves, or empowering the people rather than being too dependent on other people to bring the faith."

Pochat, originally from France, was a head administrator of Fort Smith's Grandin College an achievement for which he was inducted into the Order of Canada in November 2005.

After being ordained as a priest, Pochat sailed from France to Montreal and was transferred to the diocese in Edmonton and then to Fort Smith, where he worked as a deckhand on a missionary ship delivering supplies to communities as far north as Tuktoyaktuk.

When he was 28 years old he settled in at the church in Behchoko, replacing the previous priest, who had died. On his first day, according to the stories Pochat relished sharing with residents, then-chief Jimmy Bruneau looked the young Pochat up and down, then said to the bishop, "I asked for a new priest, not an altar boy!"

During his 54 years of service in Behchoko, Pochat became fluent in the Tlicho language after studying with elders. He set up a parish council so residents could run church services themselves and helped translate the New Testament into Dogrib.

"He made everybody feel special," Zoe said. "I think being a listening ear and (giving) encouragement was the thing about him that a lot of people will remember."

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