Fr. Salmon a missionary who’s always on the go
On Thursday April 29, Fr. Frank Salmon, OMI received the St. Joseph’s Award at the Catholic Missions in Canada Gala.
Established in 1990 by Catholic Missions In Canada, the St. Joseph’s Award recognizes and honours missionaries whose dedication, is a light for the world and salt of the earth, and serves as an example for the church and the wider Canadian society today.
Ordained in 1973, Frank began his ministry in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, and then spent almost 30 years on the west Coast of the Island serving the Ahousat, where he learned to be a missionary in a very different way, becoming integrated in the lives and families of the communities he served. Franks’ simplicity, generosity, compassion and openness to learning are his ways of teaching and preaching. He tells the story of visiting one village on the west coast after a few days paddling his kayak. He stayed in the village and found one elderly woman whose house yard was quite neglected, and she wanted a garden. Frank took it upon himself to dig the garden soil, preparing the garden for planting. Seeing this her son recognized his neglect and began to take over, with no words being exchanged. At gatherings such as the potlatch Frank would join the elders in singing traditional songs. It encouraged young men to take an interest in learning the songs to sing with the elders.
Phil Little, Frank’s classmate and friend of many years, tells this story; “One summer we [Phil and Anne Marie, his wife] visited Frank and saw that his wardrobe was rather sparse. We bought him 2 new pair of jeans and left them in his room in the trailer in Tofino. The next summer visiting again we discovered the same 2 pairs of jeans unused. Frank assured us he would use them when needed”.
Frank has served the communities around Stuart Lake in the Diocese of Prince George for the past 18 years, continuing the generous, compassionate, enculturated ministry that has been the hallmark of his many years of ministry among First Nations of British Columbia.
We congratulate Frank on receiving the St. Joseph Award, an acknowledgment of his lifelong dedication to the First Nations peoples and we express our gratitude for his missionary presence among us as a member of OMI Lacombe Canada, and for the witness he gives to living out the Oblate charism in such a radical way.
May God continue to bless your ministry Frank, and may you continue to share the gift of yourself with all whom you meet!
Fr. Richard Beaudette
(with thanks to Phil Little)
Here is the article on Frank and the St. Joseph Award in the Catholic Register:
People well acquainted with Fr. Frank Salmon, OMI, know connecting with him via phone, especially during warmer months, is a bit of a difficult proposition.
That’s because the Oblate missionary is fully immersed in serving and conversing with people of the Binche Whut’en, Nak’azdli and Tl’azt’en First Nations bands that live around Fort St. James, B.C.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Salmon hops on his bicycle and tours the area and stops to have socially-distanced, face-to-face conversations.
The pastor of Our Lady of Snows Parish in the Diocese of Prince George would tell you that he doesn’t have a pre-planned design of his activities whenever he leaves the parish for these outings.
“I say a prayer to myself whenever I leave the house to start the day,” said Salmon, who has been in Fort St. James since 2002. “I ask Him to let God guide me where I need to go. I wouldn’t know what I would be working on or who I would be visiting that day.”
His activities could range from helping someone with day-to-day tasks like mending nets, providing counsel to couples and families having a difficult time, celebrating Mass and presiding over funerals, to dropping in for light social visits.
Salmon’s willingness to surrender to God’s will, and his desire for social interaction, are two of the reasons Catholic Missions In Canada (CMIC) has tapped him as this year’s missionary recipient of the St. Joseph’s Award. The 75-year-old will be feted in a ceremony led by Cardinal Thomas Collins during CMIC’s virtual Tastes of Heaven Gala April 29.
Since being ordained at St. Jude’s Parish in Vancouver over 48 years ago, Salmon has devoted the vast majority of his years of service working with First Nations peoples in Duncan, Fort St. James and along the west coast of British Columbia.
Salmon’s mother “couldn’t decide if she would name me after Francis of Assisi or Francis Xavier, so she named me after both of them.” He’s learned from each.
“Xavier did real work in India and in the missions, and he made a real effort to learn the culture of the people he was speaking to by doing the Mass in their language and, to some extent, their tradition. His and the Jesuits’ effort to learn culture really impressed me. One of my contributions was to learn the culture.”
Interestingly, just like Xavier, Salmon toured different parts of India to serve the Lord. He credits that experience over four decades ago as formative for his life now.
Salmon modelled Francis of Assisi by not growing anxious about where his next meal would come from. He said he exhibited this spirit in Duncan, during his time with the coastal missions and now in Fort St. James.
Salmon received a great taste of how impactful his 48 years of missionary service has been during a Zoom celebration to celebrate his 75th birthday earlier this year. Each of the dozens of guests delivered a two-minute tribute. The greeting from Louis Frank, who mentored Salmon during his time with the Ahousaht on Vancouver Island, was special. Salmon said the relationship melded into a brotherhood between the two. Frank expressed that sentiment.
“We are more than friends, we are more like brothers. I always appreciated that you accept us as we are and at the same time invited us to be part of your way of life and way of prayer without giving up any of our ways.”
By Quinton Amundson
Published on The Catholic Register website