January 21, 2023

Blessing of Waters at Sandy Lake

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"- Psalm 133

On the afternoon of Saturday, January 21, 2023 the Rossburn Ukrainian Catholic Pastoral District co-hosted the traditional water blessing for the feast of Theophany in the town of Sandy Lake. The skies were bright blue, the sun was shining and the temperature was a beautiful -10°C. Over 60 faithful of all ages gathered from both Catholic and Orthodox communities in Sandy Lake.

Many parishioners from throughout the district also were in attendance including: Rossburn, Oakburn, Shoal Lake, Dolyny and Minnedosa. Smiles were seen on everyone's faces and even a few tears were held back at the beauty and joy of the event.

This event has been happening on the lake for many years and for the past two decades been led by the pastor and parishioners of St. Nicholas Parish (Orthodox Church of America) in Sandy Lake. The last time our Holy Ghost parish in Sandy Lake did this is said to be in the 1990s. This year however, a new relationship had been formed between the two current pastors of the parishes, Fr. Gregory Scratch of the OCA & Fr. Jay Korban. Both pastors studied at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute when it was in Ottawa, granted at different times, and therefore share a lot of common friends. Over the past year Frs. Gregory & Jay had been in communication and Fr. Gregory invited Fr. Jay to not only be part of this Theophany celebration, but to take the lead this year. Fr. Jay accepted the invite, and the rest is history.

Under the direction of one our parishioners in Sandy Lake, Chad Davies, the area on the lake was prepared for the water blessing. Based on his memory from the last time our parish hosted in the 90s, the ice cross was built out of ice blocks that were cut out of the north side of the lake three weeks prior.

The day before, the cross was cut into its form, and assembled. In front of that, a cross form was cut out in the ice where a hole would at the last minute be cut through to allow the cross to flood with water. This is done at the last minute to ensure the water doesn't freeze solid again. A table was built out of ice, and some added adornment of pine trees and a church banner completed the scene. Various parishioners volunteered to read the Old and New Testament readings during the service as well as hold the beautiful hand-crafted beeswax 'Trinity' candles which were made locally in Oakburn, MB.

Following the blessing of the waters, everyone was invited up to the town Drop-In Centre where everyone warmed up with fellowship and a few treats provided by the Sandy Lake Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Association. Both Frs. Gregory & Jay continued afterwards to bless the homes of their respective parishioners.

Many thanks go out to Fr. Gregory Scratch and his parishioners for inviting Fr. Jay and the parishioners of Holy Ghost Parish to take the lead this year. Thanks also go to Chad Davies & Mark Sichewski of Holy Ghost Parish & Dave Rystephanuk of St. Nicholas Parish (OCA) for taking the time to set everything up including cutting all the ice. And lastly, thanks to the Sandy Lake Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Association for hosting the fellowship portion of the day.

Photo credit: Fr. Gregory Scratch, Sophia Korban, Melissa Davies, Denise Selewich & Deb Maluk.

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