A conversation with Bishop Annie Ittoshat of the diocese of the Arctic
By Matt Gardner for Contact
The first female Inuk priest in Nunavik, Annie Ittoshat was elected a suffragan bishop of the Arctic on March 28, 2019, and consecrated on March 31. Originally from the northern community of Kuujjuarapik, she is a graduate of John Abbott College and Wycliffe College and obtained her M.Div in the diocese of the Arctic.
Ittoshat previously worked as Aboriginal community minister for the diocese of Montreal and as a priest at the Church of the Epiphany in Verdun, Quebec. She is currently a resident of Salluit, Quebec, in the Ungava Deanery, where in addition to her duties as bishop she serves as a minister at St. James Anglican Church. Ittoshat is currently a member of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples.
Contact spoke with Bishop Ittoshat on Oct. 13 to learn about recent developments and ongoing concerns in the diocese of the Arctic. This article has been edited for brevity.
Q. How has your episcopal ministry been going since you were consecrated?
A. With this unexpected pandemic, COVID-19, it’s been a challenge. But at the same time, the challenge that I’ve been facing is when we were elected as bishops, we were told that not only are we going to be bishops, but also minister for the community we are based in. That’s been one of the challenges that I’ve been facing is having to hold two jobs, as a bishop and a minister.
I wish we had someone to work with, to show us the ropes of what it means to be a bishop. That’s one of the challenges that I have. But other than that, it’s alright.
Q. Have you found an atmosphere of support among the House of Bishops?
A. Yes. That’s what I find.
Q. What are your current priorities as bishop?
A. With the other job that I have as a minister, we’ve been here since over a year in Salluit, because we lived in Montreal for five years. Coming back up north to this community, Salluit, it keeps me busy. But at the same time, [I’m] trying to get to know the people and where I’m at, at the moment.
As a bishop, there are 13 communities in Nunavik and there’s the Hudson Coast and the Ungava. On the Hudson Coast we have Manasee Ulayuk as a regional dean. Annie Keenainak was the regional dean for the Ungava; we lost her as a regional dean because she went back to school. With the short staff for the ministers, that’s one of the challenges that we have. At the moment, Manasee is the regional dean for both sides, Hudson Coast and Ungava Coast.
Manasee had taught the lay leaders on the Hudson Coast, so there’s going to be another one in November on the Ungava Coast. Training for sure is one of our priorities. That’s what we’ve started, but COVID-19 has slowed things down. So we have another training [session] on the Ungava Coast.
Q. What kind of impact has COVID-19 had on ministry in your area?
A. At the beginning when we got hit by the COVID, the [worship] services were through the local radio. Each community has its local radio, so that’s what we did at the beginning. There are some churches that are opening now. Here in Salluit, we have our services now on Sundays and Wednesdays. There were a few who did [worship] online. But in our area, it was mostly local radio.
When we started hearing [about] the second wave of this pandemic, there were, I believe, two communities that had one [person] each who had COVID. But they’re all clear now, so there’s nothing at the moment in Nunavik.
Q. Anything else you’d like Anglicans to know about how things are going in the diocese?
A. Not only in my area, but [across] the diocese of the Arctic, one of the big challenges that we have is lack of ministers. We could use prayers concerning this.
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