Anglican Island parishioners celebrate reverend’s elevation to the priesthood

MANITOULIN—Members of the Island Parish of Manitoulin and Great Spirit Island Parish gathered in support and to witness the ordination to priesthood of Rev. Sherry De Jonge last Saturday at St. Fancis of Assisi in Mindemoya, the feast day of St. Andrew of the Apostle.

“It is a token of the wonderful things here on Manitoulin to have such a great representation of clergy, deacon and United Church support today,” said Rt. Rev. Dr. Stephen Andrews, Bishop of Algoma, as he welcomed the full church at St. Francis. “The spirit of wonderful witness is upon us.”

The bishop explained that in speaking with Rev. Sherry De Jonge earlier in the morning that she was humbled, but excited, for her ordination.

“There will be times when your vocation will be questioned, but look to God for insight,” the bishop addressed Rev. De Jonge. “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart, Saint Paul writes. So faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Bishop Andrews noted Rev. De Jonge’s 25-year teaching career prior to becoming a reverend and told the story of St. Andrew and his brother who left their careers as fishermen to join Jesus becoming “fishers of men.”

“They transferred and transformed their skills to become fishers of men, just as you (Rev. De Jonge) will,” the bishop added. “God uses who we are and our skills.”

Bishop Andrews was assisted in the presentation by Rev. David Hewett, Diocese of Huron, and Nora Bath-Haring.

During the examination the bishop stated, “Sherry, the Church is the family of God, the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

“All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Saviour and Lord and to share in the renewing of his world. Now you are called to work as a pastor, priest and teacher together with your bishop and fellow presbyters and to take your share in the councils of the church,” continued Bishop Andrews. “As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the gospel of Jesus Christ and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to preside the administration of holy baptism and at the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s body and blood and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you.”

After the consecration of the priest, the Prayer of Consecration and Vesting was the celebration of the Eucharist, the breaking of bread and communion.

Following the service, a luncheon was held at the Mindemonya Community Centre to celebrate Rev. De Jonge’s ordination to the priesthood.

The Expositor spoke with Manitoulin’s newest Anglican priest about her life, what brought her to the Island and her plans for the Island Parish of Manitoulin and the Great Spirit Island Parish.

Rev. De Jonge explained that she grew up in southern Ontario on a hog and beef farm.

“I am from ‘Skunk’s Misery,’ which is between London, Chatham and Sarnia,” said Rev. De Jonge. “I worked in the farrow-to-finish pig barn until high school, but far more enjoyed doing chores in the cattle barn. We were blessed with wood heat and I remember when we first got running water.”

Though Rev. De Jonge said she had a strong sense of faith since her teenage years, she went on to become a teacher, teaching high school math in addition to science, geography and history.

“My life took a change when my friend Murray James asked me to come teach at a Portuguese school where he was the director,” continued Rev. De Jonge. “When I came back I knew I was going to be leaving teaching and pursuing my desire to go to seminary.”

“I had a calling before, but I had been resisting,” she shared. “I was very skeptical that I didn’t have the gifts to pursue this path, but I always had this earnest desire to minister and teach the gospel.”

This past spring Rev. De Jonge graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Wycliffe College (part of the University of Toronto) and served her internship on the Island.

“It was such a privilege to be able to go (to Wycliffe College),” she said. “I had wanted to for 30 years.”

Rev. De Jonge explained that she had been visiting Manitoulin for years, staying with Mr. James at his Lake Kagawong camp prior to his recent passing.

“I am delighted to be back on the Island,” she added.

When asked how her past experience as a teacher would influence her new role on Manitoulin, she explained that it is both a strength and a weakness.

“I hope to use the opportunity to teach about the bible and biblical principals, but there is so much more to my call—I must shepherd and pastor.”

As for Rev. De Jonge’s plans for the Anglican parishes of Manitoulin, she said she doesn’t have an agenda.

“I didn’t have an agenda coming in,” she explained. “I attended a meeting in July to discuss the direction of the Anglican parish on the Island, but it’s not going to be my vision that drives it, it needs to come from the spirit of God and the congregation. I am excited for people working together towards a common vision. I have already seen some amazing things occur and it is just the beginning.”

When the new priest has time to spare, she enjoys needlework and fresh air outside her Kagawong home and catching up with her children Kristen and Matt, who live in Ottawa.

“This is the first time an incumbent has lived in Kagawong,” revealed Rev. De Jonge. “In the past they have lived in Gore Bay or Mindemoya. I think Kagawong is a special jewel on the Island.”

Rev. De Jonge preaches at all five Island Anglican churches including St. John the Evangelist in Kagawong on Saturday evenings at 6 pm, Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Little Current on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, St. Fancis of Assisi in Mindemoya on Sunday mornings at 11:45 am, All Saints Anglican Church in Gore Bay Sundays at 7 pm and St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Manitowaning on Monday nights at 5:30 pm.

Robin Burridge